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Hundreds take a dip in the Willamette River for Big Float

PORTLAND, Ore. -- There is a certain stigma associated with the Willamette River -- that beautiful body of water that wraps around our city.

Sure, it's pretty to look at, drive past or walk over, but you don't go in it -- at least that's the perception.

Trailed by a miniature blow-up flamingo family only fit for a day like Sunday, Margoux Ryncies is proof of that perception. Despite the fact that she grew up nearby, Sunday's fifth annual "Big Float" along Portland's Southwest Waterfront, it's her first time taking a dip in the water.

"I was always kind of under the impression that it was not safe to go in the Willamette and it was too dirty," Ryncies said, staying afloat on the Willamette via a giant inflatable swan.

The Human Access Project is the group behind the annual "Big Float" event. In its fifth year, the river gathering has only grown in size with the idea of getting people in the water not by boat, but by float.

"The message here is that the Willamette River has come a long way. We are now are in a situation where the Willamette River is swimmable," Willie Levenson of the Human Access Project told KATU News. "Our mission is to transform Portland's relationship with the Willamette River and connect people to the Willamette River because we feel if more people are connected to the Willamette River they're more likely to care for it."

Mayor Charlie Haless recent budget proposal included money for an urban beach build south of the Hawthorne Bridge. The mayor's chief of staff, who was on hand for the event, says the move was in line with the same mission -- to change Portland's perception of the Willamette.

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