Know Before You Go

Most safe practices on the river are just good common sense. Come prepared to have fun, because you will, but always keep a sharp lookout for hazards. You may be in an unfamiliar setting, so here are a few tips to make your day go by safely.

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 his/her 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 his hands full with his/her job. Try not to distract him/her.  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.
  • Drink more water. Then drink more water. That’s enough!
  • 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.

What happens if there are storms?

All River Relief 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.  Check the event page for the latest updates on the event. 

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. Those that can stay for the afternoon can help haul the trash back in our boats, help sort recycling or help break down the event site. 

Can I bring a whole group of people?

Definitely! Scouts, office parties, church groups, etc. all are welcome. But please sign up ahead of time so organizers know 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 offer the same opportunity to everyone, we like to keep our groups to around 20-25 people. Feel free to wear your company logo or organization’s T-shirts.

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 clean-up on Saturday! If you need, we can mail you a form for you to get signed prior to the cleanup. Just contact and we would be more than happy to help you out! 

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!

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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
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