Kayaking Lifestyle Rivers Wallace

SHOW US YOUR JUNK ~ Cleaning Up Rivers Around The World for International Rivers’ DAY OF ACTION.

EDITOR’S DESK- The Day of Action is here!! We at Dirt Bag Paddlers are stoked to be a part of the 20th anniversary of an amazing event conjured up by our friends at International Rivers! After two years of supporting the Day of Action through raising awareness with fun contests like an art contest  and photo contest we decided to actually put together some Action! So in conjunction with International Rivers and our sister group DBP ACTIVE!! we organized a series of river cleanups around the world over the last two weekends, and called it SHOW US YOUR JUNK.

These events, started by friends and DBP Admins and carried out by small groups of dedicated, loving volunteers, occurred across the United States and in Zimbabwe, Brazil, and Serbia, making the contest, like the Day itself, truly international in spirit. The ultimate goal was to simply clean up some of our favorite rivers on a local level, like the Chattooga, Little Colorado, Danube, and Zambezi. Even though the efforts themselves were small, we wanted to inspire others to think about their local rivers as something WE can steward ourselves! WE must be the change that needs to occur for the future of our planet!

One great way to do that is to throw a contest! So we hooked up some small #OneLoveOneRiver DBP helmet stickers for all of the volunteers by Design Editor RJ Dowell. Then RJ drew up awesome event tee shirts reading SHOW US YOUR JUNK that were on sale, with $1 of every shirt going to International Rivers. We sold 25, so we are proud to announce a small but heartfelt donation from Dirt Bag Paddlers to International Rivers on behalf of everyone. Fifteen of the 25 were purchased by the Magazine as prizes and gifts, with ten going to the winning team in the contest!! Each team submitted a series of photos and a post-event report. One photo from each cleanup was selected by our Editorial staff to submit – without revealing locations to remove all bias – to our friends at International Rivers, who then selected the WINNING TEAM!!

Before we announce the winner of the 2017 SHOW US YOUR JUNK CONTEST, we’d like to tell the stories of the grassroots efforts that our dedicated volunteers achieved, and thank the local sponsors who participated in the Day of Action. And we also want to acknowledge a few local efforts that contributed to the overall effort, like Grink Ashman cleaning up Scudders Rapid on the Delaware River, Andrew Still on the Raritan River and it’s feeder creeks, Tyler Richards pulling truckloads of tires from Back Creek, Vincent Santroni Jr and many more.

But first, our friend Sarah Bardeen of International Rivers tells us a bit about the Day of Action itself:

“Since 1985, International Rivers has been at the heart of the global struggle to protect rivers and the rights of communities that depend on them. We work with an international network of dam-affected people, grassroots organizations, environmentalists, human rights advocates and others to protect the world’s free-flowing rivers from harmful development. We know that the world’s rivers are a source of life-giving water, food, culture and joy for millions.

Every year on March 14, we organize the International Day of Action for Rivers. On that day, thousands of people around the world lift their voices to celebrate the world’s rivers and those who struggle to protect them. All over the world, people celebrate victories – dam removals, river clean-up, protected rivers. They take to the streets and demonstrate for their freshwater. They educate each other about the threats facing our rivers, and better water and energy solutions. Above all, it’s a day to unite – by acting together, we demonstrate that these issues are not merely local, but global in scope.

THANK YOU massively for this incredible effort. As of right now, we have 186 events registered around the world, a huge uptick from last year. We still have to do the analysis, but I am certain this contest really contributed to this rise in participation, and I can’t thank you enough for your enthusiastic work on this. You guys rule.”

NOW FOR THE CONTESTANTS! You’ll read that there are always obstacles to overcome, and that the work can be depressing and physically difficult, and yes even gross! Weather can be a major challenge as well in March. It is also inspiring work, especially working side by side with the children and young adults. With small groups and family support, and some good food, we can achieve great things!


Like most of you, I find the sound of moving water extremely relaxing. I let the sound wash through my mind as I picked up aluminum cans, plastic bottles and the terrible styrofoam along the banks of the Fox river in Yorkville Illinois at the Marge Cline Whitewater Park.
I agreed to be the organizer of this cleanup effort and bring together members of the Chicago Whitewater Association, of which I’m a member, and Dirt Bag Paddlers, an organization that I am a staff writer and admin for. I don’t think of myself as very organized, so I accepted the request with a healthy amount of trepidation. Lucky for me river folks are a helpful group of people who are very invested in ecology. We decided that a potluck lunch would be a great idea. Nothing creates bonds amongst people quite like sharing food and drink.

