His Own Personal River Cleanup

Sunday was a stunningly beautiful part of the long Labor Day Weekend. I spent the last 4 hours of the day wandering down the Fox River attempting to catch fish. The catching of fish kept interfering with the river wandering, but I can't seem to just go for a stroll down the river without a fishing pole. Since I have the fishing pole I may as well cast to likely fish holding spots. This day the fish were cooperating too eagerly. I guess I should look at that as a plus.

In that short time at least 15 canoes and kayaks came drifting down the river. This is the most I've seen come through here in one day since I shut down my canoe shop a few years ago. I thought the interest in drifting this section of the river had died off.

People always seem to be amazed at drifting past some guy standing less than waist deep in the river. I think they think the river is much deeper. It is, in some parts, but not many. The question from the passersby is invariably "so if I fall in, I should just stand up, shouldn't I?"

"You can swim, but you'll wind up scraping your knuckles," is my usual answer.

Near the end of the day a canoe and a tandem kayak drifted by about 100 yards away. The kayak had a couple of kids paddling it and they appeared to be barely teenagers. The canoe had a guy that looked to be my age, mid 50's, paddling solo.

The whole front half of his canoe was piled high with what appeared to be garbage, it was hard to tell from the distance. Definitely looked like garbage, I've done the same too many times to be mistaken.

River cleanups are hard, backbreaking and filthy work as you try to lift garbage off the shoreline and the riverbed. There's a rotting stench that goes along with the garbage that makes it even a little more unpleasant.

I used to organize and help with river cleanups years ago. One year on Salt Creek we did a few cleanups that removed 19 tons of garbage from a relatively small stretch of a relatively small creek.

Think about that, how does 19 tons of garbage get dumped in and along a small stretch of a creek.

I've done a number of cleanups out on the Fox River too. I used to try to get anglers involved, I assumed they had a vested interest in keeping the waters they fish clean. I assumed incorrectly, getting them to show up was next to impossible. Once we got other groups along the river involved, groups that have nothing to do with fishing, things went much better and a fair amount of garbage would get picked up.

I've never understood that.

I had to give up doing river cleanups, my back has let me know that it will no longer cooperate in hauling mud covered garbage out of rivers. That's a shame, I always enjoyed the picture opportunities. You just never know what you're going to come across.

Here this guy was, drifting down the river on a beautiful day with a couple of kids, picking up the garbage of others as he went. No organized event, no one asked him to do this, apparently just something he does.

I was impressed. I wonder if the kids that were with him were impressed with what he does. They should be, it's not something they'll see very often. Would be nice if this guys efforts made a lasting impression on them.

When I got done fishing and back at the parking lot, there was the garbage, stacked up under a tree.

The park district is pretty good about picking up anything that's dragged out of the river. Just leave it in a pile in a relatively easy place to pull up a truck and they'll take care of it.

The most common thing I've found on the shore and the riverbed are car tires. Here was another one in the collection of garbage.

Over the last 39 years I've owned a number of cars.

I can't recall ever losing track of one of my tires.

I wish I had the opportunity to meet the guy that dragged all this garbage out of the river. Would have been nice to say thanks, thanks for your efforts. Thanks for making my walks in the river a more pleasant experience.

I also know, back be damned, I would have given him my phone number.

"Call me next time you go out. I'll show you a few spots we can clean."

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