Celebrating National River Cleanup’s 2016 River Heroes

River cleanups are a fun way to make a difference in your community. Help us congratulate these National River Cleanup® 25th Anniversary River Heroes who helped make the year so special and successful for rivers!

NRC Heros 2016

On Saturday, April 30, 2016, a group of 3,000 volunteers came together at the 17th Annual Earth Day Charles River Cleanup just outside Boston, Massachusetts to remove 6,000 pounds of trash. One day before that, Keith, a father in Mahopac, New York went on his own to a tiny tributary of the Hudson River and pulled out five pounds of trash. These events, while vastly different in size and nature, were both an integral part of National River Cleanup®.

From Ferndale, Washington to Fort Myers, Florida, individuals and communities helped American Rivers celebrate the 25th anniversary of National River Cleanup® this year. Over 53,000 volunteers removed more than 3.4 million pounds of trash from nearly 2,000 cleanup sites, and individuals across the country helped keep over 31,000 pieces of garbage and debris out of our waterways.

While impressive, these stats don’t fully recognize the effort put in by individuals and groups on the ground. Without cleanup organizers and their dedicated volunteers, we’d be left with millions of pounds of trash still in our rivers.

To honor our river stewards, and to celebrate the 25th anniversary of National River Cleanup®, we are formally recognizing these River Heroes’ accomplishments in a few fields:

  • Most River Miles Cleaned
  • Most Pounds of Trash Collected
  • Most Volunteers Mobilized
  • Tiniest but Mightiest
Volunteers with the 17th Annual Earth Day Charles River Cleanup showing off their finds. | Katie Friedman
Volunteers with the 17th Annual Earth Day Charles River Cleanup showing off their finds. | Katie Friedman

To be sure that we acknowledge cleanups of all sizes, we are recognizing the leader in each category above for big (cleanups with 10+ sites) and mid-sized (fewer than 10 sites) cleanups. The Tiniest but Mightiest award is for individuals or groups of fewer than 10 people who have picked up over 100 pounds of trash per person. So without further ado, the National River Cleanup® 25th Anniversary River Heroes are:

Most River Miles Cleaned

Large cleanup: Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area’s Arkansas River Cleanup/Greenup — 100 miles

Mid-sizes cleanup: Northern Illinois Anglers Association’s Kankakee Iroquois River Cleanup — 110 miles

Teamwork was key to pulling 1 million pounds of trash out of the river at the Ohio River Sweep. | Lisa Cochran
Teamwork was key to pulling 1 million pounds of trash out of the river at the Ohio River Sweep. | Lisa Cochran

Most Pounds of Trash Collected

Large cleanup: ORSANCO’s Ohio River Sweep — 1 million pounds

Mid-sized cleanup: LoCo ‘Yaks’ 4th Annual Black River Clean-up — 36,756 pounds

Most Volunteers Mobilized

Large cleanup: Charles River Watershed Association’s 17th Annual Earth Day Charles River Cleanup — 3,000 volunteers

Mid-sized cleanup: The City of Wichita’s 15th Annual Arkansas River Trash Roundup — 1,310 volunteers

Keith Cox and his small volunteer group didn’t have to look far to find trash in their neighborhood. | Keith Cox
Keith Cox and his small volunteer group didn’t have to look far to find trash in their neighborhood. | Keith Cox

Tiniest but Mightiest

Keith Cox, along with a small group of no more than 7 volunteers, hauled 875 pounds of trash out of tributaries to the Hudson River during 2016

Lindsey Wight, with a group of 9 volunteers, hauled 1,400 pounds of trash from the Missisquoi River during one cleanup event

Honorable Mention

You can also check out our list of National River Cleanup® 25th Anniversary Heroes here. In addition to congratulating these organizers, we’d like to give honorable mentions to several others whose cleanup efforts went above and beyond.

Most River Miles Cleaned

  • ORSANCO’s Ohio River Sweep – 3,000 miles
  • Waccamaw Riverkeeper’s Cleanup Our Local Waterways – 80 miles
  • The Upper Chattahoochee Chapter of Trout Unlimited with the Riverkeeper’s Sweep the Hooch – 70 miles
  • Kittatinny Canoes’ 27th Annual River Cleanup – 70 miles

Most Pounds of Trash Collected

The Missisquoi River Basin Association’s tiny cleanup group more than pulled their own weight in tires. | Lindsey Wight
The Missisquoi River Basin Association’s tiny cleanup group more than pulled their own weight in tires. | Lindsey Wight
  • Allegheny Aquatic Alliance’s Connoquenessing Creek Cleanup – 72,565 pounds
  • Northern Illinois Anglers Associations’ Kankakee Iroquois River Cleanup – 50,000 pounds
  • James River Advisory Council’s James River Regional Cleanup – 38,520 pounds
  • The Upper Chattahoochee Chapter of Trout Unlimited with the Riverkeeper’s Sweep the Hooch – 30,800 pounds

Most Volunteers Mobilized

  • Fountain Creek Watershed District’s Creek Week – 2,500 volunteers
  • Santa Fe Watershed Association’s River Cleanups – 1,359 volunteers
  • Raritan Headwaters Association’s Annual Stream Cleanup – 1,347 volunteers
  • County of Volusia’s 20th Annual St. John’s River Clean-up – 678 volunteers

Tiniest but Mightiest

Volunteers show off their big find at the 4th Annual Black River Clean-up. | Stephanee Moore Koscho
Volunteers show off their big find at the 4th Annual Black River Clean-up. | Stephanee Moore Koscho

Brad DeArk and the Prairie State Canoeists’ 4 volunteers pulled 500 pounds of trash out of the river during the Fox River Sweep.

It goes without saying that National River Cleanup® wouldn’t exist without the organizers listed above and hundreds of others who register with us each year. Because of these organizers and their deeply-valued volunteers, we are able to work toward a future of trash-free rivers, creeks, and streams.

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