RULES & REGULATIONS
Safety is our #1 priority! The rules and regulations set forth are for the protection of our participants and spectators.
The Raft Race is dependent on mother nature providing the right amount of rainfall and water in the AR River system leading up to the event. Historically, the race will happen if Keystone Lake is in flood pool before the event, which has happened every year since the event’s revival in 2015. Alternatively, besides being below flood pool, there is the chance of too much water in the system and flood control will take precedence over our event and safe water levels will not be possible.
We have been fortunate to have water donations, water deviations, and hydropower electricity purchase contracts in years past, but they are not available every year due to circumstances outside of our control. With that being said, the Raft Race is primarily dependent on mother nature providing the right amount of rainfall and lake levels to ensure a water release for the event.
You can check on current Keystone Lake levels at the link below.
In the event of a low or high water cancellation, participants will be notified at least 1-2 weeks before the event. A full refund will be issued to registered rafters OR a registration voucher for the 2020 event will be provided.
A cancellation won’t be all bad news….You’ll be notified in plenty of time to make other Labor Day plans, or even better, we will still be able to have our Finish Line Festival at West Festival Park in Tulsa. The Finish Line Festival will include live music, sand sculpture contest and professional sand sculpture display, food trucks, kids STEM cardboard boat race, helicopter rides, cornhole tournament, volleyball tournament, youth ninja warrior obstacle course, free kids water inflatables, water games, and more!
CAN WE SWIM IN THE WATER?
While the mighty Arkansas River is rated for primary contact, the Raft Race does not permit swimming. Please stay on your raft or floating device during the race. Water levels vary along the waterway and we don’t want participants hitting rocks and debris in shallow areas. Plus, it’s not fun if you ingest any river water. Better safe than sorry (trust us!). In all seriousness, it’s never safe to ingest river or lake water.
- Your raft team is required to be able to hand carry your raft up and down the boat ramp.
- Acceptable boat types are canoes, kayaks, inflatable rafts, paddleboards, and homebuilt rafts.
- The age cutoff for participants is 18, or 12 if accompanied by a parent. A 3:1 child to parent ratio is required.
- RAFTS ABOVE 12ft x 16ft WILL NOT BE ALLOWED. Small-Mid size rafts will have a maximum size of 8 ft x 10 ft. Mid-large size rafts will be above 8ft x 10ft and no bigger than 12ft x 16ft. Please be clear about what category you’re in because we need this for staging and launch info.
- No motors are allowed on boats of any type.
- Homebuilt rafts will be registered in 2 different categories. It is very important to register in the proper category
- All homemade rafts are required to drop their rafts Sunday starting at 12p.m. in Case Community Park. We will do raft drop-off and check-ins in waves Sunday from 12p.m. - 5p.m. You will be notified of your drop off time via email before the race. The Coast Guard Auxiliary will be checking rafts for safety. Security will be on-site overnight to watch over rafts.
- Do not build a full or closed enclosure on your homemade raft. You will not be allowed on the river if you have any type of semi - full enclosed raft.
All participants are required to have:
- Life Jackets
- Paddles, hey maybe even an extra paddle is smart
- Safety Whistle
- Shoes / water shoes
All homemade rafts are required to have:
- An anchor with rope rated to the vessel's weight. If you miss the West Festival boat ramp take-out, you must immediately throw anchor to prevent floating farther downstream toward Zink Dam.
- Extra rope to be able to tie off if needed during race or at take-out waiting for the boat ramp to clear.
- An easily accessible tow point if the Fire Department boat needs to tow you to shore.
- One safety whistle per boat. Only blow in case of extreme emergency to notify water safety boats.
- A sufficient number of oars or paddles to navigate your raft. Two extra paddles are recommended.