So, things kicked off at 10:00 AM. My teenage son Jake and I set up some tables outside The Yak Shak for crock pots and supplies. Then we began combing the banks of our local whitewater park filling bags. As more and more people showed up I would run back, introduce myself and get them going with bags. The sun shone and the temps were in the mid 30’s, which for the Chicago area was great. Many bags were filled that day by smiling paddlers. Trash highlights were a couple of tires, a broken down zero gravity lounger type chair, a 5 gallon chemical barrel and an ominous looking wire skinning knife with a hooked blade. We didn’t pull a car out the riverbank or anything, but I am proud of all the bags filled and garbage like monofilament line that was picked up.

After a great speech by Chicago Mike about International Rivers, the Day of Action, and various other SHOW US YOUR JUNK cleanup efforts that he had orchestrated around the country, as well as the globe, we got down to some serious eating. We feasted on Custom Italian Sausages, cajun mac and cheese, potato salad, cole slaw and assorted other picnic staples.

After lunch it was time for Mike Shryer and myself to head out to the Island, where a few people were already loading up a bunch of garbage in canoes. It is below the whitewater course. We decided it would be a good idea to run the whitewater course in an open canoe in our street clothes and rendezvous with the others at the island. It turned out to be not such a great idea, as we provided the lunchtime entertainment, WALLACE. I am here to tell you that Carharrt coats are super absorbent and surprisingly warm when completely soaked. After that debacle I figured I might as well suit up with Chicago Mike and get a few rips down the course in my normal gear.

All in all it was a fun productive day had by all. Before people started to leave, DBP had a raffle and gave away a bunch of stickers to commemorate the event. I am not a huge volunteer guy, but I walked away from this experience thinking I might volunteer more often because it made me feel like a better human for taking part in such a selfless effort. Also, I have to throw out a nod to DBP Admin Brian Kretschmer of Kayak Chicago that came out to assist and in turn invite us to their Chicago River cleanup day. Anyone reading this that would like to participate in that one, please contact Kayak Chicago. Huge thanks to Jeff Brown and the Yak Shak for bathrooms, dumpster space, and the beer bottle opener hanging outside!



According to “The Little Colorado River originates at Mt. Baldy in Arizona’s White Mountains and travels northward to Joseph City, Winslow, and Wupatki National Monument before reaching the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon.” This course tangles throughout the desert for about 800 river miles.

Half a million years ago a volcano erupted in the vicinity of Leupp, AZ (pronounced Loop) and changed the course of the river forever. The Little Colorado was forced to “go around” this lava flow thus creating a sharp elbow bend and a stunning set of waterfalls we now know as Grand Falls or sometimes, Chocolate Falls.

At the base of this 185 foot jaw dropping spectacle we are greeted by ledges of sandstone coated in mud and natural debris, or we would have hundreds of years ago…nowadays we can play “count the tires” or “what brand of cooler is that”. Styrofoam makes up the majority of junk found in the shallow muddy eddy at the foot of Grand Falls; it is accompanied by alcohol containers, large propane cylinders/tanks, barrels you might feed a horse from, and did I mention tires? Lots of tires.

Were this trash to continue on its course it would travel swiftly through short rugged and jutting canyons of sandstone and somewhere near Cameron, AZ it would drop into The Little Colorado River Gorge. This gorge continues for some 80 miles until it sweeps the styrofoam and tires and other crud directly into one of the Seven Natural Wonders of The World where our trash gets a free ride on some.of the largest whitewater in The United States… Grand Canyon National Park.

On March 4th 50 volunteers from Flagstaff, Grand Canyon, the Navajo Nation and even as far south as Phoenix united to dig out, hike up and fill a trailer full of trash gathered from the base of the falls. With the support of local businesses and groups like Moenkopi Riverworks, ReI Flagstaff and River Runners for Wilderness the cleanup was a success and we hope to have inspired hundreds of others to take a better look around next time they visit the area. If every person who visited picked up just one piece of junk…our Grand Falls and, in the long run, our Grand Canyon National Park and Colorado River and everything beyond would be a much cleaner and healthier place to visit and play.


