Debris removal keeps current clear
It’s the rare river user who doesn’t lose something in the river. Flip flops, Chapsticks, sunglasses, plastic bags and water bottles all have an annoying habit of slipping off bodies and out of pockets, falling off paddleboards or getting ejected from rafts.
And while it would be an exaggeration to say that the Methow River is “littered” with trash, it’s far from pristine, either.
That’s why every other year dozens of volunteers head to the river for the specific purpose of removing extraneous manmade objects from the waterway and its banks, said community river cleanup organizer John Crandall.
Although most of what will be recovered from the river is trash, not all of it fits that description. After all, someone may be very happy to get back the riding lawn mower that Crandall and his team hope to pull from the riverbed during the 2022 Methow River Cleanup, on Saturday (Aug. 13).
But the river cleanup is not about recovery — it’s about keeping the river clear, clean and relatively unspoiled. And with many hands on deck, it’s a chore that seems manageable biannually.
“We don’t want it to be a burden,” Crandall said. “We last did the river cleanup in August of 2020, when we pulled about 500 pounds of trash out of the river, so now it’s time again, especially since the river is dropping and it’s easier to recover items.”
Tons of trash
After the Carlton Complex fires and subsequent floods in 2014, the river cleanup efforts yielded more than 20 tons of trash. “It was a massive effort,” Crandall said. “We don’t anticipate anywhere near that volume again, but there is an annual accumulation of debris that needs to be pulled out.”
In addition to the water bottles, aluminum cans and footwear that volunteers will find in and alongside the river, Crandall anticipates hauling out several sticks of irrigation pipe, a disc from a disc harrow that someone spotted near Carlton years ago, and an antenna array used for tracking fish that is somewhere near Pateros.
“I’ll have to snorkel to pinpoint the location of that one,” Crandall said. There are also still remnants of the green-roofed house that washed away in Mazama 15 years ago. “We find pieces of that every year,” Crandall said.
And then there are the chairs. “We pull out a surprising number of chairs every time,” Crandall said. The chairs aren’t falling out of rafts; they’re forgotten down by the shore at the end of the season. The following spring the river rises and the chairs get swept downstream, eventually sinking or getting snagged on branches.
Prospective river cleaners can register through Volunteer Methow at http://volunteermethow.org. Contact Crandall at (509) 341-4341 for details or with additional ideas. Volunteer Methow will note which legally accessible sections of river various volunteers are planning to target. All who register through Volunteer Methow will be entered into a drawing for a day of whitewater rafting for two, donated by Methow Rafting.
Participating in the river cleanup doesn’t have to be onerous; simply plan your trip to the river and budget in an extra hour or two to stop and pick up trash along the way.
Once trash is collected, it can be dropped at the Winthrop Barn, the Twisp River Park, or the Carlton Hole, where trucks will be stationed from 8 a.m.-6 p.m. WasteWise is donating some of the disposal services, and funding from the Upper Columbia Salmon Recovery Board will pay for the disposal of big-ticket items like tires, which cost $9-$26 apiece to dispose at the transfer station. The Department of Natural Resources is also contributing funding to the trash removal expenses.
“Water is the lifeblood of our valley,” Crandall said. “I get inspired to do this river cleanup because we depend on the river so much. Doing what we can to keep it clean is an important step to keeping our community healthy. This is how we show respect for the river; this is how we show we care.”
Led by the Methow Salmon Recovery Foundation and the Methow Restoration Council, the river cleanup is a collaborative effort that also includes the following contributing organizations: WasteWise, Methow Recycles, Methow Valley Flyfishers, Methow Rafting, Town of Twisp, KTRT, Methow Conservancy, Volunteer Methow, Washington’s Departments of Fish & Wildlife and Ecology, the Methow Valley News, Methow Arts, and the Bonneville Environmental Foundation.