CAÑON CITY, Colo. — The Royal Gorge Rio embarked on their 2022 Annual River Clean-up, rafting the rapids of the Arkansas River and scooping trash.

“We’re down here almost every day in the summertime and we figured this was our opportunity to give back,” said Ashlee Sack, cleanup volunteer.

Volunteers are giving back, but with a unique twist.

“We raft in the river and actually pick up trash from the middle, not just the bank,” said Royal Gorge Rio president, Chris Moffett.

Rafting is a unique and fun way to get everyone out to help clear trash. Credit: Rachel Saurer

Rafting the river to clear trash holds a lot of benefits. One of those is they can cover a lot of distance in a short amount of time.

“We take about 3 hours on the river,” Moffett said.

But that time can vary from person to person.

“[It takes us] an hour and 25 minutes,” Ashlee’s son, Blaine said.

No matter how long they take on the river, the mindset is still the same.

Rafters tackled four sections of the river to help clean a total of about 35 miles on the Arkansas River. Credit: Rachel saurer

“Colorado Springs, even in Pueblo and Canyon City, this river is literally the water that you shower in, drink, you know, bathe your children… so it’s really important to maintain a healthy waterway,” Moffett said.

And, letting trash build up in the river could also have an impact on recreational activities.

“No one will want to body surf or doing anything fun on the river. And the river will just be this polluted trash puddle,” Blaine said.

Which is why Royal Gorge Rio is partnering with American Rivers to clear 35 miles of the Arkansas River of trash.

“We have multiple sections being ran right now,” Moffett said. “Our whole board organizes this event. It takes a lot of help from a lot of people to get it going and then we also have a lot of awesome local sponsors who help us do this as well so it takes a village.”

Even though it’s only Royal Gorge Rio’s second annual river cleanup, Moffett said it’s not going to be their last.

“It’s a relatively new event but we’re going to keep it going forever.”