River Yields ‘100 Pounds Of Trash Per Day’

A DIY conservation effort, this summer two men embody the ‘packing it out’ ethos by bagging and hauling debris as they paddle hours each day.

minnesota river canoe
Anderson with a canoe-load of trash; photo by Paul Twedt

We’re following Michael Anderson and Paul Twedt as a part of our Packing It Out project. The pair run the Adventure Stewardship Alliance. This summer they focus on rivers.

The goal is to paddle hundreds of miles and clean up trash — and pack it out — on the Namekagon, St. Croix, Mississippi, and Minnesota Rivers.

trash from river cleanup
A typical daily haul; photo by Paul Twedt

The current challenge, an down-river voyage on the Minnesota River, is proving ripe for their cause.

So far, Anderson and Twedt are exceeding quotas, with old tires, signs, shoes, bottles, and every kind of erratum you can imagine as of late totaling nearly 100 pounds packed out per day.

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In all, just on the Minnesota River alone, they grabbed, hauled, and dumped 1,350 pounds of trash in 16 days.

Adventure Stewardship Alliance

skin-on-frame canoe
A custom skin-on-frame canoe keeps the crew swift, even when loaded up; photo by Paul Twedt

Twedt wrote on the Adventure Stewardship Alliance blog about the journey, and interactions with locals along the route:

“It used to be normal and accepted for folks to put their trash and old cars on the ice at the end of winter, making bets on when the current would flush it away as the ice melted. Yea, better than that these days. But how much better?”

The update post, titled “Small Town Stories,” talks about conservation through a locals’ lens, and the challenge of seeing beyond the status quo.

trash hauled from the river

He writes in an awed tone about the ancient waterway, which winds through fields and wide valleys in a sleepy state. The paddle and camp each night on the river bank. Small towns serve as oasis and resupply points.

Twedt challenges locals — and everyone — to “listen and learn from the river’s infinite lessons” and how being so “constant, so old, so persistent, it seems fine.”

But the reality is this: Two people paddling downstream can pull more than 100 pounds of refuse from the river a day.

Camp spot on MN River
Bivy for the night along the Minnesota River; photo by Paul Twedt

Packing It Out and the Adventure Stewardship Alliance are on a mission to do the tangible cleanup work and also inspire others along the way.

Their favorite hashtag this year doubles as a quick statement on their mission — #LeaveItBetter. In life, hiking, paddling, or on a cross-country tour on a bike, we hope to do the same.

Thunderheads in the distance
Thunderheads in the distance; photo by Paul Twedt

– GearJunkie’s 2017 ‘Packing It Out’ project (including the Adventure Stewardship Alliance) is sponsored by REI.

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