September 21, 2009

Moke River Cleanup '09

This past Saturday was the first annual Great Sierra River Clean Up sponsored by the Sierra Nevada Conservancy in conjunction with many local watershed conservation groups. The event was an amalgamation of several existing California-based volunteer rivershed clean up efforts with new efforts on many (previously) neglected watersheds. The state-wide conservation endeavor was (as many will agree) a smashing success with over 2,000 registered volunteers and a countless number of people who joined the cleanup on-site, impromptu. More than 63 tons of garbage, with nearly 1 ton of recyclables, was removed from 60 different watersheds. That's some easy math to figure that an average of just over 1 ton of garbage was removed from each watershed. Impressive numbers to say the least. Impressive both in that these rivers are now void of 1 ton a garbage each, and also the fact that more than 1 ton of garbage (and that's just a fraction of the total) had even found its way into some of these remote locations. Nearly 150 miles of river throughout the state was cleaned.

The turnout was truly a testament to the support and commitment from local communities to help preserve and protect some of the most beautiful and ecologically important rivers on the west coast. I'm sure that this annual event will only snowball as it continues to gain participation every year.

I found myself on the banks of the NF Mokelumne River at the Hwy 26 crossing bright and early on Saturday morning. I was joined by 19 other individuals from various walks of life including the Executive Director and President of the Foothill Conservancy, one member of the Sierra Nevada Conservancy, many local residents, and three representatives from the East Bay Municipal Utility District. 19 people at such a (seemingly) remote location was amazing to me. I was also amazed when Katherine Evatt (President, Foothill Conservancy) told me that over 70 people had registered to clean up the Electra reach of the same river.

Chris Wright (Executive Director, Foothill Conservancy) and Katherine provided doughnuts, coffee, and cold water to participants as they arrived. After a quick discussion about safety and intent from Katherine, we set off to clean up trash on both the north and south sides of the river above and below the bridge.

We were told that this section of the river was a popular place for both swimming and fishing, and we could tell that was true by the amounts of garbage that had been deposited amongst the rocks under the bridge.

The group quickly filled nearly every trash bag that Chris and Katherine had brought with pieces of trash such as water bottles, cans, broken glass (great for swimmers with bare feet), shoes, pieces of car doors, couch cushions, car tires, truck tailgates, an endless supply of spent cigarette butts, and lots of other random pieces of garbage. I need to give praise to Brandon for hauling that tailgate out of the canyon. I was watching him drag that thing around down by the water and just assumed that it was pretty light... I picked it up once it was on the pile of trash... not so light... good thing I waited until it was already out of the canyon... Props to Brandon for doing what it takes!

After a couple hours we had well over 400 lbs of trash piled behind Chris's Jeep, and this was just in the first 100-150 yards above and below the bridge! It was a great pile of trash that we were proud of (at least I was)! Thanks to Katherine and Chris for organizing a great event, and I hope it was just as good at the other sites on the Mokelumne.


  1. Hey, JJ: Thanks to you for coming and working so hard! River cleanups are all about the volunteers who make them possible. Without people willing to donate a morning of work, they simply wouldn't get done. We truly appreciate your help!

    Did you catch any fish later?

  2. It was my pleasure to help. You guys did a great job of organizing! The river is beautiful.

    I Didn't catch any fish, but I saw plenty... I must have been doing something wrong.