October 13, 2011

Downstream to Washington!

Big Muddy Clean Sweep
Rennick Riverfront Park, Washington, MO
Rivermile 68
October 10-12, 2011
Washington sunrise. photo by Melanie Cheney

One of our favorite river towns is also a place that uses the river the most. The busy Washington boat ramp has a brutal current, and is difficult for motorboaters and paddlers alike to launch and land. Yet it sees more traffic than any other Missouri River access in the state.

But the reason we love it here is the people. We have been so lucky to become friends of wonderful batch of folks here that have made it part of their mission in life to welcome River Relief to town, and to pave the way for our easy travel there.

Gloria Bauermeister decided to become our Washington ambassador for the Clean Sweep. She worked up a diverse series of events in town, bringing a huge slice of Washington down to the river to become part of this journey. It all started off with a wonderful welcoming party at MannWell’s coffeehouse…always my first stop when I come by Washington by boat. Cheryl, the owner, baked up a blackberry cobbler with berries she saved in the freezer from the summer, and a whole bunch of people filled a table with wonderful appetizers.

The Washington mayor, Sandy Lucy, read off a proclamation declaring this to be “Missouri River Week” in the town and welcomed our trash barge crew. It was a humbling experience for sure. On display at MannWell’s is an intricate quilt, formed of squares patched together by a long list of fiber artists from across the state called the Rambling River Quilters. Each created a window into a vibrant river world, all designed to stitch together perfectly into a wild flowing river that spilled across the coffeehouse wall.
Then we headed back to the barge mooring, and lit up a sweet little campfire in the sandpiles of an old sand plant. Mike Smith brought a truckload of firewood and Gloria and her husband Michael whipped out some sweet tunes on guitar, mandolin and banjo. So perfect as the full moon popped in and out of the gathering clouds.

Wednesday started our series of education events with local students. Most were able to walk down from Immanuel Lutheran and Fifth St. Elementary. We had one booth about the changes of the river in the past couple hundred years and one about our work as river trash cleaners. Colby Wrasse and Brian from the Columbia Fish & Wildlife Conservation Office set up shop in the parking lot with a tank of live wild fish caught the day before describing the conservation challenges that faced each species.
Tim Nigh and Jodi Pfefferkorn explain the ins & outs of trash getting. photo by Melanie Cheney
Colby Wrasse (USFWS) shows students a shovelnose sturgeon. photo by Melanie Cheney
Lunch was followed by a presentation by the World Bird Sanctuary, featuring a smattering of native birds of prey…kestrel, red-tailed hawk, barn own and turkey vulture. The kids sat on straw bales as the trained birds flew above their heads, tapping their shoulders as they zoomed by. They loved it.

As our afternoon shift of presentations ended, our attention shifted to the Missouri River 340. Several of our crew were out there, with near sleepless nights camping on the banks and tending to the courageous racers. (To follow the race, check out the race forum: http://rivermiles.com/forum/YaBB.pl?num=1318251963/all-0 )

We filled a couple checkpoint holes (and witnessed a gorgeous golden rainbow sunset) before getting back to the barge. Jodi’s mom and sis, and Colby Wrasse stopped by for dinner on the barge (whoa! Baked salmon with herbed white sauce…thanks Tim Nigh!)

Rain started to fall as we headed indoors, warm and dry, thinking of our buddies and all the paddlers out there on the river and hoping they are all keeping safe and loving their river time.

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