With the help of 25 volunteers and public lands officials, the Canyonlands Field Institute recently organized its largest cleanup of the Colorado River to date, trolling from Hittle Bottom to Takeout Beach, for litter caught up in this year’s high waters.
The haul on Saturday, Sept. 7, included several trash bags full of clothing, bags, netting, cans, Styrofoam and other materials, along with several larger pieces of trash, including piping, driftwood and a thoroughly rusted barrel.
The trash that ends up in the Moab Daily section of the Colorado River does not always come from local boaters. A shopping cart that one volunteer picked up apparently started its life at a Big Lots store, the nearest location of which is in Grand Junction, Colorado. How it made its way to Moab, and how much of that journey was via the Colorado River, is unclear.
Other items likely ended up in the water when rapids tipped out loose bags and other items from rafts or as high winds caught hats and bandanas.
In one instance, volunteers found rusted piping from a center-pivot irrigation system, which a local farm likely abandoned years ago, sitting along the riverbank downstream of Professor Creek. Groups pulled worn driftwood, including a wooden tabletop, from piles of sticks and washed-out plant debris throughout the day.
In sum, the team pulled out enough trash Saturday to partially fill a portable dumpster. Tony Mancuso, the Sovereign Lands coordinator for the Utah Department of Natural Resources, helped haul the trash from the boats to the landfill. He said that the team removed approximately 4 cubic yards of trash and refuse.
Some of the larger items that volunteers found during the day had to stay behind because of a lack of proper equipment or logistical difficulties. Volunteers were unable to dig out buried PVC pipe that was exposed by erosion, an item that CFI River Program Manager Alex de Moore said the team left behind the previous year, as well. The rusted irrigation piping, which was too heavy and brittle to safely handle, also continues to sit on the riverbank.
Nonetheless, locals on the trip left the river cleaner than they found it on Saturday. The Canyonlands Field Institute plans to hold another outing next year to retrieve yet more trash from the Daily, continuing the organization’s traditions of stewardship, outdoor education and responsibility.