November 11, 2010

Karl's Big River Adventure

St. Joseph Missouri River Clean-up
French Bottom River Access & Boat Dock, St. Joseph, MO - Rivermile 450
October 16, 2010

text by Steve Schnarr, photos by Vicki Richmond and Kris Lancaster (EPA)
For more clean-up info and results, click here

At our St. Joseph clean-up, we had a special visitor. Karl Brooks, the Regional Administrator for Region 7 of the US Environmental Protection Agency came for lunch and to help us out with the trash haul (by the way, if you click that EPA link above and scroll down, you can see their news release on the clean-up).

The trash haul is one of the most rewarding parts of the day. You get a good boat ride through the whole reach of the clean-up and get to see all the piles of trash volunteers collected throughout the morning. Then you pick those piles up and load 'em into a boat. When Karl told our director, Jeff Barrow, that he wanted to help at a clean-up, Jeff suggested he come for the trash haul.

Karl was a hard worker (yeah, it looks like he's lounging in this photo...but a big pile of trash bags is a great place to recline in between hitting trash sites!). And a really pleasant part of the crew. This gave our board president Dave Stous a chance to explain what Missouri River Relief does for the river and the citizens that live along it. Good stuff!

Karl immediately "got it". Although he'd lived for many years in Lawrence, KS, on the banks of the Kaw River, he'd never been on the Mighty Missouri before. "I can't tell you how many times I've driven over this river on bridges," he said, echoing the response we hear from so many volunteers. "But getting out on it in one of these boats is completely different. You can feel the power of this amazing river, and feel that it's actually alive."

That's such a big part of what we do - exposing people to the world class resource we have right under our noses in a way that is so personal, so hand-on that it changes people.

It was an honor to show the Big Muddy to Karl Brooks and the EPA crew.

Speaking of the EPA crew, EPA biologist Deanna Collier led a group of EPA boat operators that morning, hauling volunteers out on the river. They did a wonderful job, and we'd be sunk without the help of river experienced pilots like EPA, MDC, USFWS and more.

By the way, Karl wanted us to pass on his appreciation to all of you who have given up your Saturday mornings and more to clean-up our Big Muddy Missouri River.

So Thanks!

November 8, 2010

St. Joe Trash Tally!

St. Joseph Missouri River Clean-up
French Bottoms River Access & Boat Dock, St. Joseph, MO - Rivermile 150
October 16, 2010
(for more info & links about this clean-up, click here)
  • Total Volunteers: 278
  • MRR Crew: 21
  • Boats: 13 boats (3 Missouri River Relief, 5 Missouri Department of Conservation, 2 EPA, 3 local boaters)
  • River miles: 12 rivermiles
  • River Level: 14.7 feet (St. Joseph gage)
  • Landfill Tons: 3 tons
  • Scrap Metal: 1.3 tons
  • Tires: 117 tires (2.1 tons)
  • Total Tonnage: 6.4 tons
Trash Tally!
289 bags of trash
117 tires
Countless plastic bottles and little pieces of Styrofoam
1 large innertube
6 plastic milk crates
11 large chunks of Styrofoam
7 chunks of plastic
1 cooler
8 5-gallon plastic buckets
2 cans of paint
2 5-gallon metal buckets
2 55-gallon metal drums
4 55-gallon plastic barrels
1 control panel from a dredge
1 ringer washer
Complete game of washers
3 fire extingishers
1 message in a bottle
1 duck decoy
1 planter made from a tire
1 plastic leg from a doll
1 lawn troll
Small refrigerator
1 brand new pair of boots
1 pair of boots a little worse for the wear…
1 silk scarf
1 stained glass cube
1 framed dolphin print
1 hand saw
1 electric shaver
1 very large propane tank
1 small propane tank
1 helium tank
1 toaster
Several computers and computer parts
1 microwave
1 screen door frame
1 set of venetian blinds
1 queen-size box-spring mattress

11 chairs
1 semi-truck mudflap
1 large Tupperware container
1 small TV
1 big-screen TV
11-foot hydraulic coupling hose
1 car bumper
1 car seat bench
1 car seat
1 truck bed liner
1 hide-a-bed frame
1 railroad angle bar
1 CCA wood beam
1 push broom
1 piece of chainlink fence
5 bags of moldy clothing
1 toy playhouse
1 toy parking garage
1 desk and the entire contents of a person’s office, including file cabinet, electronic goods, computer manuals, briefcase, a Bible and much, much more dumped along the Riverfront trail and covered with a tarp
5 blankets

1 record
25 pieces of assorted scrap metal
1 green buoy
1 rebar grate
1 metal ironing board
1 metal grill
1 metal tray
1 very large big metal sign
1 computer monitor
1 garden hose
5 torn, moldy tarps, one with the remains of an unidentifiable animal
Parts of 5 tents
20 tent poles
1 foam cushion
1 rake
1 kitchen sink
1 pool lining
1 plastic wash sink

Back in ol' St. Joe

St. Joseph Missouri River Clean-up
French Bottom River Access and Boat Dock, St. Joseph, MO - Rivermile 150
October 16, 2010
text by Steve Schnarr, photos by John Wood, Hana Kellenberger, Vicki Richmond, Steve Schnarr, Alicia Pigg
(for more cool links and facts about this clean-up, click here)

I spent a lot of time in St. Joseph getting ready for this clean-up. It was originally scheduled for June 26, but St. Joe was experiencing its third highest flood since the dams were put in, and we had to postpone the event. With our busy summer and fall, October 16 turned out to be our free weekend.

