2021 Results

20 Years and 2 Million Pounds!

At the heart of Missouri River Relief is the river, but this organization was built for people. Our mission is connecting people to the Missouri River. For our river to have a healthy future, it needs a community of people who love it. People who want to care for the river. For 20 years, we’ve been building that community with our river cleanups, education programs and races.

This year we celebrated our 20th Anniversary with you. We’re proud of the transformation in our river and our community that this effort has accomplished. We know you are proud too.

We know that the river is so much cleaner than when we started 20 years ago. We can measure that. What is tough to measure, but clear to anyone involved in these programs, is the change that occurs in the people that participate.


*Check out our "Best of" 2021 in Photos*

The Story of 2021

In 2021, Missouri River Relief kept the majority of our education programs virtual due to the ongoing novel Coronavirus Pandemic, while we were able to once again host in-person community river cleanups, giving us some sense of normalcy.  We hosted Missouri River Cleanups with community and volunteer groups from Omaha to Columbia.

Ever so gradually, we were able to increase our boat capacities, and were able to offer a new engaging program this year called “Big Muddy Boat Rides”.  With opportunities each month to sign-up, the Big Muddy Boat Rides series ended up taking 250 people out on the river in our passenger hauling boat, "Lucia".

Despite enduring the challenge of a pandemic, Missouri River Relief continued to build our capacity for even more action:

  • moved and expanded our offices at 916 N. College
  • hired Development Manager Lisa Cole
  • brought aboard AmeriCorps member Alyssa Thomas

We kept "Zooming"

For the first half of the year, we engaged hundreds of attendees during our MR340 Race LIVE Series & Big Muddy Speaker Series.  In all, our YouTube channel saw close to 7,000 video engagements this year!

A New Role in the MR340

This was the first year of Missouri River Relief taking the helm of the 16-year-old MR340 paddling race from Kansas City to St. Charles. We are proud to be stepping into a bigger role in this world-class adventure event and continue to work with the founders to create a solid foundation. This year’s race was perfect – with 639 paddlers from 39 states in 419 boats.

In all, River Relief assisted in 5 river races and paddling excursions that involved a total of 1,046 paddlers.

The 2021 Race to the Dome, the biggest year yet

Mornings at the River

In June we debuted a new program embracing a new audience. Mornings at the River was designed for kiddos 0-5 and their families. We set up an interactive river camp with lots of hands-on activities for two days a week for three weeks. 633 parents and children attended the play sessions, with many repeat participants as they kept coming back! Each week had a different river theme, including Awesome River Art, Magical River Music and Beautiful River Birds.

Spending time at the river is transformational for these little ones.  One parent shared:

“Thank you for providing this awesome opportunity. I am terrified of rivers, so taking my kids to the river is something I wouldn't be likely to do on my own, so thank you for encouraging this experience!”

Education Highlights

We crafted innovative Education Programs to connect 4,152 students and 248 teachers to the Missouri River. There are a number of resources that are driven by questions from real students to help guide your classroom's exploration of the Missouri River and more!

Big Muddy Clean Sweep

Our massive endeavor this fall was the Big Muddy Clean Sweep, a 200-mile cleanup of the Missouri River from Kansas City to Columbia. 5 core crew members camped their way down the river, working with an ever-rotating cast of volunteers, filling their boats and dumpsters along the way with trash and leaving a real impact on the river and the river communities along the way.

Here’s a few numbers to capture the impact:

343 volunteers ∙ 23.6 TONS of Trash ∙ 382 Tires ∙ 19 refrigerators ∙ 847 bags of trash ∙ 119 miles of river cleaned ∙ 45 river sunsets

At a Big Muddy Clean Sweep cleanup near Boonville, MO, 10 year-old volunteer, Colby Williams, stopped us to explain his passion for cleaning up the river.

“We need to protect the wildlife. They were here first,” Colby said. “Then we came in and polluted it so we need to help clean it up.”

While doing a river cleanup at Miami, MO, a couple of volunteers dug a massive tractor tire out of the riverbank. Later, after doing the math, we realized that tire included the 2 millionth pound of trash that River Relief volunteers have removed from the river since 2001! It’s a mind-blowing statistic made up of thousands of river stories created by thousands of people.

Reflections on 20 River Years

In September, Missouri River Relief hosted our 20th Anniversary party at Cooper’s Landing, a funky riverside venue just upstream of the site of our first Missouri River cleanup in 2001. Amidst the familiar smiling faces and the sublime sunset melting into the river was a slideshow of photos from the past 20 years.

