Annual Tuck River Cleanup set for April 8; volunteers sought for perhaps biggest event yet

The 33rd annual Tuck River Cleanup, hosted by Western Carolina University’s Base Camp Cullowhee, will be held Saturday, April 8, and organizers are seeking additional volunteers willing to get dirty to keep things clean.

Considered the nation’s largest single-day volunteer effort to remove trash from a waterway, WCU students, faculty and staff will come together with members of the community to spruce up the Tuckaseigee River in Jackson County from rafts or walking along from the riverbank. Each year, volunteers remove tons of garbage from 27 miles of the river. The event was originally organized by students and staff of WCU’s outdoor programs who recognized the need to clean up the river.

“As a whitewater enthusiast and this year’s event coordinator, I am thrilled to be involved with planning this cleanup event,” said Kay Tufts, assistant director with Base Camp Cullowhee and an event organizer. “The Cleanup is a tradition that is deeply engrained in the Western community and promotes environmental stewardship. It is encouraging to see upwards of 1,000 volunteers come together to clean up our community’s watershed.”

Tuck River Cleanup participants should register the day of the event at a sign-in station by the Alumni Tower on campus. The first 500 participants receive a free T-shirt. Base Camp Cullowhee will provide rafting participants with a paddle, personal flotation device, trash bags, raft and transportation to and from the river.

The 2017 Tuck River Cleanup will be held Saturday, April 8.

Following cleanup activities, participants are invited to the annual picnic at 4 p.m. on the A.K. Hinds University Center lawn with a free cookout, live entertainment, yard games and the chance to win prizes donated by local businesses. Winners must be present to receive the prizes. WCU’s Division of Student Affairs and Aramark will donate the food for the picnic.

Besides the immeasurable environmental importance, there is an economic factor for the cleanup, Tufts said. Jackson County is a travel destination for its scenic beauty and known as the “Trout Capital” of North Carolina, with the Tuckaseigee River among its premiere attractions for anglers, as well as receiving the most stocking of trout of any waterway in the state. An analysis by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission found that trout fishing has a $174 million economic impact on Western North Carolina.

Major sponsors include Duke Energy, Aramark, Catamount Peaks, Republic Services, The Sylva Herald, Wildwater, Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort, Dillsboro River Company, Pepsi, Jackson County Travel and Tourism, WCU Student Government Association, Nantahala Outdoor Center, Base Camp Cullowhee, WCU Student Affairs and the Campus Recreation Center.

For more information about the Tuck River Cleanup, contact Tufts at or 828-227-8804.