So I got to return to St. Joe several times in the planning stages. When you postpone an event like this, you always kind of worry that the energy may fizzle out and you end up with a shadow of what could have been.

Luckily, in St. Joe, the opposite happened. More people got interested and the energy built. The line of folks at sign-up was impressive.

Many groups of scouts came to help, and it was like they were on a mission. Troop 45 turned the event into a campout on the river, setting up their headquarters in the woods behind the Remington Nature Center. Several local companies gathered together crews of employees to pitch in, including Missouri American Water and Boehringer-Ingelheim. Alpha Phi Omega chapters from 3 universities (including from Springfield!) showed up to help. Missouri Western State students from several clubs put it on their calendars.

River Rat on Duty
Our local “point of the spear” for getting the word out was Ken Reeder, a local river rat who’s made it his mission to reconnect St. Joseph to the river that created the city. Ken serves on the Missouri River Recovery Implementation Committee, a federally mandated group of stakeholders in the river that represent each state and tribe along the longest river in North America. He’s one of the few citizen members of the committee, traveling to meetings on his own dime and representing the interests of citizen recreation on the Lower Missouri River. Here's Ken in the yellow greeting returning clean-up volunteers.

Ken played a major role in acquiring funds for St. Joseph to install one of the few public boat docks on the Lower Big Muddy. He adopted this clean-up as his own, and even “adopted” the French Bottom Boat Ramp through the Missouri Stream Team “Adopt-an-access” program. He was invaluable in spreading the word about the event, and helping me meet the people I needed to make it happen smoothly.

Good Food is SOOOOO Important
One of the folks Ken introduced to me was Craig Traverse from Terrible’s St. Jo Frontier Casino. The casino is located right next the boat ramp. The restaurant has a great view of the river. Craig immediately offered to cater lunch. It’s been a while since we had lunch catered to a clean-up, but never with tables and chairs set up in a nice white-picket fenced yard next to the river with steamer trays full of a variety of lunch options. It was a great scene to see all the hard working volunteers eating good food together, wearing the variety of t-shirts we had available to give out.

Biologists Sampling River Trash
One of our biggest partners of the event was Missouri Dept. of Conservation. They brought 5 boats from two offices to haul volunteers, and helped spread the word in St. Joe and help me scout sites to tackle by land. A lot of these folks spend many days on the river, trying to gauge the health of the fish and wildlife that live in this massive, muddy ecosystem. The fact they are willing to hop on the river again, on their weekends, to help this effort makes us really proud.

On the right is MDC fisheries biologist Darby Niswonger introducing a new group of volunteers to the Missouri River.

Harold Kerns was the St. Joseph MDC fisheries supervisor when I first started working on this project and had been a huge help at our previous St. Joe event. He is also an area leader in the Boy Scouts, and really helped spread to word to troops what a valuable and fun experience this is for the boys. By the time the clean-up happened, though, he had retired and his local staff picked up the slack. Congrats on a great career, Harold, and may you have many more river days to enjoy!

Troop 45
The Boy Scout and Cub Scout troop that turned the weekend into a camp-out, Troop 45, decided to stick to land at the clean-up, and they scoured the part of Waterworks Rd. that skirts through Sun Bridge Conservation Area. They hopped in a couple of our vans driven by Racin’ Dave and John Brady and headed to this steep, narrow gravel road where folks have been dumping tires and trash for years.

Those scouts and their parents pulled 76 tires and a pickup truck and trailer full of junk out of that area. It was an astounding pile from some really hard working and fun volunteers. It was a pretty dangerous spot to be working, but everyone worked together and took their time and the work got done.

As a special treat, we all got to meet our Region 7 EPA Administrator Karl Brooks in the afternoon. He came out for the trash haul, to see all the work volunteers had done and help get it to shore. He immediately fit in - and saw the value of citizen cooperation in taking care of our environment. Here is helping unload a boat full of junk from the river:

French Bottoms Access, and the Remington Nature Center parking lot, was built on an old landfill and EPA Superfund site. There are several areas like this in different communities along the river. Where cities and companies once saw the river as a convenient dumping ground, communities are seeing these cleaned up dumpsites as opportunities to reconnect with the river.

Trash Contest
For some folks, the trash contest during lunch is the highlight. They’ve found these cool trash treasures on the river and it gives them a chance to show them off. The display of found goodies was awesome. A complete washers game set beat out a Spiderman fishing rod (still in the packaging) for “Best Darn Find of the Day.” Guess which of these won "Wierdest Trash"...

