What is the best way to make a connection with the Bronx River? One possibility is just living in it, creating a life with the various marine creatures that live there. The bad news is that becoming a fish overnight is a tad unrealistic. Fortunately there’s another option, the Bronx River Flotilla.
The Amazing Bronx River Flotilla is the Bronx River Alliance’s largest annual canoe event and a critical fundraiser that helps fund its public paddling program. During the event, participants paddle down a five-mile stretch of the Bronx River, starting at 219th street in Shoelace Park and ending at the river’s mouth at Hunt’s Point Riverside Park. Participants collaborate in fundraising teams of six (with two people in each canoe). As many as 75-80 paddlers make their way down the river during this momentous day every year.
The Flotilla actually had more humble beginnings than this. Originally called the Golden Ball event, a much smaller number of paddlers worked together across teams to usher a 32-inch golden ball that would float down the river. It was not a competition, but rather a way of promoting teamwork and collaboration.
Although the Golden Ball has been long retired, the Bronx River Flotilla still reflects its foundational values: its goal is to bring attention to the beauty and importance of the Bronx River, as well as bring people together and foster community. The way the Flotilla is structured is not through an ordinary race where people have to rush for the finish line. In fact, racers are encouraged to go slowly so they are able to absorb the natural scenes of the river and its surroundings.
The team that comes in first place therefore is not determined by whether or not the members reach the end first, but rather something entirely different: fundraising. When one signs up to be a part of the flotilla, they are expected to raise at least $350 (as well as pay a $50 registration fee). There are both team prizes and individual prizes based on this. Although it is not necessary to form a team, it is highly encouraged as it will open up more opportunities to win. But ultimately, the goal is for the benefit of everyone who visits, as the money will go to funding low cost and free paddling for Bronx youth and families.
This year, however, the Flotilla is different. Due to coronavirus and the need to keep people safe, the flotilla will not take place under normal circumstances. Instead of people coming to the river, the Bronx River Alliance will be bringing the river to you through a virtual flotilla! Despite the unusual times, this is an entirely new opportunity that we are excited to have.
The Flotilla will be divided into three days where different parts of the Bronx River will be highlighted through videos of staff and community partners guiding viewers downstream. Each day will feature a different host and different theme. On Saturday, July 18th at 10am, Director of Environmental Stewardship Michelle Luebke and Ecology Coordinator Christian Murphy traverse the upper river, exploring and sharing its ecological wonders and environmental infrastructure. On Saturday, July 25th at 10am, Recreation Coordinator Rodrick Bell and local historian Steven DeVillo will delve into the rich indigenous and modern history of the middle river. And on Saturday, August 1st at 10am, Greenway Manager Jonah Garnick and Greenway Team Co-Chair Twahira Khan will explore the lower river and estuary, discussing the recent efforts to reclaim and redevelop the Bronx River Corridor.
It is important to note that you do not need to be a part of a team in order to raise money. If you would like to donate to the fundraiser, please click here!
While Covid has disrupted many aspects of our lives, the show must go on, and we are extremely excited to premier the first ever virtual Amazing Bronx River Flotilla. We hope that you will be able to join us and support the cause.