DANUBE RIVER – SERBIA – Ljiljana Terzać

The location that we worry about is the Danube, second longest river in Europe and also the longest river in the European Union region. To be precise the 1422 km of the waterway that form the tri-border area of Serbia, Hungary and Croatia. Here is located a small village by the name of Darazi Fok (Sombor, Serbia) with about thirty river-houses that are totally nature-oriented, without basic infrastructure : electricity, running water, internet, or mobile service. Unfortunately that doesn’t mean that all visitors here really respect nature. And that is the reason for our gathering – piles of bottles, canes, plastic bags, barrels, glass, ceramics… even two old rotten bed’s with springs spread all around, a smashed toilet seat, and plastic roof cover… that were waiting for us to be picked up. We will all agree that the river isn’t a place for all of that.

The conditions weren’t in our favor. Really high river levels covered the beach so the riverside was inaccessible but we didn’t give up, we struggled to reach to every piece of the garbage that was laying around. Even disposal of the collected garbage wasn’t easy because there is no trash can in the whole village, and those the public utility doesn’t comes here, so we were forced to take out all of the collected trash with our own cars to the first place that has trash cans. Along the way we had fun, hung out, cooking meals on fire. We went home tired, but filled with thrill and positive energy, satisfied with all that we’ve done and with faith that small group of people can make miracles.

We tried to influence people’s minds by giving an example how to preserve our little piece of heaven. Our past experiences has taught us that it is not enough. Our suggestion is to make a deal with the public disposal company about setting up a container in the entrance of the village and to be put on regular route of the dustcart.

Thanks to Mike who started this clean up event, Jasmina and Nada for including us in all of this and special thanks to all of us (the volunteers): Miloš, Ljiljana, Marko, Darko, Jelena, Ana and her daughter Una. And of course to Miloš and Ljiljana’s company Responsive Miracle for providing the bags, gloves, and delicious food! 


SILVER CREEK – KENTUCKY – Michelle Terrell and Tommy Hammitt

It’s sort of ironic that the song playing while we are starting this article is called Polluted Beauty, but we promised ourselves that we would not write a negative story. That’s so hard when you see all the trash in the environment. So we are focusing on teaching our kids to give back, take care of the river, and to be active. As a family we get to our local put in, not five miles from home, with a beautiful waterfall easily viewed from the bridge that crosses the creek. Silver Creek is allegedly named by Daniel Boone for the multitude of Smallmouth bass that form a silver glitter with the sun shining down against the flowing waters through the rolling hills of this gorgeous part of Madison County, Kentucky. We’ve seen the cans and bottles left behind from previous trips down the creek. We are pretty sure we are prepared to collect it all before heading to the take out, which we know will be a little more challenging. GiGi is all in asking if we recycle this, or is it all trash. Because the road follows the creek for a bit, we extended the pick-up a bit more than what might be considered river trash.

Michelle and I head in different directions to tackle what each of us sees as the starting point. Gigi hangs with me when she sees me dumping leftover rain water from the couple of cases of bottles lying there. After a moment or two, she sees her mom dragging some clothes that were left near the pull off and gets interested in that. Questions, comments and more questions flow from this active little four-year-old showing us that she’s willing to help out any time, any where. We hauled out eight garbage bags so full we could hardly tie them. We are still trying to figure out how to get the old style large screen TV dumped over the hill side from the road that we saw last month when we paddled this joyful stretch of class ones (and maybe a class II after a really good rain).

Being a part of the DBP initiative for river clean-ups has motivated us to be more active. We practice leave no trace, now we are trying to set an example, not only for our kids but others witnessing our actions, hopefully to inspire others to believe in One Love One River. Take care of the Mother.

We have a recurring discussion every time we venture out for a day of adventure; we know we need to do this more often. One day, we just got through paddling, we’re at the take out and there were a couple of locals hanging out who began to ask us how much fun it was and about the Alpacka raft. We entertained their inquiries and subtly changed into dry clothes and began to pick up a few obvious items left behind by others. I can’t help but think that they notice our stewardship and all we can hope is that they realize anyone can join in at any time The recent discussions on DBP ACTIVE!! has us thinking more in the realm of taking action rather than just talking about it, so now it’s on! It’s overwhelming seeing just how much is in front of us. There is a four wheeler trail just across the creek accessible at low flow, and that definitely adds to the stuff that we need to take out of there.