(it was the leg)
A Haven
After a day showing the river to hundreds of people, getting boats in and out of the water, hauling trash and rolling tires and barrels, putting pop-up tents up, then moving them, then taking them down, our volunteer River Relief crew is pretty exhausted. Having a really nice place to relax, crack open a cold barley-pop and eat a good meal around a campfire is key. Phil and Maryanne Weaver opened up their perfect riverside clubhouse up to us, and even let us dip into their firewood stash. Hy-Vee donated a supurb fresh catfish dinner and we traded stories over a campfire on a beautiful, clear night capped off with a moonlight boat ride around the bend. This is what keeps us coming back!

October 12, 2010

Kansas City Missouri River Clean-up Results!

La Benite Park, Sugar Creek, MO
October 2nd, 2010

photos by Alicia Pigg

Total Volunteers: 380
MRR Crew: 50
Boats: 16 (4 Missouri River Relief, 3 Living Lands & Waters, 3 MDC, 2 EPA, 2 Rivermiles, 1 Burns & Mac, 1 Private)
River Miles: 11 (mm 348-359)
River Level: 19 feet
Landfill: 4.1 tons
Scrap Metal: 1.5 tons
Tires: 39 (.68 tons)

Total Tonnage: 6.28 Tons!

Stream Teams: 1875, 4083, 41, 3112,

Volunteer Groups Involved: Unilever, Coca-Cola, Cargill, UMKC Environmental Awareness Club & Environmental Science Classes, Shawnee Mission NW Highschool, Nativity Scouts 178 (Nativity of Mary School), Singles Available for Community Service (SACS), Audubon Society, MO Master Naturalists, Friends of the River - KC, Ozark Wilderness Waterways Club, Crossroads Church, BMCD, G.A.P. of Breakpoint Community Church, Kansas City Power & Light, Kansas City Water Services, Park University, Rockhurst, Platte River Paddlers, MO Stream Team, NLO Highschool, Rivermiles Llc

Names of River Teams: Fish Stix, Big Bad Red, Cougar 1 – 7, the Lipton Tea Bags, the Turd Burglars, Pocahontas, the 4th Floor, the Giant Fish, the Silver Carp, the Kangaroos, the Trashbusters, Fish out of Water, Cricket Teeth, River Rats, Pterodactyl, the River Turtles, Park University, River Gizzards, Rockhurst River Rats, Mark Twain, the Night Hawks, Thermal Inversion, the Cobras

Trash Tally!!!!
247 large Bags of Trash
39 Tires
12 chunks o’ Styrofoam
1 Foam Treetrunk
8 Coolers
7 Plastic Buckets
4 – 55-gallon Metal Drums
11 – 55-gallon Plastic Barrels
4 – 20-gallon barrels
4 Refrigerators
10 chunks o’ Plastic
1 – 8-foot PVC Pipe
1 Keg
1 Pig Pen?
10’ x 20’ honeycomb Landscaping Bank Stabilizer
4 Plastic Poles
1 Picnic Table
2 Buoys
5 Gas Cans
1 Paint Can
1 Plastic kid’s Slide
3 Propane Tanks
½ of a Couch
2 Chairs
1 Sheet Metal panel 4’x 8’
1 Steel Cable
1 T-Post
2 Showerwalls
1 - 8’ Florescent Bulb
1 Plastic Grenade
A whole Bunch of Balls
1 Syringe
1 Stereo Speaker
1 small Plastic Buffalo
1 plastic Hard Hat
1 unpermitted Landfill full of household trash

September 28, 2010

a weekend in the little hills

St. Charles Missouri River Clean-up
Bishop's Landing at the Lewis & Clark BoatHouse
Sept. 10-12, 2010
text by Steve Schnarr, photos by Alicia Pigg, Tom Ball, Vicki Richmond, Penningtons, others?
for more on this event, see our event page:

As we were preparing for dinner on the banks of the Missouri River in St. Charles, a lone kayaker pulled his boat up the abandoned boat ramp by Lewis and Clark BoatHouse and started unloading gear.

It turns out, this was Tom (never caught his last name) who had started paddling at Three Forks, Montana, where the Jefferson, Madison and Gallatin Rivers join to form the Missouri. He had started in May.

We invited him to dinner and to camp with us, under the shadow of the BoatHouse. The idea of a cold beer seemed like a really good one to Tom. He politely took a barrage of questions from our crew, laughed and shared stories.

And he had a funny observation. “As I was paddling downstream, all of a sudden I saw these blue bags laying on shore. At first I was kind of pissed and thought about pulling over and picking them up,” he said. “After seeing several, I started to realize this was probably part of the clean-up”.

Tom had heard about the clean-up from “Big Muddy” Mike Clark, our friend and fellow river cleaner who has introduced many hundreds of people to the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers through his Big Muddy Adventures guide service. Tom had called Mike for advice, and he suggested that if he was coming through St. Charles on Sept. 10 or 11, he ought to find the River Relief crew if he wanted to sit around a campfire with some fellow river rats and swap stories.

