Front Porch Blog

Cleaning Up The Watauga!

A big thanks goes out to all those who helped make the Watauga River a cleaner, more beautiful place to swim, fish, and boat.

On Saturday, September 10th, the Upper Watauga Riverkeeper helped to complete a cleanup of the Watauga River, as part of the nationwide river cleanup day. Wendy Patoprsty and staff from the Watauga County Cooperative Extension organized the event and several ASU professors recruited student volunteers.

A total of 114 volunteers removed 3,740 pounds of trash from the Watauga along Highway 105 between Foscoe and Boone, and along Highway 321. The total weight collected last fall was 1,940 pounds. Let’s hope this indicates that this year’s volunteers did an even better job of finding trash and removing hard-to-access objects, and not that more people have been discarding trash in the river.

I was privileged to take a group of Appalachian State freshman down to the Guy Ford bridge, off Highway 321. I was able to con about 13 students into joining me at the bridge with sincere promises that the area around Guy Ford bridge “wasn’t that bad.” Little did I know, some campers had half-burned camping equipment and left it with broken glass and other trash just downstream of the bridge. After the campsite was cleaned, students hiked up and down the river. The best finds were by volunteers who swam through the river, which had calmed after Tuesday’s rain, and dove to find tires, lumber and even a large road construction sign.

The collection from our site alone filled the back of a pickup truck.

I hope the volunteers who were new to the area took ownership and pride in their contribution and will return to enjoy the river in its spruced up state. When you are down at the river, keep in mind the awesome service the new students contributed to our community.

Other group leaders included: Barbara Michel of ASU Walker School of Business, Dick Hearn, Joan Hearn, and Teresa Buckwalter from the Watauga River Partners, Travis Small and Andi Cochran of Appalachian Geographical Society, Jaimie McGirt, and Andy Hill. Thanks goes out to GDS disposal service, Watauga County Sanitation, and Watauga County Maintenance for help with trash and recyclable disposal.

Check out the Watauga County Cooperative Extension blog for more information.

While Erin prefers to be on rivers rather than at a desk, as our Central Appalachian Program Manager she devotes a lot of time delving through data to make it meaningful to others who care about the health of our waterways.


  1. Sarah Anthony says:

    I totally believe they found that much trash up there. The rivers that run through Appalachia are ridiculously polluted. Some of them have entire cars left to rot away and seep all kinds of chemicals into the rivers, lining the banks!

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