Volunteers will have an opportunity this summer to spend their vacations working as aquatic garbage collectors – cleaning up, learning about and exploring 90 miles of the Big Sioux River between Sioux Falls, S.D., and Westfield, Iowa, from July 12 to 19.
Project AWARE, which stands for A Watershed Awareness River Expedition, is the Iowa Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) annual volunteer river cleanup event. In addition to muscling trash out of the river, participants learn about watersheds, water quality, recycling and other natural resource topics.
This year’s expedition marks AWARE’s 12th year.
This year’s event is unique in that the Iowa DNR and the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks will team up to focus efforts on the Big Sioux River, which borders both states.Dakota Department of Game, Fish & Parks is excited to partner with the Iowa DNR to provide resources and assist with cleanup along the Big Sioux River this coming July,” says District Park Supervisor Eric Vander Stouwe of South Dakota. “The objectives of this event complement our Department’s mission statement to protect and enhance South Dakota’s natural resources and outdoor recreational opportunities. We look forward to our two states working side by side to clean up the section of the Big Sioux River from Gitchie Manitou to Westfield, Iowa.”
Volunteers participate by paddling down the river in canoes and cleaning up river trash along the way. Opportunities for land-based volunteers are also available. While the expedition lasts a week, volunteers may stay and help for as little or as long as they like.
Project AWARE is family-friendly and provides the opportunity to experience a different river each year.
“This is a great opportunity for people around the state to see and experience the northwest corner of Iowa,” said Mark Bohner, a Le Mars resident and nine-year veteran of Project AWARE. “I got involved when Project AWARE was on the Little Sioux River in 2005. I’ve been hooked ever since and look forward to it each year.”
In addition to river cleanup, Project AWARE also offers a unique blend of educational programs and demonstrations, volunteer camaraderie, camping and other outdoor recreation opportunities that enrich the experience.
“The Sioux County Conservation Board is excited to have the opportunity to be part of Project AWARE. This event has a reputation of being an outstanding program and provides stewardship, awareness, and newfound friendships,” said Sunday Ford, assistant director and naturalist for the Sioux County Conservation Board.
In the past 11 years, more than 2,800 AWARE volunteers from across the state have cleaned up more than 877 river miles, removing 277 tons of trash – 72 percent of which has been recycled – from rivers all across Iowa.
For more information on this event and to download the registration materials, visit www.iowaprojectaware.com. Questions can be directed to Lynette Seigley at 515-310-0376 or Lynette.Seigley@dnr.iowa.gov.