Those blue bags are our “trash flags”. The day before a clean-up, an early crew heads to our campspot, sets up our “Flying Nun” kitchen tent, and sends out a couple of boats with trash bags, maps and a dispatcher. The crew’s job is to find the places where we can safely drop off volunteer crews the next day. To make it easy for the clean-up boat drivers to see those spots, we flag them with a big, blue Stream Team trash bag with a rock in it tossed on shore.

The dispatcher marks all these spots on a map with descriptions of how many people the spot can take, any special notes on finding the trash and what tools the crews will probably need. She divies the river reaches up into sections that can take several boatloads of volunteers and makes an individual map for each boat driver on the clean-up. This is a simple way to communicate to the boat drivers where to take volunteers. Ideally we cover 10 miles of river at a big clean-up – five miles up, five miles down.

Even though he was exhausted from his months of river travel, Tom fit right in with the crew the next day. The only way things work at an event like this is if the volunteer crew is proactive in seeing what needs to be done and getting it done. Tom was right there, hopping in wherever the action was. An instant crewmember.

This brings me to our crew. Missouri River Relief has a staff of three full-timers and two part-timers. Everyone else is a volunteer. Essentially what staff does is to organize a framework where our volunteer crew can step out of their busy lives and have a fun and productive weekend by making these events happen.

Without this base of unreasonably dedicated volunteers, nothing would get done. They give many, many weekends – and often Thursdays and Fridays – plus countless evenings and free time, to keep the machine rolling. They operate our boats, keep them maintained and working, and train new operators on safe and efficient river piloting. They plan camp menus and prepare amazing food for the crew. They offer ideas on improving our systems and then implement them. The degree of passion and care they give to even the smallest details is kind of stunning. Our biggest fear is burnout, so we try to keep things interesting and fun, and to always bring new people into the crew so the burden doesn’t fall on too few old-timers. It’s a tough balance, but so far it’s worked.

I have no idea how this thing keeps working – it seems like magic. What makes it tough to define is that the magic is held within many different, very special people. But it seems that the glue holding it together is a love for the river, a willingness to work hard and selflessly, and a love for each other.

People certainly ask me, “How do I get one of those crew shirts?” The only way I know to answer is to describe what River Relief crew does – travel all over the watershed doing the behind the scenes work that makes an event run smooth. Then I say, “It’s pretty much a personal decision. You decide that at this time in your life, you want to be part of the River Relief crew. And you email me and get on the crew list and when you can help, you come help.”

In St. Charles, and also the bigger Confluence area, we’ve been doing clean-ups since 2002. There’s a tribe of folks that always shows up for clean-ups in the area, and they form the base of our St. Lou crew. I don’t really know if these folks met through our events, around our campfires, or if they knew each other before because of their river-obsessed ways.

There’s Jim Denner, the anatomy teacher from Lindbergh High School. Every time we’re anywhere close, he brings 35 to 50 students – most of which have never been on the Missouri River before. This year there were two events close to St. Louis – in Washington in April and St. Charles this Sept. He brought kids to both. In Washington, the kids were in a hurry to get out of there after a morning of hard work, because that was their Prom Day…!

Tom Ball – a lifelong river educator and stream defender. He shows up when he can and leaves when he has to. From safety talk to tire wrangling to renditions of Neil Young around the campfire, it would be a sad clean-up if Tom didn’t show up. This time, he took the Fort Zumwalt Trashinators out on the river and showed 'em how it's done. That's him in the front there with the orange Americorps lifejacket.

Mighty 211 – this crew is Stream Team #211 from the Meremec River at Arnold. In St. Charles this year, Bernie Arnold and Laurie Fauretti both came to help. Bernie brought his tire trailer, worked the lifejacket pile then hopped on the river to haul in garbage. After working registration into shape, Laurie got lunch going then did the afternoon trash haul. At 211 clean-ups she usually helps organize the lunches and was glad for the chance to leave the food scene and hit the river. Boy do I know that feeling… going to someone else’s event and getting to do the actual work.

Craig Holt – Craig started showing up to River Relief clean-ups about five years ago. He’d usually come a day early, get his own camp set up, then be there to help every step of the way. I remember last time we had a big event at Columbia Bottoms and he showed up with a pot of stew when we arrived with no dinner plans. This time, Craig couldn’t get there ‘til Saturday morning. We actually had a ceremony to conjure up Craig the night before.

Craig on the left and Rod on the right load up Greg Dennigmann's bucket with river trash.
photo by Alicia Pigg.

Big Muddy Adventures – these guys are our true partners in the Confluence area. They are their own river clean-up crew, by canoe only. Mike Clark and Betsy Tribble show up with their Clipper Canoe (seats 12) and hit the river with big smiles whether they have a crew or not. Then proceed to fill that boat with trash on their way downstream. Betsy and Mike also take a group of students called the River Kids out in canoes once a month to clean up and experience the two mightiest rivers in the country: the Missouri and Mississippi.

