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Great Rivers Cleanup at the Confluence 2022

Columbia Bottom Conservation Area - St. Louis, MO
Saturday, September 17th, 2022

A full dumpster is such a bittersweet feeling the Saturday evening after a big cleanup. On one hand, it’s so great that we removed such an immense amount of trash from the river. On the other hand, it shouldn’t have been there in the first place. Nevertheless, 180 amazing volunteers joined us bright and early Saturday, removing almost 5 tons of trash out of a 10-mile reach of the Missouri and parts of the Mississippi River! Thank you to all of those who drove the extended drive through the Columbia Bottom Conservation Area to aid in our cleanup efforts.

2022 Confluence Sunset Cruise
The confluence with the Big Muddy left and the Mississippi on the right. Photo by Alyssa Thomas.

Columbia Bottom has undergone so much change since our last cleanup in 2018. As our volunteer crew joined us throughout the days leading to the event, it was not recognizable to any. There was no longer a large view of the river from our crew camp nor a large field for our many tents, but the untouched area has become so nature rich and beautiful in a new way! There was still a great energy that made the crew excited about this cleanup. Columbia Bottom is located in a floodplain at the Confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri River and there is certainly something magical about the meeting of our two largest in North America!

The crew got busy prepping the camp headquarters when we arrived Wednesday afternoon. After everything was set up, we couldn’t resist a quick sunset cruise to the confluence before turning in for the evening. Thursday evening was our Big Muddy Sunset Cruise & BBQ with our sponsors, partners, and friends! This great event gives us a chance to give thanks to all the individuals and organizations that make what we do possible. The weather was yet again perfect for  a beautiful boat ride to the Confluence.

Friday was our trash scout which is an essential part of our cleanup model. Before the event day, our volunteer crew goes out on the river to scout the 10-mile reach (or more) of the rivers to find areas of high-density trash and ensure that we examine the safety aspects of each location before we send volunteers there the next day. We collect this information to create smaller dispatch maps that our boat operators utilize on Saturday’s cleanup.

2022 Confluence Trash Scout
During the scout, we mark bigger items that we want to try to get out with a game plan- like BOATS! Photo by Andrew Dreas.

Saturday was the big day! As volunteers slowly arrived at the boat ramp our staff and crew were so excited to see so many eager stewards. And we weren’t the only ones! A KMOV 4 news crew joined us to record a live segment of our efforts, and even got on the river themselves! Check that story out here. We also had a wonderful article written by the St. Louis Post Dispatch about the cleanup in real time. Click here to read this amazing article.

2022 Confluence Cleanup KMOV 4 St. Louis
KMOV 4 chatting with our operations manager, Kevin Tosie at the boat ramp! Photo by Steve Schnarr.

After the morning’s rush of registration, orientation, safety and life jackets, volunteers came back with great - and some real weird - trash finds that they submitted into the Trash Contest! We clapped and shouted for a winner in each trash category while enjoying Domino’s pizza for lunch.

After the volunteers leave, our hardcore volunteer crew goes right back out to pick up all the trash that was accumulated on the bank of each trash spot. We were able to get a front-end loader to help with getting the trash off the boats and into the dumpster- thanks to the Missouri Department of Conservation staff at CBCA! In total, we picked up 198 bags of trash, almost a ton of scrap metal, 45 tires, and even a boat! This all turned to 4.81 tons of trash!

While the trash rolled in by the boat load, staff and volunteers from Missouri River Bird Observatory went through a portion of the large blue trash bags to audit the plastic that was being collected off the river banks. Their team sorted each plastic item meticulously tracking the origin and type of each trash fragment to the best of their ability. Click here to see their results! Thank you MRBO for doing the nitty-gritty work to drive change towards reducing plastic use!

The accomplishments were celebrated with a hearty dinner from Celebrity Dining. An extra big, muddy thank you to our crew who make these events so successful!

Check out our trash haul below!!

Some of our favorite shots of volunteers Saturday morning!

