Deschutes River gets a deep clean

July 12, 2013
Deschutes River gets a deep clean

Annual Stewardship Day lures about 50 river lovers to volunteer

By Branden Andersen

Armed with trash grabbers and river-ready shoes, volunteers at the 15th annual Upper Deschutes Watershed Council's Stream Stewardship Day collectively spread compost, cleared invasive weeds and picked up trash both in the river and on the river banks.

The group of approximately 50 people started the day at Riverbend Park and moved through the Old Mill District, where they stopped just above the Colorado Avenue dam.

“There is so much trash down there," said Laurel Brauns, spokeswoman for Tumalo Creek Kayak and Canoe, a partner in the event. “Everything from recreational floaters who are throwing their cans over their shoulder to the general waste management problem we have with people dropping trash."

Kolleen Yake, education director for the council who organized the event, said the event started by picking up mill equipment that was dumped into the river after the mills shut down. But, since the recreational water activities have boomed in recent years, Yake said that cleaners are finding more pollutants than anything else.

Michael Dean, 40, of Bend was one of 13 divers from the Oregon Scuba Club who volunteered to pick up trash from the bottom of the river.

“It's not as easy as it looks," Dean said as he was catching his breath on the riverbanks. “The current down there is strong and will pull you faster than you expect. You need to grab a rock or tree to be able to stop and scoop things."

Participating for the second year, Dean said he's amazed by what is typically thrown or dropped into the river, which can be as deep as 15 feet, according to Yake.

“It is really sad to see what we find," Dean said, adding he pulled out beer bottles, sunglasses, cellphones and tennis balls halfway through the dive yesterday. “This river was a gift given to us by God, and we just pollute it."

Another diver found a chair that was a similar style used at the nearby Red Robin, along with Red Robin drinking glasses. Other divers found a flag from the footbridge that spans the Deschutes in the Old Mill District. Yake said past crews have found everything from bikes to personal safes.

“It makes you wonder about how these things got down there," she said.

On the riverbanks, other volunteers spend their time in the sun pulling out invasive weeds — specifically, spotted knapweed and thistles — or picking up trash.

Abby Volkmann, a council intern and event volunteer, said it was a good way to get out of the office and make a difference.

“The Deschutes is a very important part of our community," she said. “It's important to both the city and the Watershed Council to keep it clean and healthy."

Yake said she hopes people will notice the cleaning effort. She told volunteers that it was important to let people passing by know what they were doing.

“Let people know that you're cleaning up the trash that people leave behind," she said to the volunteers. “Maybe, next time, they won't throw it."

— Reporter: 541-383-0348,

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An aerial view of a body of water.