So close to home… Let’s be honest for a second. THEY DIDN’T FORGET IT!! Some of them brought it here intentionally. The road ends at the take out, so the end of the road must mean that no one comes here, so out of sight. . . out of mind, right? Sorry, I promised I wouldn’t be negative. The take out is ten times worse than what we were prepared for. GiGi eventually wore out and begged to go home. It is overwhelming with the broken glass, tires, clothes, (what?) car parts, broken toys even diapers. Where does this stuff come from? I’m bleeding from barbed wire that was deposited at our local take out. What are we dealing with here. This small event has me wondering what in the hell is wrong with people. We will have to come back tomorrow and get the rest, because we weren’t prepared. We operate with a ‘leave no trace’ mentality, and sometimes it’s hard to understand how others can be so negligent, but not everyone appreciates the beauty the way we do. 


When I saw that Chicago Mike was working with International Rivers to put together a worldwide clean up of several different rivers I immediately wanted to be a part of the awesomeness. I started with contacting the Colorado Bureau of Land Management to see if they would like some help anywhere in Colorado. Surprisingly they declined stating they had it under control. I thought that was pretty strange that they didn’t desire any support. Next I contacted the Utah BLM who seemed excited for someone to lead a clean up but at first wanted a ranger there to supervise. Then they didn’t want a ranger there and wanted us to “document” photos for them of any invasive species we saw. After over a week of talking with a handful of different BLM representatives I was under the impression everything was lined up for our March 11th clean up day of Westwater Canyon. When I called to confirm, our permit had been given away and I was told I would have to organize the event some other time. At this point I was fed up with the BLM and we decided to move the clean up to a river that they were not in control of. We picked the Shoshone section of the Colorado and went full steam ahead!

​My wife Sonia and I arrived at the Shoshone put in, located directly parallel to Interstate 70 in Glenwood Springs, Colorado. Before the boats were even unloaded we found an entire bag of trash at the put in. We knew Matthew Bajor, a fellow cat boater, would be coming with a friend Brandon Fryslie to assist in the clean up. Everyone else who was supposed to come to the original Westwater clean up backed out. What we didn’t expect was Steven Mack, Rob from Denver, and Isaac and Ben from Summit County who showed up ready to help! With a great team assembled we unloaded our cats and kayaks and headed downriver. We didn’t find any trash the first few miles and stopped at the Grizzly Creek boat ramp for lunch. While at Grizzly creek we found several trash bags of garbage, old clothes, and a crazy amount of dirty diapers all throughout the riparian zone. We were all stoked to have pulled over at Grizzly and clean up this area before the soon-to-come high water began to run this spring, flushing all the junk downriver.

​After lunch we decided to run another lap through the rapids of Shoshone and head down another 5 miles past the confluence of the Roaring Fork and take out at Two Rivers Park in Glenwood Springs. We found a bunch of junk all along the way, stopping so many times we only had a few minutes of light left in the day to load up the boats at the take out. With everybody feeling accomplished a few of us decided to hit the hot springs and go share a few beers back at camp. All in all it was a great experience and we felt good about giving back to the community, and most importantly leaving the Colorado River in better shape than when we put on earlier in the day. All of us concluded around the campfire that everyday on the river should be a clean up day!

​Thank you to all who came and helped! Picking up those diapers was gross. Everyone put forth a great effort to help out a great river and cause! See you all soon on the water!



In support of the Dirt Bag Paddlers and the International Rivers organizations, I organized and participated in my first River cleanup. The targeted river was our home whitewater run the Cattaraugus Creek, a 68 mile long creek that drains a 560 sq mi. watershed into Lake Erie. Running through several populated communities, Cattaraugus Creek is a popular summer destination for many activities such as hiking, fishing, paddling and whitewater rafting and kayaking. While out on the river clean up, I was armed with enthusiasm and my trusty garbage bag. Being no more than half full by the time I was done, I stopped on a newly formed pebble beach.

As I stood there admiring the view and new features from a recent flood, a few things dawned on me. First, it really is possible to get people to be responsible around our rivers. If it can be done here, it can be done anywhere. Secondly, from what I’ve seen during this river clean up, we are damn lucky up here that we don’t have to pick eddies based on the size of the trash islands floating in them. Lastly, I realized looks truly can be deceiving. For I know of a dirty little secret. Actually, make that two.

As Cattaraugus Creek winds its way through farmlands, communities, and one of the most spectacular canyons cut in the east, it also passes 2 superfund sites that the EPA has deemed in need of clean up due to the severe risk to human and environmental health. The first site is a spent nuclear fuel dump site known as the West Valley Demonstration Project located near West Valley NY. The second is the Peter Cooper site, a former animal glue factory that later produced chemical adhesives in Gowanda NY.

