Keeper of the Plans

Ever wanted to float the Arkansas River on an inner tube? Now you can

On June 23, you can go on a short Arkansas River float on inner tubes for free.
On June 23, you can go on a short Arkansas River float on inner tubes for free. Idaho Statesman file

Thea Pajunen grew up in the Arkansas River — kayaking, sailing, swimming, everything.

It's safe to say Wichitans today generally don't get out on the Arkansas River very often.

So Pajunen, along with a group of passionate locals, is trying to showcase the river as a place to play.

"A lot of us look at the river and think it's pretty, but it's just sort of a static or passive aspect to our city — It just sits in downtown and we don't really engage with it that closely," she said. "We just want to get people down there and show them what's possible."

Activate the Ark is a pop-up party planned from 10 a.m.-9 p.m. June 23 on the west bank of the river across from Century II.

The main attraction at the event involves inner tubing on the water.

Starting at 11 a.m., there will be free float trips from Old Cowtown Museum to the Boathouse — 50 inner tubes will be available on a first-come first-serve basis. Life jackets will be provided.

People also can bring their own inner tubes.

Register to float on site at the Boathouse, 515 S. Wichita.

Transportation will be provided to Cowtown from the Boathouse.

Guests must be 18 to float, though youth 16 or 17 years old can participate with a guardian.

From noon to 4 p.m., there will be free kayak and paddleboard rentals just west of Century II, courtesy of SUPWichita and the Arkansas River Coalition.

People are encouraged to bring kayaks, paddleboats or any other nonmotorized vessels to put in the water, Pajunen said.

The party will center along the west bank of the Arkansas River across from Century II, where there will be food trucks, a cash bar, a DJ and various lawn games to play — "just stuff for people hanging out alongside the river in an area that's been commonly ignored," Pajunen said.

All of the activities are free, but bring money for food and drinks.

The party is funded by an $8,000 Up the Ambition grant from the Wichita Community Foundation. Those grants — announced in May 2017 — have in the last year funded a floating DNA sculpture in the Arkansas River, a series of art shows under the Douglas Street bridge and the downtown parking garage party planned for July 21.

"All of us just want to see how these areas can be engaged and let people imagine a more vibrant, energetic riverbank," Pajunen said. "It's not impossible to have that here."

A recent national award means about 190 miles of the Arkansas River, in Kansas, is a National Water Trail. (July 2, 2016)