This is the BMA crew at the Washington Clean-up in April. photo by one of those Penningtons

Lewis and Clark Boathouse – these folks are a fellow non-profit with a mission similar to ours. They bring people to the river, but they are focused on exposing folks to the amazing history we share tied in with this valley. This year, they let us camp in their front yard (“behind the boathouse”) next to the river. An amazing beach with a young riparian willow forest managed by the local Master Naturalists, some great fishing spots and a heirloom vegetable, herb and native plant garden. Behind us, the massive boat house and nature center was the dry dock for three gorgeous, handmade replicas of the fleet the Corps of Discovery took up the Missouri River in 1804. These boats made the same journey in 2004.

Francis Baum – this guy started his own environmental organization of fellow Boeing workers. BEEP – Boeing Employees for Environemental Protection. He travels across the state to help with River Relief events, and this time he took on the dispatch position – scouting the trash on Friday then sending folks out there to pick it up on Saturday morning. He was a little bummed this year that “Talk Like a Pirate Day” landed on the day after the clean-up….

Many other friends and familiar faces joined us on the riverfront that day. Along with over 250 other state-wide volunteers picking up trash, sorting out recyclables, piloting (and fixing) boats, teaching and learning, serving and being served, this group of local folks made this event happen.

Although everyone felt tired at the end of the day, no one felt broken. In fact, after a dinner graciously donated by Trailhead Brewing across the street and gathered around a campfire sharing stories, we all felt a little healed. I’m pretty sure we healed each other, and the river healed us all.

September 16, 2010

St. Charles Clean-up Results!

Bishop’s Landing, St. Charles, MO
September 11th, 2010

click here for links to photos and more

photo by Tom Ball
Total Volunteers: 268
MRR Crew: 27
Boats: 11 (4 Missouri River Relief, 3 MO Department of Conservation, 2 U.S. Fish & Wildlife, 2 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)
River Miles: 10
River Level: 18.5 feet
Landfill: 2.6 tons
Scrap Metal: 1.4 tons
Recyclables: 1.09 tons
Tires: 107 (1.9 tons)
Total Tonnage: 7 tons!

Stream Teams: 1875, 3176, 211, 500, 1782, 509, 4136, 3668, 3419, 3500, 509 + Francis Howell North & the Crawford Crawdaddies

Volunteer Groups Involved: Lindbergh Highschool Anatomy Class, Francis Howell Highschool Green Community, B-FAB, Alpha Phi Omega, LMI Aerospace, Scout Troops 4334, 975, 1413, 607, Pack 850/Den 3, DHC Global Forwarding, Mid Rivers Ethical Society, Kingdom House Youth Group, River Des Peres Watershed Coalition, Missouri Master Naturalists

Names of River Teams – River Hippies, Trashinators, Troop 975, River Otters, Refrigerators, Trash Busters, Muddy Buddies, Crazy Catfish, The A Team, Bull Sharks, Mud Runners, The Partridges, (Blue, Bleu, Blew), Goon Squad, Ram Rod, Mud Doggers, Weeblos Ponies, Ethica/Waters, Troop 4334, APO, Bad Asses, Rock Stars, Team Unicycle

photo by Tom Ball
Trash Tally!!!!
240 55-gallon Bags of Trash
107 Tires
6 Chunks O’ Styrofoam
½ of a Buoy
12 five-gallon Plastic Buckets
3 five-gallon Metal Buckets
3 55-gallon Metal Drums
3 55-gallon Plastic Barrels
5 Refrigerators
1 Washing Machine
1 Chest Freezer
2 5-gallon Propane Tanks
20+ small Propane Tanks
1 Refrigerator Door
1 Ice Machine
1 Toilet Tank
1 Vacuum Cleaner Hose
1 Baby Bed
333 Yards of Carpet
3 Folding Chairs
2 Gas Cans
1 7-foot Bench
1 Table Top
3 Gas Tanks
2 Mud Flaps
1 Truck Grill
1 Truck Fender (Blue Ford F150)
2 Tail Pipes
1 Axle & Differential
1 Torque Converter
1 Bumper Plate
1 Side Mirror
2 Volley Balls
1 Basket Ball
1 Slolam Ski
100 feet Heavy Wire Cable
1 Heavy Chain
1 Furniture Panel
1 Compressor
1 Refrigerator Shelf
1 Oil Can
1 part of a Deck
1 Fire Extinguisher
1 Ammunition Box
1 Curtain Rod
17 pieces of Rebar
8 pieces of Angle Iron
1 TV Panel
1 42” Flat Screen TV w/ Castors
2 Square Lattice Baskets
1 Deer Head (from a target)
2 Trash Dumpster Lids
1 Landscaping Rim
12 feet of Natural Gas Line
1 Culvert Pipe1
1 MDC “End of Public Use Area” Sign
1 “Caution Wet Floor” Sign
1 Huskers Sign
2 Messages in a Bottle
1 Red Plastic Apple
1 Rubber Ducky – yellow
1 Bocce Ball
2 1-gallon Glass Jugs
2 Enameled Cast Iron Skillet
1 Butcher Knife
1 Dust Mask
1 Hard Hat
1 Naked Baby Doll

St. Charles Missouri River Clean-up 9-11-10

Message in a Bottle Found!

