With this week's heavy rainfall affecting water levels in the Verde River, the Sept. 14 Ditch Day and Fun Float has been canceled.
Steve Ayers, Economic Development director for Camp Verde, announced the cancelation Thursday morning. At this time, Ayers is uncertain when or if the event will be rescheduled.
"Even though it has stopped raining, [the Verde River] will not be at a safe level," Ayers said. "The flows are above and beyond what we would consider safe for novice boaters. There's too much water [in the river]. The water level is not where it needs to be."
As of Thursday morning, the water level at Black Bridge measured more than 500 cubic foot per second (cfs). Ayers said for the event to be safe for the public, the cfs should measure no more than 200.
"We're not happy about it," Ayers said about the event's cancellation, "but safety first."
It is not very often when misbehavior, monkeyshines, shenanigans, skullduggery and tomfoolery are permitted.
It is less often when they are encouraged.
On Saturday, the Town of Camp Verde recommends such behavior, hosting its first Ditch Day and Fun Float, for people to discover the Verde River, have a good time - and to be safe doing it.
"The idea is to get people who have never been on the river and get them there," says Steve Ayers, Economic Development director for Camp Verde. "And we're trying to make available the equipment they'll need."
Thanks to the Natural Resource Conservation District, there will be a limited supply of Type III United States Coast Guard approved personal floatation devices, which are to be worn by all participants.
"Safety is going to be huge for us in this event," Ayers says. "First, we are going to be safe. Second, we are going to have fun. Anybody who regularly kayaks or canoes on the Verde wears a PFD. The idea is to teach people safety. It's easy to get into trouble on the river. But the river is not a dangerous place if you practice some basic safety."
The event is made possible by the cooperation of Eureka Ditch, OK Ditch and Verde Ditch.
The Fun Float contest, aka flotilla, will begin at 10 a.m., as participants will navigate their watercrafts down the Verde River from Black Bridge to Sunnyside Park.
Judges will choose a winner in each of four categories based on creativity, ingenuity, spirit of the team and best depiction of the category. The four categories are: Best Costumed Crew, Greenest (best use of recycled materials) Funniest (the wittiest watercraft that brings the most laughs) and Judge's Choice (overall best in the flotilla). Keep in mind that watercrafts must pass the safety inspection to participate.
For folks who don't have their own watercraft or PFD, Verde River Adventure Center will have a selection of watercrafts available for rental. All rentals include PFD and paddle. Most rentals are less than $20 for the day. Verde River Adventure Center is located at 45 W. Hollamon St. Call (928) 204-6440 for more information.
Following the contest, hot dogs, chips and drinks will be available at the Ramada on Hollamon Street next to Fort Verde. An awards ceremony is scheduled for 1 p.m. also at the Ramada.
For a complete list of rules, or to sign up for the contest, visit Camp Verde Parks and Recreation office at 395 S. Main St., call (928) 554-0828 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The contest is free and open to everyone. Participants must be at least 14 years of age to float solo. Anyone younger than 14 must be accompanied in the same watercraft by a person older than 18 and have signed, parental approval.
All participants younger than 18 are required to attend a safety class at 8:30 a.m. prior to launch. The class will be presented by Verde River Valley Nature Organization boardmember Bob Rothrock and will be held at the Fun Float launch site at Rezzonico Family Park near Black Bridge. The class is also open to anyone regardless of age who lacks experience on the river.
"We're teaching some of the basics, common sense, things that escape people's minds when they're in the throws of having fun," says Karen Bowers with the Verde River Valley Nature Organization.
Besides the focus on safety, Bowers says that Ditch Day Fun Float also "plants the seed of awareness [of the Verde River], to offer something that introduces them to this playground in their own back yard. When people engage with something, there is ownership. With ownership, our goal is stewardship."