The Clean Sweep: "Trash Bash at Crooked River"

"Trash Bash at Crooked River" - Shift 3 of the Big Muddy Clean Sweep

Lexington Riverfront and Camp 2 miles downstream - Tuesday, 8/31 - Thursday, 9/2/2021

By Alyssa Thomas


  • 8/30- Moving from Alligator Cove to sandbar near Lexington
  • 8/31- Shift 3 folk joining us, Nova Clarke bringing us food
  • 9/1- Cleanup from Lexington boat ramp- motivating appraisal from the fisherman and locals, MRBO Trash Audit practice run, Quick cleanup behind our sandbar camp= 12 bags of trash and 3 tires!!
  • 9/2- Morning cleanup to hit what we missed near the Lexington stretch, moved 20 miles downstream 

Shift Summary:

As much as the crew loved Alligator Cove, it was time to move downstream! We were lucky enough to find a sandbar on Monday (Aug. 30) downstream of the Lexington Riverfront Boat Ramp thanks to a tip from a local fisherman. The sandbar sat right at the mouth of the Crooked River (mm 313.6), which “Muddy” Matt found wasn’t so crooked after canoeing upstream that evening (the last section of the river was channelized in the past). That evening, the crew had dinner and hunkered down for the storm the next day. Tuesday (Aug. 31) was the official start of shift 3, with 3 new crew members joining us that morning! Kevin set out to pick them up just before a small storm hit. After it passed, bright new smiles arrived at the sandbar’s shore! We camped at this sandbar from August 30-September 2.

We showed the new crew members the camp, and had lunch together. We set out to do a scout with two boats, one going upstream of the ramp, and one going downstream. The goal of the scout was to find a few trash accumulations for our volunteer event the next day. The boat that went downstream did not have much luck finding spots, but they found plenty of large items, including a queen-sized mattress, a flat screen tv, 2 55-gallon plastic drums, a washing machine and a refrigerator! Once we got back to camp, we enjoyed a great meal provided by one of the shift crew members, Nova Clarke! Thanks, Nova!

The crew woke up early Wednesday (Sept. 1) and headed to the boat ramp for our community cleanup at the Lexington Riverfront. 11 volunteers came out and picked up 30 bags of trash, a kid’s park slide, a tire, and 2 55-gallon plastic drums! Throughout our hauling, local fishermen and community members visiting the riverfront would come up with curiosity and then compliment our mission. The appraisal was uplifting! Around 3:00 pm, our friends from Missouri River Bird Observatory (MRBO) came out to do a practice run for their trash audit. MRBO will be joining us at our Waverly Cleanup (Sept. 7) for an official trash audit. We are excited to see the results!

As much as the crew loves collecting trash and getting it out of the river, we were drained after the cleanup and talked about not going out on a trash run for the rest of the evening. Matt (one of our BMCS crew members) went up the bank to go on a short walk and ran into a pile of trash. He came down to grab a couple bags and another crew member, and when they went back up to pick it up, they found so much more trash! We went down to grab a whole roll of bags and more people. At the same time, Kevin had gone out with a couple crew members to complete a task at the boat ramp:

“When we got back to camp, there was no one in sight, we thought that the rest of the crew was pulling a prank on us, and then suddenly, a tire came rolling down the bank from above camp! Matt came down and let us know what they were doing, so we joined.”

The whole crew ended up coming together just right behind camp and collected 13 bags of trash and 3 tires in 30-minutes! Since the area is right at the bend where the channel runs and sits at the mouth of a smaller river, we suspect that the trash got there during high flood stages. We ended the night around the campfire listening to Melanie Knocke, the former director of the Rock Bridge Planetarium, share her expertise about the constellations.

Thursday morning (Sept. 2), we headed upstream right by Sni-A-Bar Creek to a trash spot that had a mysterious “green monster”. We discovered that it was a porta-potty! Several worked to cut it to pieces while others picked up the rest of the area. This added 5 bags to our total. We did our final trash haul, cleaned up our boats, and headed back to camp to strike it down. Once the crew got packed up on our boats, we set out 20 miles downstream to Waverly!


Crew member Melanie Knocke gives a stargazing tour of the night sky around the campfire. Photo by Kevin Tosie.

Stretch Results:

  • Miles: mm 322.6 – mm 310.6 (12 miles)
  • Volunteers:
    • Shift crew: 7
    • 9/1 volunteers: 11
  • Trash:
    • Bags: 53
    • Tires: 4
    • Refrigerators: 1
    • Other finds: Kiddy slide, queen-sized mattress, a flat screen tv, 2 55-gallon plastic drums, a washing machine,porta-potty

Crew Highlight - Steve Olson

Steve Olson is part of the Big Muddy Clean Sweep Core Crew, traveling with the cleanup for the full 200 miles. Steve is a retired biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey and has been a hardcore volunteer with Missouri River Relief ever since. He spends a lot of time assisting our fleet manager John Brady with maintaining the boats and vehicles. Banjo is Steve's sweet Aussie, who is also traveling along with the whole Clean Sweep. Banjo is a beloved member of the crew. Photos by Alyssa Thomas.

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