Trash Tally:

198 Bags Trash!!
plus…
1 18’ fiberglass boat chopped into pieces by crew (“Glastro” made in Amarillo, Texas)
10 tires with rims
35 tires w/out rims
2 inner tubes
1 wagon wheel tire with partial axle
1 child’s car seat
10 large chunks of Styrofoam
3 coolers
1 water jug
1 carpet
1 lawn chair
1 folding chair
1 foam couch cushion
1 very muddy tarp
5 5-gallon plastic buckets
7 50-gallon plastic barrels (1 with bottom only)
2 1-gallon jugs
2 milk crates
2 plastic pallets 43”x48”
2 lengths PVC pipe
3 orange cones
1 petroleum pipeline “warning” marker
1 tractor seat with yellow cushion
1 microwave shell
1 refrigerator casing
1 plastic trash can
1 leather recliner
1 carpet
1 welcome mat
cardboard box side pieces
1 rusted trailer pin
1 boat bumper
1 boat anchor
1 pump sprayer
1 large plastic yard wagon
1 campfire grill
1 car grill
1 plastic fender
1 NDS grate
1 Grip ‘n Grab (no longer grips)
2x4’s
2 rebar lengths
1 10’ aluminum pipe
rusted metal sheets
approx. 80’ braided steel cable
dozens rusted railroad spikes
dozens rusted iron pieces
dozens rusted railroad base pieces
dozens rusted barge chain pieces
1 steel cable with clevis pin
1 machete
1 bluebird house on 7’ pole
1 blue plastic carousel horse
1 complete petrified turtle (head missing)
1 large piece driftwood root impregnated with rocks
1 3-gallon plastic pot holding 1 plastic pumpkin
1 squash gourd
3 basketballs (1 split open)
3 soccer balls (1 made of leather)
4 softballs
1 hardball
1 football
3 tennis balls
1 volleyball
assorted rubber balls of various size
1 black rubber boot
1 large rubber dice made in China
1 pink flip flop
1 black and white oxford child’s shoe
1 orange plastic key
1 pair blue shorts
1 Barbie doll with muddy dreadlocks
1 Barbie doll leg
1 baby doll leg
1 bottle “Slime Licker Toxic Waste” product
1 Skeletor
1 fat headed Batman
1 Batman car
1 Big Wheel tire
1 pink Barbie convertible
1 radio tube bulb
1 bird bone
1 animal skull
innumerable cans and bottles

2022 Confluence Cleanup
We find just about anything on the river! Photo by Steve Schnarr.
Confluence Cleanup Results

Photo album on Flickr

Photo album on Facebook

St. Louis Post (article)

KMOV4 St. Louis (Live Segment) 

Total Volunteers: 179

  • Volunteers signed in: 151
  • River Relief Crew: 28
  • Boats: 9 (5 MRR, 2 MDC, 2 Beasley Brothers Fishing Co.)
  • River Miles Cleaned: (MM 8 – MM 0 and 3 miles downstream on the Mississippi)
  • River Stage: 6-ft. @ St. Charles gauge
  • Landfill: 3.47 tons
  • Scrap Metal: 0.89 tons
  • Tires: 45 - 0.45 tons

Total Trash Tonnage: 4.81 tons

Groups Participating: Stream Team 211, League of Watershed Guardians – Stream Team 5168, Odell Brewing, Spire, Cardinal Health, Brentwood High School, Bank of America, Odell Brewery, Missouri River Bird Observatory

Fun Team Names: Mud Roughers, Environmental Action Club, Scraggly Few, Swear Bear Pirates, Merry Adventurers, Carp Killers, Dingo Dingo Lemur, Tiger Team, The Pickers, Hellbender Love, Muck Breakers, Trash Takers, Trash Ninjas

A Big Muddy Thank You To Our Event Sponsors:

"Captain" Event Sponsors

Veterans United FoundationMissouri American WaterAthletic Brewing Company

Rio Vista Foundation

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"Pilot" Event Sponsor

"Engineer" Event Sponsor

Missouri Department of Conservation

"Deckhand" Event Sponsor

ODell Brewing

In-Kind Sponsors

Urban ChestnutBudget DumpsterMississippi Mud CoffeeMissouri Stream Team

Event Partners

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MRR is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. Federal Tax ID (EIN) 03-0425187
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