So many of YOU are integral members of our river community, and we hope that our work brings you a deep sense of pride. Many of you have contributed in some capacity this year—whether monetary, in-kind, volunteering your time or giving valuable guidance—we are so very grateful.
As we begin the year-end giving season, we invite you to learn about the different ways to participate! Each December we participate in CoMoGives, which benefits 153 local nonprofits and kicks off on Giving Tuesday, November 28!
It's been a fascinating year on the Missouri River! With so much of the lower Missouri River watershed in extended drought, the river has been extremely low all year. The low waters have revealed aspects of the river’s character that are new to many of us. The river is always teaching us new lessons.
As the waters have receded, Missouri River Relief has blossomed - it’s been a year of growth for us. Our programs, our staff and the impact of our work have all grown and deepened.
This spring we brought on Alyssa Marie Thomas as our Stewardship Coordinator after serving two years in our AmeriCorps program. Her first task as full-time staff was organizing a river cleanup in Omaha & Council Bluffs. There is a large unhoused community along the river there so she reached out to Together Omaha, a local organization offering resources to those experiencing homelessness. Street Outreach Specialist Kirsten Fluery joined our team for the weekend, working with the riverside camps and a special team of compassionate volunteers to remove over 80 bags of refuse from the riverbanks near one large encampment.
The river inspires community.
We received a grant from the National Parks Foundation to support a brand-new program called the Big Muddy Catfishing Gear Library. Our talented new Education Coordinator Lara Cox is building this program to reach new audiences of families in the Columbia area. We’ll be facilitating experiences for multi-generational families fishing on the banks of the big river! And she’s working to grow, strengthen and deepen our educational and experiential programs like Missouri River Days, Mornings at the River and the Big Muddy Speaker Series.
The river connects families.
This fall we started a new project working with a group of vets enrolled in a VA Hospital substance abuse recovery program. We spent a day on the river, exploring some beautiful spots, discussing river history and finishing with a cleanup. Being on the river for a full day transforms people. The positive energy that kept building in our boat was electric. On our way back to the boat ramp, we all shared our thoughts of the day. Here are some of the words used – “Peaceful” – “Refreshing” – “Calming” – “Educational” – “I don’t want to leave!” To be able to bring these folks, all engaged in a difficult struggle for their lives, to a place that uplifts them– was powerful and humbling.
The river heals people.
2023 saw the number of programs we were able to offer communities from St. Louis, to Omaha grow. In total, over 100 programs were offered to a wide range of audiences. We've worked with a volunteer group with disabilities, veterans, journalists, and more. Missouri River Relief has made it a priority to be more inclusive with the different groups we are reaching. From toddlers to adults. Everyone is welcome here! Learn more about our Equity, Inclusion and Cultural Relevancy Action Plan.
Education Programs: 52
Outreach Programs: 32
Paddle Events: 5
Big Muddy Speaker Series: 11
The Big Muddy Speaker Series continued with in-person and online presentations at The Bistro in Rocheport. Meanwhile, our friends at the Greenway Network also hosted the monthly series in-person in St. Charles.
Here’s a sample of some of the fabulous presentations you can now watch on Missouri River Relief’s YouTube Channel:
A Big Muddy Thanks to all of our presenters and organizations that donate their time to this rich and educational program.
In 2023 we crafted innovative education programs to connect 3,737 students and 134 teachers to the Missouri River.
As always, there are a number of resources driven by questions from real students to help guide your classroom's exploration of the Missouri River. Check out our River Education or News and Updates Section to learn more about programs being offered at Missouri River Relief.
We hosted four large community river cleanups in 2023 in the communities of Kansas City, Omaha/Council Bluffs, Weldon Spring and Glasgow. Along with a handful of smaller cleanups, these efforts involved 895 volunteers over the course of the year, and removed 28.5 tons of trash from 80 miles of the Missouri River! The amount of trash piled up at the end of the day is always an incredible thing to witness.
This was the third year Missouri River Relief took the lead in coordinating the world-class paddling adventure known as the Missouri American Water MR340, a 340-mile race from Kansas City to St. Charles. This year's race was a real challenge, as you can see from the number of news articles above. 701 paddlers from 38 states in 469 boats took on the adventure.
Race to the Dome saw 172 paddlers making 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, 13 years ago!
In all, River Relief assisted in 5 river races and paddling excursions this year that involved a total of 1,089 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) –
The Nature Conservancy, Mo. Dept. of Conservation, Columbia Public Schools, Boone County, Shakespeare's, Ragtag Cinema, Dance For Your Rights, Prairie Roots Wellness, Mount Nebo Inn, Pebble Publishing, Mo. Department of Natural Resources, Mo. Coalition for the Environment, MU Extension, MU School of Journalism, Raptor Rehab, Missouri Stream Team, St. James Winery, Bells Brewing, Public House Brewing, Odell Brewing Company, Athletic Brewing Company, Logboat Brewing, Waves Cider, Urban Chestnut Brewing Company, 4 Hands Brewing, StilL 630, Schlafly, Llama Racks, Midwest Paddle Adventures, Pfefferkorn Engineering, Some Beach Kayaks, Terrain Magazine, Hitachi Energy, Fast Yowi, Hyvee, PATH, Fusion Medical Staffing, Ono Pinay Kitchen, Keep Omaha Beautiful, Mississippi Mud Coffee, Beasley Fish, Comoputers, Hoffman Family of Companies, 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, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, USGS, Job Point, Alpine Shop, UST Gear, TS Paddles, City of Jefferson, City of Columbia, City of Glasgow, Kansas City, City of Omaha, City of Council Bluffs, Hulston Family Foundation, Back to the River, Papio Missouri River Natural Resources District, Mid-America Regional Council, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Nebraska Game & Parks, Pottawattamie County, Fontenelle Forest, Evergy Green Team, Spire, GFL Environmental, Colliers, Van Trust, Daily Kitchen KC, KC Parks, Equipment Share, Conservation Federation of Missouri, Mo. 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, Veterans Affairs Hospital, Stream Team 211, 5114 & the League of Watershed Guardians, Girl Scouts of the Missouri Heartland, Walmart, Missouri American Water, Open Space Council, Missouri Scholars Academy, David Barton Elementary in Boonville, Columbia Farmer's Market, Daniel Boone Regional Library 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 224 River Cleanups, bringing 33,483 Volunteers to clean 1,061 Tons of Trash from 1,705 Miles of the River!
So many times, we hear 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 2024!
MRR Cleanups: 13
Trash Mobs: 18
Tons of Trash: 32
Tires removed: 550
Miles cleaned: 80
Paddling Events: 5
Video Engagements: 2,072
Total Participants (volunteers, students, teachers, paddlers, attendees): 10,102