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Splash on the Wabash: a unique opportunity

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Photos by Andrew Maciejewski/Huntington Herald-Press Above, FLOAT: A family relaxes as they begin their float down the Wabash River, Saturday.
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Right, DONE: participants exit the ‘lazy river’at the forks of the wabashafter their 1.5 Hour float.
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DONE: Participants exit the ‘lazy river’at the Forks of the Wabashafter their 1.5 hour float.

by Andrew Maciejewski - amaciejewski@h-ponline.com

More than 600 people jumped in tubes and took a float down the Wabash River Saturday, taking advantage of nice weather and a unique opportunity that only comes once a year.

Rescue crews lined the nearly 2 mile course as the Army Corps of Engineers increased the flow of the Salamonie Reservoir Dam, allowing participants to kick back and relax as they made the 1.5 – hour float down the river. Attendance for Splash on the Wabash took off this year, more than quadrupling since the event began.

Tina Bobilya, who was one of the community members that created the event, said the event is the one time of the year visitors can have a perfect day of tubing.

“One of the cool things is not every community has a dam that they can change the flow on and do an event like this, which makes it fun,” Bobilya said. “We’ve had people from Indianapolis, Lafayette, Fort Wayne, Ohio – we had some people from New York. It gives Huntington this unique event that other communities don’t have.”

It’s a unique event because the Huntington and Andrews fire departments, the Huntington County’s rescue team and the Department of Natural Resources coordinated to ensure the conditions were just right.

“If you don’t know the flow that day, if you don’t understand how this river works, you could put yourself in dangerous situations,” she said. “I think that’s one of the key things about this. We know that specific flow, so we would know what to look for. A normal person might look at it and say, oh it is ok, but it’s actually dangerous.”

The event has grown so much that now it acts as a fundraiser for the Forks of the Wabash and local Boy Scouts, but Bobilya said the event was created to get the community involved with the city’s resources.

“What we wanted to do is really excite people about the river, and it’s kind of a growing trend across the country,” Bobilya said. “What do you do with the rivers?”

The Forks of the Wabash is nearly done constructing a bridge that will connect to two handicap accessible campgrounds and a free backcountry camping area, and it has a new canoe and kayak boat launch.

Bobilya said there are economic opportunities all around the river, so she hopes events like the Splash on the Wabash will inspire people to invest in the rivers.

“I think this is the growing trend, especially with Fort Wayne’s riverfront stuff,” she said. “We don’t have a riverfront area, but maybe this will spark a kid to go down the river and say, ‘I want to open something up,’ or somebody to start a canoe business. We don’t know, but this is the first step, which is to get people to love it.”