On Sept. 11th, 2010 during Missouri River Relief's St. Charles River Clean-up, we found a message in a bottle while sorting through trash that had already been bagged. A small crew of die-hards had remained after lunch to sort through the muddy mess and recycle as much plastic, glass & aluminum as we could. Some unsuspecting volunteer had simply thrown away this most coveted treasure amongst this river cleaning clan!

photo by Tom Ball

Found around river mile 28, here's what it read:
Cooper's Landing is a fun little river-rat hang-out near Columbia, MO along river mile 170, so this bottle traveled about 142 miles over the course of a year and a half!

We will attempt to contact Micha to see where the rest of the treasure is buried! Arrrgh!

It was a good day I say!

July 23, 2010

MR340 Race Post-Poned to August 24th

photo by Steve Schnarr

If you haven't heard the news yet, here is the official word from race organizer Scott Mansker via the MR340 ( forum:

After consultation with the United States Coast Guard, Missouri Water Patrol, the National Weather Service, a USGS Hydrologist and numerous veteran paddlers, the decision has been made to postpone the race due to unsafe conditions both current and predicted for the Missouri River 340 race course. This is both a difficult and easy decision. Difficult because of the scope of work and effort put forth by ALL of us involved, including all paddlers and ground crews... and easy because I have zero question in my heart or mind that the river will not be a safe place for an ultra-marathon event next week.

The 5th Annual Missouri River 340 will be held August 24-27th. Mandatory safety meeting and sign in on the evening of the 23rd. Everything scheduled exactly the same, except for the new dates.

For those who are still signed up for the race, but cannot make the new date, you will have the opportunity to sign up for a seat in the 2011 6th Annual event at no charge. Everyone will get an email with instructions on how to do this. You should receive this email by noon Thursday. If you have not, please send an email to either or and we will send you the link allowing you to get the voucher. Please do not send your request via the forum. Email will be more efficient. Each member of a team that is seeking a voucher will need to do it independently.

The deadline for deciding if you can do this year's race or next is August 11th. If you have not requested a voucher by then, we will assume you are racing August 24th.

If you are planning to race August 24th with your same team configuration, you need do nothing. Everything is set and all is well. If you need to reconfigure your team in any way, this would need to be done by email. Either to or

New paddlers wishing to sign up for the race, now 5 weeks away, may do so on our registration page here:
We are still limited to 340 boats. Which I'm sure we'll be well under after the date change.

Thank you for understanding that this decision was not made lightly and that all inconveniences are understood and we empathize. It is not easy for us to reschedule and I know it is not easy for you. But we look forward to a fun, safe event in 5 weeks. Late August is a beautiful time of year on the Missouri and we have every reason to believe it will be the best 340 yet. We hope to see everyone at the safety meeting August 23rd.

Very truly yours,
Scott, Karin and Russ

July 9, 2010

Race to Dome Quick Links

Race to the Dome
Hartsburg to Jeff City
July 3, 2010

Here's a few great links from the Race to the Dome:
Race to the Dome Results

Race to the Dome website

Race to the Dome Facebook

Columbia Tribune Article (and slideshow)

Great Blog from Racer Jessica Machetta

Missouri River Relief race page

Race photos

Race blogs

Fast, Fun & Floody

Race to the Dome
Hartsburg to Jeff City
July 3, 2010

text by Steve Schnarr, photos by Dave "the River Slave" Marner, Diana Dexter and Caanan Cowles

Sometimes you finish an event, look around at all the smiling people and realize: this is the first year of big deal.

That’s how it felt for me at the end of the Race to the Dome. People were glowing, and you could see that this thing could be big.

66 boats went in the water. Amazing for the first year! But ever since the MR340 took off, it’s seemed like the growth of paddling recreation on the Missouri River has not hit its limit.

A great diverse crowd showed up at Hartsburg Landing. Some fancy boats were already in the water when I showed up: some folks training for the 340 had put in upstream earlier and showed up for the race by water. Other trainees were planning on heading down to Hermann after the race finish.

There were aluminum canoes borrowed from Jeff City Parks – some folks didn’t have their own boat and had never been on the river. In my opinion, a race like this is a perfect time for people to get their “riverlegs”. You’ve got safety boats in the water in case something goes wrong. You’ve got other paddlers to help you find the safe, fast water. You’ve got lunch waiting for you at the end.

Because of the high water, racers were separated into heats so there was plenty of room in the eddy at the bottom of the ramp. All race heats were launched without issue (except the sucking mud on the ramp left by the recent flooding). It just made things really complicated for timekeeping!

Several spectacles were on hand as well. Big Muddy Adventures showed up with John Ruskey’s handmade Junebug canoe, taking out a group of folks for a gentle paddle downstream for a donation to River Relief. At the Noren ramp, the MR340 Dragon Boat, carrying 20 paddlers (!) jammed up the ramp for a while taking off. What a sight!