- The estimated average depth will be 4.5 feet. It is possible in a few small areas of the course the depth could be as shallow as 2 feet. Please build your raft accordingly and keep in mind in these few areas it may be required to push/pull your raft.
homemade raft building tips:
- Wheels are great! Make moving your raft down the boat ramp easy! Foldable wheels are even better, think of a trailer tongue crank wheel.
- Sunshade, it's still summer time folks.
- Wind!?! See sunshade above, a sunshade could be a sail in your favor or be a big barrier to speed. Moveable / removeable sunshade / sails.
- Steering / propulsion - paddles and oars are great, but rudders and long poles are mighty helpful!!
- Canned beer only will be allowed on the river. We are in accordance with Oklahoma Boating Laws. If you drink while rafting, it is mandatory to designate a non-drinking boat operator, just as you would designate a non-drinking driver.
- There is a zero-tolerance policy on over-consumption of alcohol. Local law enforcement have authority to issue tickets on the water, and will do so if any person or raft is creating a safety issue or causing problems. We want everyone to have a great, safe experience. Thank you for your compliance!
- Sand Springs Case Community Park does not allow alcohol consumption in the park. You will not be allowed to drink in the park prior to your launch time. Sand Springs Police will be present and strictly enforcing this local ordinance.
- All participants are required to have a life jacket. The Great Raft Race is in accordance with Oklahoma Boating Laws and life jackets must be Coast Guard-approved. See the Department of Safety's website for further information.
- Multiple local authorities will be deploying safety power boats. There will also be swift water rescue kayakers floating with certain waves and stationed around bridge pillars. The primary river channel is RIVER RIGHT (Right side of river floating down stream) for most of the route. The first 2 miles below Sand Springs can be shallow; directly downstream HWY 97 bridge is especially shallow. Stay to the right of the large sandbar. The average depth for the entire route at our water release is approximately 4.5 feet, but can be as shallow as 2 feet in some areas.
- Stopping on sand bars to hang out for extended periods of time is not permitted. Only a certain amount of a water release is secured, and you run the risk of being on the river when the water level begins to recede. You could possibly be stuck dragging your raft over sand bars down river.
- Entering Tulsa as the river begins to bend south, you will go under 244 bridge and multiple others. There are lots of misaligned pillars in this area and, it is potentially a trouble spot. Please make sure all raft occupants are secure and paying attention in this section. Safety kayakers will be stationed here directing you to the appropriate approach. At this point you have to stay on the RIGHT side of the river going forward. The take out is shortly after the bridges, and if you are on the MIDDLE TO LEFT side of the river you could potentially miss the take out boat ramp.
- If you experience an emergency event, blow your safety whistle and safety personnel will respond. Or use your cell phone to call the appropriate authorities.
- If we experience bad weather or lightning, the race could be canceled or delayed. If we have a weather delay or lightning strikes while you’re on the river, safety boaters will notify you and you will pull to the bank out of the water. We will resume the race 30 minutes after the last lightning strike within 10 miles. If you haven’t launched yet, the wave launches will be delayed.
PERSONAL FLOATING DEVICES (PFDS)
We like to play around a lot, but we do not mess around our P.F.D.s. Your Personal Floatation Devices (life vests) are your first ticket onto the water. Every single racer on your team who plans to be on the water needs to have one. This is not negotiable, and our water safety team will be standing guard to ensure this happens. We value safety above all else – including fun!
Oklahoma events mean Oklahoma weather and we want our racers prepared for unexpected inclement weather. Our event is RAIN or SHINE, with a few exceptions…
In the event of severe weather before the start of our event, including lightening and storms, please check your e-mails and our social media pages for timely updates. We will make every effort to update participants as early as possible to changes in schedule.
Should we experience sudden storms during the race day, any lightening strike within ten miles of the event will pause boat launches and our safety teams on the water will work to notify teams to find the closest bank and get off the water. The race will resume, and boats will begin launching, after 30 minutes of no lightening strikes in the area. Safety first!
FAQ - More info
More rules and info in our FAQ here.