Here at TopKayaker's online shop and in our local wilderness in 2020 we are seeing unprecidented numbers of new kayakers. Most are possibly new to the outdoors and not following the most basic priciples of respect for our natural places. There will be some work to be done by volunteers such as are told about in this account. Join a club by checking out the links below and follow the example of great recreational kayakers who make many of these beautiful get-aways possible.
River Cleanup with a Mixed Fleet by Eric Barcley
Over the spring and summer 2019 I had the opportunity to do three sponsored river clean ups in eastern North Carolina - one on the Neuse River and two on the Tar. For all three of these events, I used my Ocean Kayak Malibu Two. This self-bailing tandem sit on top kayak had enough room for a friend as well as industrial sized trash bags full of trash, automobile tires that we pulled from the river bed, and some other unique findings like a car battery and some loose rebar.
After the river clean up season was over for the year, I decided to sit down and do a comparison of how the OK Malibu Two compared to the other vessels I paddled with during these three separate events.
The first event I did in the spring was on the Tar River in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. This trip was unique from the other two in that we had a separate put in and takeout, paddling downriver a few miles and collecting trash along the way. The Rocky Mount cleanup had the most participants, as well as the most trash, of all three events.
A handful of paddlers used canoes for this trip - definitely helpful in hauling tires and trash back to the takeout. My sit on top outperformed the canoes in allowing me to easily exit and re-enter the kayak at the river bank in order to collect the garbage that had made its way to shore.
With another paddler on board, I was often able to hop off in knee deep water and work the bank while my friend paddled in parallel. The canoes may have had the edge on us in total capacity for cargo (in our case, garbage), but we'd realize our main advantage when we made it to the takeout. The takeout was a steep embankment with mud as slick as ice for the first ten feet or so, followed by a wooden ramp for hauling a boat up, with stairs on the side. This proved to be a challenge for everyone, regardless of their watercraft, but it was most challenging for the canoes due to their increased weight. With the use of trash runners, ropes, and good old fashioned team work, we managed to get all the boats, boards, gear, and garbage up the embankment without any injury or damage. The trash was transferred to the dumpster on site and a post clean up celebration took place at the Rock Mount Mills back near the put in.
The Stand Up Paddleboards (SUP’s)
Both the Rocky Mount clean up, and the Neuse River clean up in New Bern, had paddlers utilizing SUP's for collecting and transporting their trash. At first I thought these were interesting choices to use for this task, as my own experiences with SUP's have proven to be challenging in regards to maintaining balance, but it quickly became apparent that these paddlers were very experienced on their boards. Their light weight construction gave them the benefit when it came to carrying them to and from the river, especially at the aforementioned takeout in Rocky Mount. The flat decks of the boards allowed them to carry a good amount of garbage, though this would be one area where I felt like my sit on top had the advantage, as we even off loaded some trash from the paddleboarders and transported it on the Malibu Two. A hybrid SOT/SUP would probably work excellent for a river clean up, something like an Imagine Surf Wizard or an Ocean Kayak Yak Board perhaps.
Sit in Kayaks
The most common watercraft at all three events was the recreational sit in kayak (I have seen a whitewater sit in kayak at a river cleanup before). They offered more challenges with hauling trash, depending on the size of the cockpit, and they weren't as easy for the paddlers to ingress and egress when collecting items from the bank. However, in my own experiences with sit in kayaks, they tend to be lighter than sit on tops so they did have that advantage over us and the canoes. Luckily, nobody in any of the events capsized, but that would certainly be an area where the sit on top would have the advantage as well.
While I personally feel that the sit on top kayak is the best option for a river cleanup, the truth is anything that gets you on the river and allows you to assist with these conservation efforts is the right choice. These events are about getting outside and cleaning the waterways in our communities, waterways that often are where we do much our recreational paddling. The events are great community gatherings; every cleanup that I've done has a had a local outfitter supply kayaks for people who don't have their own but still want to do their part to help.
There is a usually a meetup afterwards, the cleanup on the Tar River in Tarboro had a gathering at the Tarboro Brewing Company where all the participants of age received one free beverage. One event that I wasn't able to make it to in Raleigh even had a fly fishing demonstration following the cleanup. Of course, you can clean up trash from your local waterways anytime, but the sponsored cleanups are fun, productive events where you'll meet other paddlers and come together to improve the water quality in your community.
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