Project AWARE plans for July river cleanup

Board of Supervisors
Staff report

     It’s not every day that hundreds of strangers from across the country converge on one stretch of river with a simple, yet shared goal of picking up garbage. That, however, is exactly what will happen every day from July 8-13, when over 350 volunteers will spend their vacations cleaning up, learning about, and exploring 63 Maquoketa River miles between Manchester and Canton in Delaware, Jones, and Jackson counties.

     “Iowa Project AWARE is an event that demonstrates the public’s drive to maintain and improve Iowa’s river systems. Jones County is honored to have this organization mobilize its tremendous volunteer following to further enhance the health of the Maquoketa River,” said Brad Mormann, Jones County Conservation director

     Iowa Project AWARE, which stands for “A Watershed Awareness River Expedition,” is the state’s largest volunteer river cleanup event. In addition to muscling trash out of the river, participants learn about watersheds, geology, archaeology, recycling and other natural resource topics. This year’s expedition not only provides an opportunity for Maquoketa River residents to showcase their communities, but it also offers an opportunity for residents and visitors alike to connect with the river and enrich their sense of place.

     Volunteers can officially join the river cleanup by paddling the river or by assisting with land-based recycling initiatives, but there are opportunities for others to experience Project AWARE as well. “Infotainment” programs, for example, are held each evening and are open to the public. These programs will highlight local natural resources, history, and archaeology that make this area unique. A much-anticipated camping location is the Delaware County Historical Society Museum Complex in Hopkinton, which will include tours of the Lenox College Campus and surrounding buildings.

     The group will be in Jones County Wednesday, July 11 and Thursday, July 12. On July 11, Mon Maq Dam will mark their halfway point. They will spend the night at Pictured Rocks United Methodist Camp, and depart from Pictured Rocks Access on July 12.

     As part of the event, the University of Iowa Mobile Museum will be parked at Pictured Rocks Camp from 3:30-8:30 p.m., open to the public.

     The evening educational topics, also open to the public, will include: “Archaeology of the Maquoketa Caves Area” and “Natural History Walking Tour of Pictured Rocks Park.”

     Lynette Seigley with Project AWARE spoke with the Jones County Supervisors during their June 6 meeting. She said three years ago, Project AWARE took over the Wapsipinicon River.

     The days spent on the river vary from 5 to 21 miles.

     All of the trash that comes off the Maquoketa River will be recycled. Seigley said last year they had 28 tons of trash off the Cedar River, and were able to recycle 88 percent of it. She said the days they are in Jones County, refuse will be taken to the transfer station, and fees have been waived.

     Registration is not required for the general public to attend evening programs, but it is required for those who wish to volunteer for the river cleanup itself. To avoid a late registration fee, volunteers are asked to have their registration forms postmarked by Friday, June 15. Tent camping is included with registration and a limited number of canoes are available.

     So far, there are 300 people registered. Registration is $35 per day and includes meals and canoe.

     For more information on this event and to download the registration materials, please visit



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