Since 2006 volunteers throughout the valley have come together for an Annual Bitterroot River Clean Up.
Volunteers spread out from Painted Rocks and Sula all the way to Missoula to clean as much of the river as possible.
The Bitter Root Water Forum, a local nonprofit that works to bring the community together to protect, enhance and restore waterways in the Bitterroot, has been hosting the event for over eight years.
“We were excited to host the 15th year of this event,” said Katie Vennie, Communications and Outreach Manager for the Water Forum.
Vennie said that participation was similar to previous years with 90 volunteers signing up for walking sites and floating stretches.
“Most people reported finding less trash than they’d seen in previous years, but even with that, volunteers still pulled out more than 2,000 pounds of trash,” she said.
Coming in as the “Best Trash” winner was a bath tub removed from the river between the Tucker Crossing to Bell Crossing put ins by the Olwell Family.
The event had to forgo their usual volunteer BBQ due to the COVID-19 pandemic but tried to still have a party atmosphere at the Trash Drop off at Anglers Roost.
“We had volunteers with ‘Thank you’ signs to cheer our clean up participants,” Vennie said. “Although we couldn’t do the big party we planned on doing we tried to still make it fun for everyone. We’re so grateful to this community for coming together for our river.”
The Bitter Root Water Forum encourages cleaning up the river throughout the year not just for this one-day event. Their “Clean Up All Year” Program stocks reusable litter bags at fishing access sites throughout the valley so people can keep a handle on their trash while recreating on or near the river.
“It’s our first year having the stands mainly at fishing access sites,” Vennie said. “That way people can grab them right as their heading out on the river. The bags have been flying off the stands.”
Vennie wanted to remind folks that the bags are for collect trash for disposing at home or a legal dumpsite and then people should reuse the bag the next time they are out on the river.
Local sponsors who made this event possible include – RAPP Family Foundation, Ravalli County Fish & Wildlife Association, Bitterroot Conservation District, Fly Fishers of the Bitterroot, Bitter Root Brewing, Freestone Fly Shop, ABC acres, Bitterroot Disposal, Runner's Edge, Hamilton Dairy Queen, Bitterroot Trout Unlimited, Iron Horse Athletic Club, The Loose Caboose, Sharon Dedmon, Dr. James Olsen, Bob Heinzen and Shelly Robertson, Bill and Donna Wichers, Archie Thomas and Merry Schrumpf.