Only a couple of boats spilled. One guy self-rescued right in the middle of the river. Another bunch swamped and lost their paddles. Luckily, we had an extra kayak paddle in our safety boat and they could get on their way.

One of our safety boats was able to take a couple of our most dedicated sponsors, Pat Jones and Jamie Coe, out on the river. What a great time to get out there and see all these folks out enjoying the river.

Jeff City’s own Matt Green and Kevin Schwarz of the “Aquaholics” took men’s tandem kayak and were the overall winners (1 hour 10 minutes!!!!). Our neighbor, Jodi Pffeferkorn and her partner Charlie Lockwood (“Pfefferwood”) were the first back to the ramp, winning the mixed tandem class. They’ve been training for the 340 as of late and are looking good! See them at the 340, too. Past 340 winner Bryan Hopkins (“Lucky 13”) took the men’s solo kayak race by a landslide (mudslide?). Carp Target Grannies from Columbia floated in from upstream and ended up ruling women’s tandem. I’ll post other winners as I get them.

Plus, we had several River Reliefers in the race. Janet Moreland (the first person to sign up for the race – “Easy Rider”) took silver in solo female kayak, followed by Allison Kellenberger (“Mother of Pearl”) in her first race. Melanie Cheney and Liz Doubet took second in their class (“Muddy Bottom Gumbo Gals”). David Lackey ("Water Lily") took third place in men's solo kayak! We were all so proud!

Complete results are posted on the Race to the Dome website.

After we finished up cleaning up after the race, several of us loaded up Big Muddy Mike’s canoe and headed upstream to our high sandbank camp. Music, campfire, veggie packs, lots of swimming, sunset boat ride. That’s the way to celebrate independence!

July 8, 2010

A really cool guy thought up a really cool race...

Race to the Dome
Hartsburg to Jeff City, MO
July 3, 2010

Text by Steve Schnarr, photos by Caanan Cowles & Diana Dexter

This was the inaugural year for a really good idea. A 16-mile paddle race ending across the river from the state capital: Jefferson City on Independence Day weekend. Pulling off even such a simple idea is not quite as easy as you’d think. But when you start with a great idea hatched by a tenacious, well-connected dude with gobs of skills – it looks easy!

For me it all started with a phone call. Patrick Lynn from Jefferson City had hoped to paddle in our Flying Carp race, which ended up (perhaps unwisely!) getting cancelled due to high water and drift in the river. But after the cancellation, he rang us up and said he wanted to organize a race for charity from Hartsburg to Jeff City. And he wanted us to be the charity!

We had recently done a clean-up at Noren Access in Jefferson City, and were starting to develop a great set of friends there. One great couple is Andy and Leisha Neidert – who started bringing their boat to clean-ups in the area and diving in. A real couple of river rats, they live on the bluff upstream of Jeff City, overlooking the river. Patrick is friends with Andy too, so Andy agreed to help and it was on.

As the day approached, our friends at MRCN had to cancel their race due to major flooding in Glasgow, and the river looked like it was going to be high all summer. But then it stopped raining. The week before the race, it was becoming clear that we might be able to pull this off. The projection of 2 feet below flood stage held.

Patrick worked this race with dogged dedication. Hopefully next year this thing will grow enough to pay the dude – but he insisted on taking this on as a volunteer this year. He coordinated everything himself, from food for racers to corporate sponsorship; from organizing race classes to staggering heats; from race publicity to making sure there were water bottles. When something didn’t pan out, he didn’t blink – on to plan b.

He started advertising the race months before – the first news story was back in April. He did Twitter, he did Facebook. He got cool stickers made. If we offered half-baked ideas from our experience, he’d run with it and make it happen.

For us at Missouri River Relief, nothing could have been easier than working with Patrick Lynn on this race.

Where Patrick really shined was the day of the race. He worked his butt off all day long, conducting the race start, answering never-ending questions and solving problems on the fly. Watching his persistence as he recalculated times (an admitted history major) it was clear he was finally going to sleep great that night.

Beyond his unbelievable generosity to our organization and cause, his most admirable quality was among the chaos of hundreds of people dragging boats through the Hartsburg lot or waiting for their lunch at Noren, Patrick would answer your questions with a smile and real appreciation.

Oh, and he’s great with a soundbite: “I grew up near the river and didn’t really start getting out and enjoying it until a few years ago,” he said. “It’s a great resource here in Jefferson City and needs to be utilized more.” Bingo…

Patrick, you’re a truly kind soul, and we can’t thank you enough for what you’ve done for us and for our mission of connecting people to this amazing river by getting out on her.

