Thirty-one years ago, my parents, newly married, decided to see if they could get a bunch of their friends together to camp in a cow pasture with no shade and float down the river a couple times that weekend. I don’t know how many people came to that first Riverfloat, but apparently enough, because they decided to do it again the next year.
Over the years more and more people came, bringing friends and tents and roasting in the lack of shade next to a bunch of munching cows on a friend’s property. Steve Creed brought a silk screen, and for a couple bucks you could have the year’s logo screened onto just about anything you owned. My memory of these years is a distinct feeling of abandonment; kids weren’t allowed and I was farmed out to friends so my parents could relax in peace.
On “Lucky 13” kids were finally allowed to come, and suddenly not so many other people showed up. I can’t say I blame them, now. At the time, I was too excited paddling much too ferociously to notice that there were fewer people than normal. The Riverfloat was new to me, and I was determined to be as far away from the rocks as possible.
There was one year when only nine people came to the Riverfloat. That was when I was about 13, I think. I may be wrong, but I’m pretty sure it was my family, Amanda (Fenton) Zuluaga, Scotty Byquist, Laurie Davidson, and maybe Jerry and Kyle Jaynes. That was the year that the current ebbed, and the next year the tide started coming in again.
This year – tomorrow – I’m expecting about 100 people. It amazes me that it has morphed into something of this size, on some level, but on another level I can’t really be surprised. Most people come to the Riverfloat not knowing what to expect and are flabbergasted when they realize how fun it is. There are a ton of people, all smelling of campfire and river water, all swimming off their hangovers in the river in the morning, all in the 60+ boats beside you as you spend all day in the sun on a raft. There’s cliff-jumping, water fights, rapids, slow spots, drinking, eating, and so many memories that it’s hard to keep track of all of them anymore.
One year, Kyle and I floated on a Friday by ourselves and decided it would be a great idea to steal chairs off someone’s property on the way down. After a puny set of rapids, we realized that the chairs had torn the bottom out of the boat and we were in our own little swimming pool with really deep deep end. We ended up having to hitchhike back to camp. Another year, Casey Lewis was singing about how hot his friend was and skipping to the bathroom when he ran smack into a tree. Yet another time, Jim Simpson rode the entire length of the float on a pirate raft in a lawn chair with his pants around his ankles, while Brandon Peters steered for him.
It’s a little different from when it first started. We’re now at a different location, with shade, a screened in commercial kitchen, and a better swimming hole. There’s now a website, a Facebook group, kegs provided and T-shirts to buy. These things may be different, but the fundamental part of the Riverfloat hasn’t changed.
If there’s anything you can expect at the Riverfloat, it’s to have some fun. The new group of hardcore floaters talk about it all year round, planning their potluck dishes months in advance and starting the countdown the Monday after it ends. The great part is that the build-up is never anti-climatic; since the Riverfloat is always about fun and relaxation, you’re going to get exactly what you came for.
Love and floating kisses,