Omaha/Council Bluffs Missouri River Cleanup 2021

Date: May 21, 22 & 23, 2021
Location: Omaha, NE & Council Bluffs, IA

For the first time in 4 years, we were able to get back to Omaha/Council Bluffs for a cleanup event on the Missouri River. We saw some rain, sun, and lots of wind, yet we lucked out with overall warm weather throughout our 3-day river cleanup. We had 116 local volunteers and 29 crew from all over to help us clean-up 12 miles of river from the Narrows Boat Ramp to the boat ramp at Lake Manawa State Park. Over the course of 3 days, we removed 8.2 tons of trash and a staggering 257 pieces of Styrofoam. The Styrofoam was a big highlight of the trash hauled off from the river. Most of our volunteer crew spent nearly 6 days with us setting up camp, scouting for high density trash on the river, cleaning the river, and taking down camp.

On Friday we had around 20 volunteers join us for the cleanup out of Tom Hanafan River’s Edge Park. Among the trash was a huge tractor tire that the volunteer group from Northern Natural Gas had rolled in. A handful of crew members also stayed back to clean up the litter under the Bob Kerry Pedestrian Bridge, the 3,000-foot bridge that crosses the Missouri River between Council Bluffs, Iowa, and Omaha, Nebraska. The day turned out great with 80-degree temperatures, sunny skies and steady winds. The wind helped keep us cool, and made for great kite flying weather. Jeff “Boot” Barrow pulled out his two kites after the cleanup and the crew enjoyed watching the kite soar through the cloudless sky. Many of the crew members also took advantage of the short walk to the Pedestrian Bridge to take in the beautiful river view and colorful lights.

The Northern Natural Gas group waves as they are coming back in with their trash haul.

Saturday brought similar temperatures with some added rain. In spite of the rainy weather, the volunteers and crew members collected and hauled loads of trash off the river. In a deserted small marina named Sandpiper Cove, the volunteers hauled out a staggering 257 chunks of Styrofoam. This wall of Styrofoam filled a 40-yard trash bin that we had to empty and was filled again about halfway. We were more than happy to pull all that out of the abandoned area before it was washed out into the river and downstream.

Omaha/Council Bluffs Cleanup 2021
Great Wall of Styrofoam! Some of our crew line up in front of the Styrofoam we collected.

Sunday was our third and final cleanup day. Partnering with our friends at Fontenelle Forest, we cleaned 5 miles up to the Veteran’s Memorial Bridge from the Lake Manawa State Park Boat Ramp. The volunteers and crew members worked hard under the beaming sun’s rays. We filled a 30-yard dumpster just that day! Among the trash haul was an abandoned boat full of dumped appliances and 8 barrels. We also found a 20-foot culvert pipe that was still in great shape, so we brought it back to Missouri to find someone to put it into good use. John Redick of G&R Home Services, one of our hardcore crew members, offered to power wash all our boats. After he finished off the last boat, he says, “Well, I think I’m finding out why they call it the Big Muddy!” A big thank you to John for cleaning off our muddy boats!

Omaha/Council Bluffs Cleanup 2021
Volunteers sit back and relax while headed back to the trash haul site.

A handful of crew members stayed back and helped break down camp on Monday and load the remaining Styrofoam into the dumpster that was brought that morning. We were able to start our caravan back to Missouri around 2pm that day, getting back to town around 8pm. It was truly a team effort that made this cleanup happen and we are so grateful for everyone who was along for the ride.

Trash Tally

213 bags of trash!!! Plus...

  • 257 Styrofoam dock support pieces (approx. 1,568 cubic feet)
  • 5 tires on rim
  • 7 tires w/out rim
  • 1 tractor tire
  • 8 55-gallon barrels
  • 37 containers (from 5-gallon jugs and dog crates to 500-gallon water tank)
  • Countless assorted mini whiskey bottles
  • 11 chairs
  • 10 filthy blankets
  • 5 signs
  • 9 cushions
  • 12 outdoor chairs
  • 6 pieces indoor furniture
  • 7 appliances
  • 4 shopping carts
  • 1 50’ hose
  • 1 50’ cable wire
  • 15 tarps
  • 1 exhaust pipe
  • 1 furnace grate
  • 2 rakes
  • 2 shovels
  • 1 seed spreader
  • 1 seed bag
  • 1 work-out bench
  • 2 large pieces fiberglass
  • 1 Big Wheels car
  • 1 pink Minnie Mouse travel case
  • 1 Wyndham Hotel card
  • 1 Lexus key fob
  • 1 baby pool
  • 1 John Deere sign
  • 1 microwave
  • 6 metal poles
  • 1 patio umbrella w/out cover
  • 1 40’ conduit pipe
  • 1 trash roll cart (red, 65-gallon)
  • 1 “No Restaurant Parking” sign
  • 1 pool equipment storage box cover
  • 1 60’ length rubber sealing
  • 1 25’ length nonelectrical conduit
  • 1 36’ long lattice PVC fencing
  • 1 cow bell
  • 1 75’ plastic tubing
  • 1 metal tower stand
  • 1 professional fishing rod
  • 1 refrigeration unit
  • 1 fluorescent light bulb
  • 1 oscillating fan
  • 1 washing machine agitator
  • 1 microwave oven
  • 1 propane oven
  • 1 air conditioning unit
  • 1 breaker box
  • 1 push button desk telephone
  • 1 cot with lavender carrying case
  • 1 love seat
  • 3 aluminum window frames

Omaha/Council Bluffs Cleanup Results

Check out the amazing photos on Facebook and Flickr!

Check out our news coverage of the event:

WOWT Channel 6 - "Volunteers prep for Missouri River cleanup in May"

Daily Nonpareil - " 'We all live downstream,' organization shares importance of keeping river clean" by Emmalee Scheibe and Joe Shearer

"The Fill" by Budget Dumpster - "Strength in Small Numbers: Missouri River Relief Cleans Up Omaha and Council Bluffs"

Total Volunteers: 116

  • Volunteers signed in: 87
  • River Relief Crew: 29
  • Boats: 4 MRR boats
  • River Miles Cleaned: 12 (MM 607.5 - 619.5)
  • River Stage: 15-ft. @ Omaha gauge
  • Landfill: 6 tons
  • Scrap Metal: 0.5 tons
  • Tires: 13 - 0.2 tons

Total Trash Tonnage: 6.7 TONS

Groups Participating: Union Pacific, Missouri Stream Teams 1995, 211 and 3, Odell Brewing Company, Northern Natural Gas, Fontenelle Forest, Volz Family, Civil Air Patrol

Event Sponsors

Cleanup programs like these would not be possible without our generous donors and sponsors. 

Title Sponsor

"Paddlefish" Event Sponsor

"Pallid Sturgeon" Event Sponsor

Budget Dumpster

Event Partners

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