The Missouri River runs through the heart of our country. Its waters spring forth in the Rocky Mountains, pick up the muddy soul of the Great Plains, and water the edge of the Ozark Plateau. For many people, the river is mostly hidden, tucked away in its remote rural valley. The beauty and the life that it carries is a secret.
Missouri River Relief is all about opening that mystery to more people, and 2022 was a monumental year for us in achieving that mission! All of our programs are designed to be rich, deep experiences where people can begin a relationship with our continent’s longest river.
In so many ways, you have helped us make those connections with your support. It’s because of the generosity of folks like you that we are able to provide great educational programs like "Missouri River Adventure Camp" or community-based stewardship events like our river cleanups possible.
2022 has been an exciting year of growth with the addition of new staff, brainstorming what a future "River Center" might look like, building new education programs like "Missouri Adventure Camp" and "Missouri River Explorers", in addition to continuing to host quality events up and down the river.
After celebrating the organization's 20th anniversary, 2022 found Missouri River Relief (MRR) back in full swing for the first time since the pandemic and poised for major growth.
Since acquiring the MR340 Race in 2021, we were prepared to bring on a “Race Manager” in the new year, and in late February we welcomed Christina Ruiz from Lawrence, KS to the team! She’s now a Columbia girl. 😊 In addition to our new Race Manager, a number of other new team members climbed aboard as well…
Steve Olson, a dedicated and handy volunteer took on some official hours as “Fleet Assistant” to help keep this well-oiled machine ready to roll. Thank you, Steve! We enjoyed spending time working with summer iterns Chris Mesfin and Eliza Siebert. Then, at the end of October, we hired a new full-time “Fleet Manager”, Dave Combs, as our long-time river captain and sage, John Brady prepared to retire from his official role as such. We also said farewell to AmeriCorps Education Assistant Anna Miller, after she completed 2 full years of service to the organization, and welcomed our new Education AmeriCorps Vista, Claire Jackson. So many changes!! Bump on over to our staff page to meet the newest members of the River Relief Team!
The coolest piece of news this year had to have been the donation of 160 acres along the Missouri River in Huntsdale (formerly known as Katfish Katy’s) that had been privately owned and operated for many years. Larry and Brenda Potterfield gifted the land to The Nature Conservancy (TNC) who will do what they do best, focus on making the site a place for research, conservation and recreation. As River Relief worked simultaneously and perhaps serendipitously to envision a future “River Center” of our own with a public “Charrette”, we were invited to participate in the discussions of the land deal, and once finalized, The Nature Conservancy announced their plans to operate this new river property in partnership with Missouri River Relief. We are still working to finalize and develop our future plans for the property with TNC, and feel so fortunate to have a such a wonderful opportunity on the future’s horizon.
In April the Big Muddy Speaker Series returned to in-person presentations at The Bistro in Rocheport, after many months online. Meanwhile, our friends at the Greenway Network also began hosting the St. Charles Speaker Series again as well. Thanks to the pandemic, we now know how to live-stream and record these in-person presentations, casting a wider reach to audiences tuning in from all over.
Here’s a sample of some of the fabulous presentations we were able to enjoy and can now be found on Missouri River Relief’s YouTube Channel:
In May, June, August & September, we continued to host a 2-hour “Big Muddy Boat Ride” in partnership with the City of Columbia’s Parks and Recreation and Cooper’s Landing Riverside Resort & Marina. In total, 213 people were able to sign up for a boat ride with their friends or family, explore a sandbar, and feel the wind in their hair!
Speaking of boat rides… there were many in 2022! In the Spring and Fall, nearly 3,000 Columbia 4th & 5th graders and their chaperones were treated to a boat ride as part of “Missouri River Days”. Thanks to our partnership with CPS Science, this half day field trip is offered to the entire 4th-grade at Columbia Public Schools (CPS) during the fall and spring school year.
This year we were able to take 350 of our friends and supporters out on the river for an educational river cruise. We connected with cleanup partners in Sugar Creek, St. Louis & Jefferson City, MO, a group of Osage Nation Highschool Students, members of the Nature Conservancy, sponsors from EquipmentShare and Veterans United Foundation, the Mississippi River Basin Ag & Water Desk journalists, Job Point YouthBuild participants and Boone Dawdlers, just to name a few!
We crafted innovative education programs to connect 4,497 students and 189 teachers to the Missouri River. This year saw two new programs come to fruition. 36 campers, ages 9 to 13 years, were given the chance to go on daily field trips to local parks and conservation areas in order to explore different aspects of their watershed as part of our first ever summer day-camp called Missouri River Adventure Camp! Summer camps are just the best.
