Our History

The Origin of Missouri River Relief


Missouri River Relief started as an idea and became a community.

Missouri River Relief emerged organically from a group of people in mid-Missouri who simultaneously recognized the need for engaged stewardship of the Missouri River and the desire of citizens to take part in watershed solutions.

Before it was an organization, Missouri River Relief was one event in one place – a river clean-up based in tiny Easley, MO, on the banks of the Missouri River in October 2001. Chad Pregracke brought the Living Lands & Waters trash barge up the Missouri River to help 400 volunteers remove many tons of junk from the banks of the Big Muddy. Nobody knew at that time what Missouri River Relief would become, but they already knew it would be more than one clean-up effort.

First MRR Cleanup
The first Missouri River Relief clean-up was at Easley, MO, in October, 2001.

Since then, a growing Crew of Missouri River Relief volunteers and staff have creating innovative ways  bring to people to the Missouri River to take care of the river, teach and learn about it ---and play on it.

View the full Interactive Timeline Here!

Here’s a peek back in time at how the MRR community has grown.


This was our first year hosting the MR340 - along with the organizational power of the race founders at Rivermiles. In the Fall of 2021 River Relief celebrated our 20th Anniversary, with a big party at Cooper's Landing, alongside another epic Big Muddy Clean Sweep, cleaning up 200 miles of the river from Kansas City to Columbia.


As the pandemic unfolded across the country, MRR found ways to bring people to the river safely. Virtual Workshops, Watershed Expeditions at Home, online library programs, Big Muddy Speaker Series streaming live all kept our communities in touch and our families engaged using digital tools. Clean-ups, races and excursions were reshaped for outdoor safety – masks, distancing and respect made them safe.


Despite the Great Flood of 2019, we did all of our scheduled river clean-ups and found on-land ways to make river education rich and impactful.


Kristen Schulte crafted the first Missouri River Days, which would grow to take every fourth-grade student in Columbia Public Schools out on a boat on the Missouri River.


The Second Big Muddy Clean Sweep, from Brunswick to Hermann, MO. River Clean-ups, student programs, art and music.


A jam-packed year. After some upstream river clean-ups, the Great Flood of 2011 was unleashed on the valley. As the waters receded, we brought a towboat and some barges downstream from Jefferson City to the Arch in St. Louis filling the barge with trash of all kinds gathered by volunteers. It was the Big Muddy Clean Sweep.


We started the Big Muddy Speaker Series and the Race to the Dome.


People still talk about the River Camp celebration on California Island.


The “Trash Flume” made its debut at the Mari-osa Cleanup and we started our long history as safety boats in the MR340 Race.


First clean-ups in Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota. The MegaScout sent crews out to map the trash along the river from Ponca, NE to the Confluence of the Missouri & Mississippi Rivers.


“Voyage of Recovery” – crews of staff and volunteers host a river clean-up each weekend ahead of the bicentennial re-enactment of the Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery expedition. From St. Louis to St. Joseph.


By now MRR is hosting river cleanups and education events in St. Louis, Kansas City and mid-Missouri.


400 volunteers join a partnership of state, federal and business groups led by a ragtag group of river lovers and a river clean-up barge from Illinois who host the first Missouri River Relief clean-up in Easley, MO.

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This website is created and maintained by Missouri River Relief, P.O. Box 463, Columbia, MO 65205
MRR is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. Federal Tax ID (EIN) 03-0425187
© 2024 Missouri River Relief | Website development and design by Pixel Jam Digital
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