Campus, community volunteers make 2017 Tuck River Cleanup a success

Tuck River Cleanup teams come ashore, bringing bags of trash and a tire for proper disposal.

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It was another year and another successful Tuck River Cleanup, considered to be the largest single-day volunteer event to remove trash and restore a waterway in the nation.

Held Saturday, April 8, by Western Carolina University’s Base Camp Cullowhee, 581 registered participants took part in efforts along nearly 30 miles of the Tuckaseigee River in Jackson County. The amount of trash and debris removed was estimated at more than a ton, said Kay Tufts, assistant director with Base Camp Cullowhee and an event organizer.

“Per usual, we had an impressive collection of tires pulled from the river,” Tufts said. “Trout Unlimited and the WCU Fly Fishing Club have been scouting their section for a while and managed to dig out some tiles and other big debris with a backhoe they brought in ― that might be a Tuck Cleanup first. We also had a lot more walking volunteers than in the past, so more of the land and roadway in Dillsboro and on River Road in Webster was cleaned up. And we got to clean a new stretch of the river, from East LaPorte to Cullowhee Dam. This section has not been cleaned in the past by participants, so we broke some new ground this year.”

The event originally was organized in 1984 by a small group of students and staff from WCU’s Outdoor Programs who recognized the need to clean up the river. The importance of the cleanup is both aesthetic, environmental and economic, said to Julie H. Spiro, executive director of the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce.

“The chamber has been promoting water adventure on the Tuck River for well over three decades,” she said. “We feel that the Tuck is one of the most valuable resources to our economy here in Jackson County.”

Spiro cited a recent national survey produced by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finding that the average angler spends $995 on fishing activities each year. Jackson County has seen significant economic growth in the fishing industry over the past five years, with six new retail fishing stores and guide services opening, including one on the WCU campus. Also, the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission found that nearly 149,000 anglers fished in the public Mountain Heritage Trout Waters during 2014, with a total effect of approximately $383 million to the state’s economy.

“The Tuck River is part of the designated Mountain Heritage Trout Waters,” Spiro said. “We are stocked with more fish than any other county in the state and anglers from all over the southeastern United States are discovering the Tuck. Clean water is a necessity for the ongoing economic vitality of our area. We truly appreciate all the volunteers that help each year with the cleanup.”

Braxton McDaniel of the WCU Student Social Work Association reaches for a flattened beer can along a steeper bank of the Tuckaseigee River.

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.

Additional support was provided by Charles Wolf of State Farm Insurance, M. Rice Inc., Tuckaseegee Outfitters, Allman Insurance Agency, Emma Bus Line, Coward Hicks & Siler, Dillsboro River Company, Oliver Padgett, Republic Services, Wolf Creek Tree Farm & Nursery, Falling Creek Camp Inc. and Wildwater Ltd. Raffle donations were provided by ACE Resort, The Chalet Inn, Bojangles, Santa’s Land, National Whitewater Center, Speedy’s Pizza, Riverwood Pottery, New Belgium, Chaco, Wal-Mart, Suds Your Duds, In Your Ear Music, Ingle’s, Dunkin Donuts and Bryson City Outdoors.

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

Note: Drone footage courtesy of John Witherspoon.