Then, we introduced 125 families and 270 people to become Missouri River Explorers through a public program we hosted at Cooper’s Landing. Families were able to work on earning their Missouri River Explorer badges by participating in hands-on activities such as a free boat ride, creating a watercolor of the river, going on a guided hike, meeting some of the animals that call the Missouri River home, and more! Anyone can learn how to explore, learn and protect the Missouri River by taking the Missouri River Explorer Pledge and working on activities on their own time to earn their badge.
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! Check out our River Education or News and Updates Section to learn more about these programs being offered at Missouri River Relief.
We hosted four large community river cleanups in 2022 in the communities of Sugar Creek (just downstream of Kansas City), Washington, the Confluence and Jefferson City. Oftentimes of course, mother nature has plans of her own, and we must roll with the punches, “rain or shine” as we always say!
This year, we had literally been camping in Washington for days, working education programs, scouting for trash, camping, and as usual, dodging Spring thunderstorms! We had just set-up the cleanup the morning of the event, when it became clear that line after line of storms would be coming throughout the day. For the first time ever, instead of “riding it out”, we pulled the plug on the event. This was sad for many reasons, all of the work involved of course, but also, the Washington Cleanup always includes an awesome and fun river festival! The whole day was awash, as we hunkered down in Bryan Haynes’ beautiful art gallery, licked our wounds and fed the volunteer crew a nice local lunch. Still, we managed to involve 765 volunteers over the course of the year, who helped remove 19 tons of trash from 62 miles of the Missouri River! That is still a win for the books!
This was the second year for Missouri River Relief to take the lead in coordinating the world-class paddling adventure known as the MR340, a 340-mile race from Kansas City to St. Charles. Everything went super smooth as our team continued to work hand in hand with the Rivermiles crew, who have created a solid foundation for us to step off of. This year’s race was perfect – with 602 paddlers from 41 states in 403 boats.
We also enjoyed hosting the biggest Race to the Dome to date! 84 paddlers signed up, and made their way to a beautiful beach at Wilson’s Serenity Point at Noren Access. We couldn’t be more grateful for the amazing paddling community that has grown from the first year we hosted this race, 12 years ago!
In all, River Relief assisted in 4 river races and paddling excursions this year that involved a total of 908 paddlers.
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) –
Washington Area River Council, Central Methodist University, Mo. Dept. of Conservation (they do so much to help so many programs), Columbia Public Schools, Boone County, Friends of Rock Bridge, Mo. Department of Natural Resources, Missouri Stream Team, Odell Brewing Company, Athletic Brewing Company, Logboat Brewing, Urban Chestnut Brewing Company, 4 Hands Brewing, Mississippi Mud Coffee, Beasley Fish, Comoputers, Custom Welding of Columbia, Douglass High School, Celebrity Dining, Greenway Network, Northrop Grumman, AmeriCorps, Big Muddy Adventures, Mo. River Bird Observatory, Living Lands & Waters, Cooper's Landing, Stream Teams United, First Chance for Children, Gloria and Michael Bauermeister, Washington Middle School, Bank of Washington, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, USGS, Washington Lions Club, Rotary Club of Washington, Justin Sincox – Edward Jones, Friends of Labadie, Bryan Haynes Studio & Gallery, KT Caboose, Job Point, Alpine Shop, UST Gear, City of Jefferson, City of Columbia, Hulston Family Foundation, Mid-America Regional Council, GFL Environmental, Colliers, Van Trust, Aunt Mildred’s BBQ Sauce, City of Sugar Creek, Equipment Share, Conservation Federation of Missouri, Missouri Birding Society, Missouri Humanities Council, Rivermiles, Paddle Stop New Haven, Budget Dumpster, Republic Services, Mid-Mo. Solid Waste Management District, Spire, Westrock Foundation, Confluence Waterkeeper, Evergy, Paddle KC, KC Water Services, Astral Glass Studio, Missouri Life Magazine, Katy Trail Shuttle, Healthy Rivers Partnership, Bass Pro Shops/Cabela’s Outdoor Fund, Mo. Master Naturalists, REI, Mo. Environmental Education Association, Veterans United Foundation, Shawnee Mission, Stream Team 211, 5114 & the League of Watershed Guardians, Girl Scouts of the Missouri Heartland, Walmart, Missouri American Water, and National Park Service
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 210 River Cleanups, bringing 31,734 Volunteers to clean 1,032 Tons of Trash from 1,623 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 2023!
MRR Cleanups: 7
Trash Mobs: 18
Tons of Trash: 19
Tires removed: 212
Miles cleaned: 62
Paddling Events: 4
Educator Workshops: 1
Video Engagements: 14,984
Total Participants (volunteers, students, teachers, paddlers, attendees): 11,615