As pristine and beautiful as she looks, the fight for clean water is still on here in NY against a less visible yet more potent enemy. And though clean up has been on going for several years, chemicals still leach into the creek and the threat of a major leak always looms overhead.


All the Southeast got used to 60 and 70 degree days during January and February this winter. A March clean up was looked forward to by around one hundred lovers of the Chattooga River – there would be boaters, hikers, wilderness schools, fishers and campers and more, organized by Chattooga Sounds Camp.

Someone pulled the drain on the thermometer. The night before our event temps were down to 20 degrees and Saturday was overcast with a high in the forties. Yet, a robust gang of sixty or more showed up to do a heartfelt job up and down Section III. The three commercial outfitters split up and took a portion each while others focused on access points, hiking trails and popular camping spots.

Big scores for the day consisted of a couch, a mattress and two ragged tents. Of course there was the ubiquitous bottles, cans and soiled diapers as well as candy wrappers and cigarette butts. It might be easy to be discouraged by such carelessness, but when you look at the place as most of us do, the reward was the warmth provided by the good deeds done for Momma Chattooga. Kudzu!!! I’m coming back to take you OUT in a month. I’ll have all my gang with me.



We gathered a small group of family and friends and headed down to the banks of the Mighty Zambezi to clean up along the gentler rapids above Batoka Gorge.  We started about 100m from the drop and worked our way up stream about 1km. Led by my friend Brent, owner of Adventure Zone in Victoria Falls, we took and filled a tuk tuk with trash along the river. (These can be rented from Adventure Zone.)

This was a one of a kind event for us here, and it was great to see the kids getting involved and inspired by our group effort. It made everyone think about the actions of those whose trash we picked up, and how even a small group can do big things. The clean up reached far beyond the banks of our river, one of the most famous whitewater rivers in the world; it reached into our hearts and into our future.



JUQUIA RIVER – BRAZIL – Troy Lafayette

Down here in Brazil our commercial season full on, so we decided to focus our clean up on the local swimming hole. After the rainy season and the main commercial season we will do a down river clean up as we have traditionally done each year.

We had some camera issues but we captured a few pics at the beginning. (Someone forgot to charge the battery!) All total we collected 4 bags of trash around the swimming hole and went about 100 meters up and down the road lining the Juquia River. We were thanked and noticed by the locals using the swimming hole. Hopefully we left an impression and example with them moving forward.

I would like to thank Canoar Rafting at for providing the transportation and paying for the garbage collection. Also I would like to thank the guides and the workers that donated their time and left the Juquia River a better place.



We had a few events that didn’t go off because of bad weather that will happen as Spring arrives. The Nolichucky River Gorge Cleanup organized by Michael Potter hosted by Matt Moses of USA Rafts will be rescheduled as soon as possible after 20 degree weather and snow hit the mountains of East Tennessee. Kelly Gladen’s Muddlety Creek cleanup in West Virginia has been rescheduled for next weekend Saturday March 18, details on our Facebook Page.

As Editor-in-Chief of DBP MAGAZINE ONLINE .COM I had the honor and yet difficult job of entering only one picture each from the cleanups to Sarah at International Rivers for her to judge. Today is the Day of Action! I’m opening my email and here is her selection…

“Mike! This was tough!! My favorite runners-up: The LOVELY composition of the trash bags around the “1422” sign (SERBIA) and the guy leaping with a trash cape (NEW YORK). Two big faves. Third place: The group of folks by the yellow motorcycle/truck thing (ZAMBEZI). I find myself wanting to hang out with them. And I loved the guy in the easy chair (ILLINOIS).


 The winner: It looks like the three women with the truck gathered the most trash, so we have to choose them.”

That’s Haley Johnson and her fantastic coalition who cleaned Chocolate Falls. Not only do they win the 10 shirts to be given out to the volunteers, Haley also found an intact riverboard on Trash Island! Score!!

Thanks to everyone who participated, the effort was truly amazing and is one of the most rewarding contests we’ve run in our 3 ½ year history! The biggest thank you of all belongs to the people of the world who EVERY day fight for all of us to protect our waters, among them the staff of International Rivers. Cheers to us all!

Mike Toughill, Editor-in-Chief




By Chicago Mike

Editor-in-Chief "Chicago" Mike Toughill is co-founder of Dirt Bag Paddlers and former Peshtigo River Manager at Kosir's Rapid Rafts in Wisconsin. He's been Wallacing since 2003.

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