By Lee First, North Sound Baykeeper
Low-flow conditions on the Nooksack River present challenges to paddlers: sweepers, barely submerged logs, swift-moving shallows and tight, fast turns. Despite an inch of predicted rain, on Saturday, September 24, more than 40 paddlers in canoes, kayaks, and rafts gathered for an annual cleanup along 25 miles of the Nooksack River.
Volunteers and staff from RE Sources for Sustainable Communities, American Rivers, Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association, and Trout Unlimited joined local business sponsors Yeagers Sporting Goods and Recycle and Disposal Services for a celebration of the 25th anniversary of American River’s National River Cleanup initiative.
Why do we need cleanups? Because too many people leave, lose, or dump trash in our waterways. Cleanups can sound challenging, but mostly, they’re fun. On a recent beach cleanup in Anacortes, I asked a youngster why she was out there. “It’s a treasure hunt!” she exclaimed, leaping for joy while searching for bottles and cans. And I agree — there’s something absurdly fun about it.
Once we’d unloaded the boats, we paired up experienced paddlers with new friends. We explained river hazards and gave the basics about how to read the river. Our star kayaker, Reg Lake, led the way. Our stellar sweep paddler, Tom Borst, kept his eye on the rear of our flotilla.
We were off! Our boats filled quickly with tires, expired plastic rafts, tarps, blue tubes, chairs, tables, fishing gear, plastic bottles, bicycles, and the most common items: disposable plastic bottles, disposable coffee lids, and plastic bags. After just one hour, several of our canoes were packed with trash.
Rest assured — canoes are great for river cleanups. One volunteer had three large tires loaded in his canoe. Once, I was able to fit a dishwasher in mine.
The rain eased, the sun almost came out, and before we knew it, we were done. Volunteers from Trout Unlimited prepared a mouthwatering barbecue at Hovander Homestead Park. We unloaded 2,100 pounds of trash into one of Recycling and Disposal Services dump trucks — breaking our previous cleanup record.
If you want to help with future endeavors like this, please let us know. Sign up for our monthly Clean Water e-newsletters or email the North Sound Baykeeper.