Know Before You Go

"Safety first, last, and always!" Most safe practices on the river are just good common sense. Come prepared to have fun! You may be in an unfamiliar setting, so read through our safety tips and FAQ's to help prepare you for your cleanup day.

Safety Before You Go

  • Wear a hat, long pants and sturdy footwear. No flip-flops or open-toed shoes will be allowed on boats. Gloves will be provided.
  • Sunscreen, sunglasses and snacks are recommended.
  • Eat a good breakfast. You will be working hard.
  • Bring a re-usable water bottle.  Water jugs will be provided, drink lots of water.
  • Don’t bring electronic games, cameras, ipods or anything you don't want to lose on the water.
  • A light backpack or “fanny” pack is good for carrying water, snacks, etc.
  • If you have a PFD or “Life Jacket” that fits you, bring it. We provide lifejackets for everyone going out in a boat, but if you want to wear one while working on the bank, bring your own.  We often need to "recycle" lifejackets at large cleanups for the boats.  Children however, should keep a life jacket on at all times.

Safety Inside the Boat

  • Always wear a PFD in the boat and wear it properly.
  • The boat operator is the boss of the boat. Follow their instructions in and around the boat.
  • Leave your PFD with the boat. We often need to "recycle" them at large cleanups and they tend to get left in the woods. If you feel you need one while workin on shore, bring your own to the cleanup or simply ask if you can keep the one we gave you on.
  • Keep your hands inside the boat at all times, especially when alongside another boat, dock or barge.
  • Stay seated and be aware that the operator has to be able to see over or around you.
  • The operator has their hands full with their job. Try not to distract them.  If you have questions, ask the designated crew person.
  • Watch out for "Flying Carp".  These fish can grow quite large and when frightened by a boat, can leap into the air as high as 10 feet and can land in boats.  If a fish does land in the boat, please stay seated and allow the boat crew to deal with the situation.  They're used to it!  Protect your head.  You can use your feet to hold the fish on the boat deck until it can be handled and thrown overboard.
  • Enjoy the ride!

Safety On The Riverbank

  • Stay aware of the members of your group. You must provide your own safety net out there.
  • Pick a spot near your drop off point for a rallying point. Bring the bagged trash there and center it next to heavy objects.
  • Don’t try to move extremely heavy or hazardous material. Roll tires, appliances and barrels to remove mud before trying to move to the riverbank. Team up on heavy things.  And report any hazardous materials to be dealt with by cleanup leaders (barrels or drums with liquids inside them).  Car batteries, jugs of oil or pesticides should be disposed of separately.
  • Watch for Poison Ivy, Stinging Nettles and other hurtful plants.
  • Leave all wildlife alone. They are in their place and you are their guest.
  • Stay hydrated!
  • If someone is injured, follow first-aid practices. Keep the injured person calm and have someone flag down a passing boat for help by waving both arms. Apply a compress to limit bleeding if necessary.  All boats have first aid kits. And the designated team leader of the group should have the boat driver's cell phone number in the event of an emergency.
  • Report all injuries to clean-up leaders as soon as possible. We will make sure they are attended to.
  • Never enter the water to retrieve trash or to cool off, except in an emergency. If it isn’t readily removable, leave it! The deepest water is often very close to the bank and dirt at the edge can be unstable. Never walk on a brush pile over the water.
  • The banks can be really slick!  So watch your footing and stay out of the water!  The mud can be very deep.  Test muddy areas before walking into them and stay with a partner.
  • Regroup periodically and take a headcount.
  • Be aware of the signs of heat exhaustion in yourself and others. If someone shows signs of heat exhaustion, put them in the water immediately and DO NOT LEAVE THEM ALONE. Get help as soon as possible.

Wondering about resources or accommodations?

We strive to be as accommodating as we can for all our volunteers within the variety of spaces we work out of. If there are any specific accommodations we can provide, or information you’d like to discuss in terms of accessibility, please be in contact with us; the more time we have to plan for accommodations the better! For those with mobility limitations we can offer land scouts if our boat rides cannot be made accessible to you. Our organization also received MU Thompson Center’s Autism Business Friendly training in hopes to better support Autistic people. We offer resources that may be helpful for some neurodivergent people before and during a cleanup.


What happens if there are storms?

All MRR cleanups will go ahead unless the stretch of the Missouri River we are working at is in technical flood stageTechnical flood stage is anything "minor" or above on the respective gauge. In the case of severe weather or lightning, we will delay our start time until the weather is safe.

Event coordinators will follow the weather forecasts the days leading up to the cleanup and send updates to pre-registered volunteers. 

What should I wear?

Prepare to get dirty, this is the Big Muddy after all. Sturdy shoes or boots that won’t get sucked off in the mud (no sandals or slip-ons), long sleeve shirts and long pants (jeans), a hat to shade your head and face, and bug repellent are recommended. We will have simple work gloves but if you have a favorite pair of gloves, bring them. All volunteers on the river are required to wear life jackets and close-toed shoes while in the boats or working along the river. Life jackets will be provided, but if you have your own life-jacket, bring that.

What else should I bring?

Bring your own snack and some water for the morning. Our support boats will have water but you will be using up a lot of body fluids, so be prepared.

How long will it take?

People working on the river will be out at a specific trash site for about 2-4 hours. Volunteer teams will be filling trash bags with small litter and dragging larger items of trash down to the river bank and collecting trash into piles. We will bring you back to cleanup headquarters for lunch and a handful of educational activities! Those that can stay for the afternoon can help haul the trash back in our boats - just ask a crew member in a blue t-shirt!

Can I bring a whole group of people?

Definitely! Scouts, school organizations, church groups, etc. are all welcome. Please sign up ahead of time or reach out to the stewardship coordinator so we can prepare how to best utilize your people-power! We try our hardest to keep groups together, but some of our boats can only hold 10 passengers, so your group may go to two different cleanup sites, which is a great opportunity to swap trashy stories after the cleanup! To be able to offer the opportunity to everyone, we ask that groups sign up no more than 15 people. 

Our cleanups are a unique opportunity to engage individuals and communities to the Missouri River - offering our participants a boat ride, cleanup tools, t-shirt, and lunch for free! If your business or organization is interested in bringing a large group and is able to and interested in supporting a cleanup in your community, please reach out to our Development Director for more information.

Can I bring my kids?

Yes, these are great events for kids. Kid-volunteers are needed to help clean up on land as well as the river. If you are bringing kids who you are not the legal guardian of, make sure to download and print our minor risk-release form for their parent or guardian to sign before the event. Make sure to bring this form with you on event day!

I am a parent or guardian who wants to bring my child's friend, is that okay?

Of course, and it is encouraged! Just make sure to download and print the minor risk release form and have the child's parent or guardian sign this before the cleanup. Make sure to bring the completed form to the river cleanup on Saturday! 

What if I can’t find the answer to my question here?

Contact us. We’ll answer your question and we might even add it to this page!

Ready for Action?

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
© 2024 Missouri River Relief | Website development and design by Pixel Jam Digital
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