But he’s definitely not the only one to thank for making this race happen. The list is actually pretty long:

Sponsors –
The Old Brickhouse Deli – donated and served lunches to the racers.
Central Bank
Husch Blackwell Sanders
Jefferson City Convention & Visitors Bureau

Partners -
Alpine Shop
– donated lip balm for racers
Big Muddy Adventures – donated proceeds from a ride in the 22-foot wooden Junebug canoe
Dexter crew – showed up, helped patrol the race and took gobs of great photos.
Jefferson City Parks and Recs – donated canoe and paddle rental.
Joe Wilson – the host with the most
Lafarge-Neidert – graphic design
Lynn Family - registration
Mid-Missouri Amateur Radio Club – Set up stations along the route (some in boats, some biked out the Katy Trail, some on decks of friends over looking the river) and kept all stations in communication.
Missouri American Water – donated gift bags
Neidert family – safety boat – and everything that needed doing
Schnucks – donated gift bags & drinks
St. James Winery – prize wine!
And without a doubt the Missouri River Relief crew solid as a rock!

July 2, 2010

Siouxland 2010

Total Volunteers: 80
MRR Crew: 15
Sioux Crew: 16
Boats: 7 (4 Missouri River Relief, 2 Nebraska Game and Parks, 1 Iowa DNR)
River Miles Cleaned: 10
River Level: 19.5 and rising (Sioux City Gage)
Tires: 12

Total Tonnage: 2.4 Tons

Trash Tally!!!!

61 large blue Bags of Trash
12 Tires
1 Mag Wheel Rim
1 Tricycle

2 Baby Walkers
1 kids Bicycle
1 Chunk O’ Styrofoam
2 Coolers
2- five-gallon Plastic Buckets
2- 55-gallon Metal Drums
2- 55-gallon Plastic Barrels
1 TV exterior w/ a VCR Player
1 Range Top
1 Pressurized Water Tank
1 Bedframe
1 flowery upholstered Couch w/ cording
2 metal Folding Chairs
1 Headboard “Doubloon” brand
1 Truck Bedliner
1 Truck Camper Top

2 Gas Tanks
1 Toyota Axle w/ Wheels
2 License Plates
2 Batteries
1 Drive Shaft
1 Windshield Wiper
2 Bumpers
1 Car Grill
2 soggy pieces of Carpet
1 Tarp
3 heavy Wire Coils
2 flats of Corrugated Tin
1 Lantern
1 Step Ladder
1 Hedge Trimmer
1 large plastic Laundry Basket

25 feet of Cable Wire
1 Ammunition Box
1 Crystal Vase
1 Bed Rail
4 Barrel Bands
3 Metal Strips
4 Metal Poles
1 Flag Pole Stand
Over 1,000 lbs of Cable Wire
6ft Blade
5 hunks of assorted Metal
1 Christmas Light Bulb

June 2, 2010

River Clean-up promo on Keep St. Joe Weird

Local St. Joe resident Cory Stephens, created this fun video to promote the St. Joseph Missouri River Cleanup on his website The clean-up is scheduled for June 26 at the French Bottoms Boat Ramp. Sign-in is at 8:30 a.m. and the clean-up will roll from 9 - noon.

For more info. and to sign-up on online, go to, or simply show up Saturday morning and sign-in at the registration table. We're excited to be returning to this historic river town and hope to see you there!

River Relief Promo by keep st joe weird from Cory Stephens on Vimeo.

May 20, 2010

The Flood of 2010

May 14th, 2010
Club Medfly, River mile 170

As the Missouri River crested here in Mid-Missouri last week, several of us self-proclaimed "river rats" went down to our clubhouse to watch the swollen river roll by. She must have been going at least 10 miles an hour, carrying a large load of debris that not only included trees of all sizes, but an assortment of floating trash! The river level was 27.6 and rising.

I couldn't help but start recording a tally of what I was watching float downstream, ultimately destined for the Gulf of Mexico, which already has its fair share of problems with the most devastating oil spill on record, I couldn't help but feel both sad but reinvigorated to expose this local, regional, national, and worldwide problem.

Here's a tally of what we watched float by in one evening:

1 Large Freezer
15 Styrofoam Chunks
7 Basket Balls
4 - 5 gallon Buckets
5 Aerosol spray cans
1 Green Buoy
1 Inflated Inner Tube
1 Large Metal Tank
7 Tires
1 Milk Jug
4 Oil/Detergent Jugs
1 Purple Sharpie
1 Perfume Bottle Lid
1 Deoderant Stick
2 Misc. Balls
1 Prescription Bottle
2 Peanut Butter Jars
2 Coolers
1 Plastic Lime
2 Water Jerry Jugs
1 Metal 5 gallon Bucket
...and countless plastic bottles!

In ten minutes we counted 74 plastic bottles go by, only as far as the eye could see that is. Ten Minutes! 74!

Plastic water & soda bottles are by far the #1 piece of trash we find out there. If more people started carrying their own re-usable drink containers and started drinking from the tap, we would alleviate so much of the pollution that this plastic is causing by getting into our waterways, the ocean, and its wildlife. Plastic bottles are a product of crude oil. Think about the impact we could make if we stopped using them! We have the choice, and it all starts with YOU!

Melanie Cheney
Missouri River Relief

Catfish stuck in a Plastic Bottle, photo by Colby Wrasse of the US Fish & Wildlife Service

a photo of a storm drain that goes directly into the Missouri River after a rain event