The Clean Sweep: "2 Million Pounds of Trash!!"

"2 Million Pounds of Trash!!" - Shift 5 of the Big Muddy Clean Sweep

Miami Boat Ramp and Camp 4 miles downstream - Thursday, 9/16 - Sunday, 9/19/2021

By Alyssa Thomas


  • 9/16- Left boat yard and caravanned to Miami
  • Found a sandbar 4 miles downstream of the boat ramp and set camp up
  • 9/17 Scouted the river, problems with Anna Deka – Racin’ Dave, Sabrina Davenport brought us dinner!
  • 9/18- Crew cleanup! 16 volunteers and 43 bags of trash
  • 9/19- Moved camp downstream: 7 miles upstream from Brunswick (3 miles up the Grand River), said goodbye to shift 5 crew

Shift Summary:

We had taken a break to regroup from the last stretch and celebrate Missouri River Relief’s 20th Anniversary on Tuesday, September 14th. Even though I’ve only been a part of this organization for a short while, seeing our big river family come together and reminisce about what they’ve built was tear-jerking! It was a great night of fun with an amazing sunset. Although it was a nice time back home in Columbia, the Clean Sweep Crew needed to get back out working on our cleanup mission!

We left the boatyard on Thursday (Sept. 16) to Miami and had 3 additional crew join us for this shift. The original sandbar that we were going to camp on had become inhabitable, so we headed 4 miles downstream to a small island. It had a little chute that our boats could slide back behind and safely land. The only thing that we had to worry about was jumping Asian carp! We called this home from Sept. 16-19.

The crew woke up early Friday morning (Sept. 17) to head to the boat ramp and scout the river for trash. As we were scouting, one of our boats was giving Racin’ Dave a hard time, so unfortunately we had to pull the Anna Deka out to be fixed. We continued on, collecting 8 bags of trash and other things, eventually headed back to camp with Sabrina Davenport and her mother-in-law, Tammy who brought us dinner! Thank you two so much! We enjoyed a moon-lit boat ride to drop them off that night.

Back at it again! Alyssa jumping in the air for a photo at the edge of our sandbar. Photo by Sirius Sparks.

Down to one plate boat, we decided to bring our passenger boat, the Lucia, out for our cleanup the next day (Sat, Sept. 18). 16 volunteers arrived to help clean up Miami’s stretch of the river. The Lucia brought more than half the volunteers upstream to a few trash spots while the Saskia brought the rest downstream to a couple spots. We managed to pull out 43 bags of trash, many tubs, and other objects. We dropped off two hardcore individuals at a huge tire that had been teasing the crew for a couple days. The two worked for about three hours digging it out and with a few more hands, the crew safely got the huge tire out! Shout out to Steve Olson and Elke Boyd for working tirelessly and getting plenty muddy to get it out of the river’s bank.

A lot of our volunteers that day were our hardcore crew members, and the rest were volunteer members that we've had at our community cleanups at previous boat ramps! Some of the crew stayed to help with the trash haul, which is probably the most grueling part, so it is always appreciated when they stay! After cleaning up the boats and chatting, we said our goodbyes to our volunteers and headed back to camp to cool off in the water for the evening.

The next morning (Sun, Sept. 19), we packed our camp up and said goodbye to a couple of our shift crew. We sent a few to drive our vehicles to Brunswick, a river town three miles up the Grand River. The Lucia and Saskia headed downstream 13 miles, scouting along the way for high-density trash and possible camping spots. Once we picked up the rest of the crew at the Brunswick boat ramp, we went back four miles upstream to a sandbar just downstream of a dike that created a nice eddy for us to cruise into. We will call this home for the next few days!

Two Million Pounds of Trash!!!

Missouri River Relief has been working with volunteers to cleanup the Missouri River for 20 Years! Our first cleanup was on October 6, 2001 in Easley, MO. We crunched some of the results numbers from the Clean Sweep and added them to our running total from 20 years of cleanups and realized...during the Miami cleanup, we removed our 2 millionth pound of junk from the Missouri River!!!!

That giant tire that Elke and Steve dug out for hours is what put us over the edge! We believe, and many people will vouch for us on this, that the Missouri River is a much cleaner place than when we started this effort. And in the process of picking up 2 million pounds of junk from the river, a lot of hearts and minds have been impacted. We've heard so many stories of volunteers that go home after picking up river trash all day with a goal to change how much single-use plastic they will allow in their lives. And we've heard so many more stories of people that started a rich relationship with the Missouri River at their first cleanup. That's the biggest change that's been made.

Thank you to every person who's spent their weekends making the Missouri River a better place to be. You've made a huge impact!

A graphic of the Trash Tally from our first 2001 Missouri River Cleanup put together by Dory Colbert.

Stretch Results:

  • Miles: mm 269 – mm 258 (11 miles)
  • Volunteers:
    • Shift crew: 8
    • 9/18 volunteers: 16
  • Trash:
    • Bags: 43
    • Tires: 6
    • Other finds: Dump truck tire, many mineral tubs, filing cabinet, wet floor sign, 2 55-gallon plastic barrels, sled

Crew Highlight - Kevin Tosie

Kevin Tosie is MRR's Operations Manager and the lead of the whole Big Muddy Clean Sweep. None of this would be possible without him! He has pieced together the logistics of this project and has made it smooth-sailing--all while cleaning up alongside the Clean Sweep crew. Growing up near St. Louis and graduating with a Forestry degree from Mizzou, he is onto his 3rd year working for Missouri River Relief, with 3 additional years of volunteer time with the organization. He is an outstanding boat operator and is very fond of red sunsets. Photos by Alyssa Thomas

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