Photos of special river places flowed by like water. The sand dunes of Goat Island in South Dakota. The trash-strewn rocky riprap of downtown Kansas City. The deep forest of the Big Muddy Refuge. Limestone bluffs reflected in the muddy water near Rocheport. The river wrapping around the Washington River Festival. The swirling waters of the Missouri & Mississippi River Confluence.

And amongst the river scenery – a community of people gathered around the river. So many faces of people working hard cleaning the river, sharing river joy with students and introducing new people to this river and this community.

It’s because of the generosity of folks like you that we are able to make change happen on the river and in the hearts of people that depend on it.  It is what makes great community-based stewardship programs like the Mornings at the River, or The Big Muddy Clean Sweep possible.

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Each one of these programs is only possible with the partnership of so many organizations, agencies and passionate people who give time, expertise and a helping hand. This list includes such wonderful folks as (in no particular order) – Central Methodist University, Mo. Dept. of Conservation, Columbia Public Schools, Boone County Stormwater Mgmt, Friends of Rock Bridge, Mo. Department of Natural Resources, Missouri Stream Team, Back to the River, Odell Brewing Company, Union Pacific, Northern Natural Gas, Fontenelle Forest, Greenway Network, Military Wild, Civil Air Patrol, Northrop Grumman, Cargill, AmeriCorps, Keep Omaha Beautiful, City of Omaha, City of Council Bluffs, Izaak Walton League Mo. River Initiative, Conservation Federation of Mo., Conservation Leadership Corps, Big Muddy Adventures, Mo. River Bird Observatory, Living Lands & Waters, Cooper's Landing, Stream Teams United, First Chance for Children, Black People Who Hike, Job Point, Alpine Shop, UST Gear, City of Jefferson, City of Columbia, Rivermiles, Paddle Stop New Haven, Logboat Brewing, Budget Dumpster, Republic Services, Mid-Mo. Solid Waste Management District, Jim's Tire Salvage, Mississippi Rivers & Towns Initiative, Spire, Mo. Coalition for the Environment, Evergy, Paddle KC, KC Water Services, American Cricket Academy, Astral Glass Studio, Healthy Rivers Partnership, KC Rotary Club South, Bass Pro Shops/Cabelas, Mo. Master Naturalists, REI, Mo. Environmental Education Association, Veterans United, Shawnee Mission, Stream Team 211, 5114 & the League of Watershed Guardians, the Columbia Missourian, Columbia Daily Tribune and National Park Service

Our Mission

Missouri River Relief is an action-oriented, volunteer and equipment-based non-profit organization dedicated to connecting people and communities to the Missouri River through hands-on, river cleanups, education programs and recreation opportunities.

Since 2001, we have worked 203 River Cleanups, bringing 29,799 Volunteers to clean 1,013 Tons of Trash from 1,560 Miles of the River!  

Many times this year, we’ve heard what a visible difference has been made on this river over the years.  One of our favorite river friends put it into words:

“Today it's not uncommon to see kayakers pass, and the Missouri is used by fishermen as a good source of large catfish. On weekends the sand bars are covered with families enjoying a day on the river. What has caused these people to discover the Missouri River and its recreational possibilities? I think a lot of credit goes to Missouri River Relief.” – Soda Popp, R.R.E. (River Rat Extraordinaire)

You make these transformations possible. Thank you so much for caring for the Missouri River.

SYOTR in 2022!

2021 By the Numbers:

MRR Cleanups:  16
Trash Mobs:  17
Volunteers:  1,296
Tons of Trash:  42
Tires removed:  505
Miles cleaned:  161
Students:  4,152
Teachers:  248
Paddling Events:  5
Paddlers:  1,046
Educator Workshops:  1
Presentations:  38
# of Speaker Series:  5
Attendees:  3,310
Video Engagements:  6,947
Communities:  23 
Participant Hours on-the-river:  47,251
Total Participants (volunteers, students, teachers, paddlers, attendees):  10,052

2021 Quick Links:


A Big Muddy THANKS to our Sponsors and Partners -- we could not do this without YOU!  

2021 In the News:

YouthBuild becomes steward of Missouri River with clean-up project
Date: 10/15/2021
Source: Columbia Daily Tribune
River Cleanup Sweeps Through Waverly
Date: 09/10/2021
Source: by Klarissa Olvera, Santa Fe Times
Water festival connects communities with Missouri waterways
Date: 07/17/2021
Source: Columbia Missourian
River cleanup tackles trash at Adrian's Island
Date: 07/12/2021
Source: Jefferson City News Tribune
Volunteers prep for Missouri River cleanup in May
Date: 04/30/2021
Source: WOWT Omaha

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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
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