Tuck River Cleanup expands scope, will accommodate more volunteers

The 35th annual Tuck River Cleanup, conducted by Western Carolina University’s outdoor programming organization Base Camp Cullowhee, will be held Saturday, April 13.

Hundreds of volunteers are expected to raft down or walk along the Tuckaseigee River between Cullowhee and Whittier, collecting litter, debris and discarded items. The scenic waterway is nationally recognized as an outdoor recreation destination, with fishing, canoe and raft trips, and family-oriented activities available.

The annual Tuck River Cleanup is often cited as one of the largest single-day activities of its kind.

Kay Tufts, assistant director with Base Camp Cullowhee and event organizer, described the cleanup as a springtime tradition for campus and the community. “Last year, we were almost overwhelmed by the response and had students waiting for transportation to the river and civic groups covering the same territory,” she said. “That enthusiasm is great and we want to be more efficient to take full advantage of it.”

Those wanting to volunteer should do so at a sign-in station by the WCU Alumni Tower on the day of the event, with the first 500 registrants receiving a free T-shirt upon completion of activities. Rafting participants will be assigned to a raft and provided with a paddle, personal flotation device, trash bags and transportation to and from the river. Participants must weigh at least 40 pounds, should wear shoes that won’t come off in the water (tennis shoes are best, no flip-flops or shower sandals) and are encouraged to eat before registering. There are alternative walking routes for anyone preferring not to raft.

“Going along with the effort of more efficiency, another big goal of mine this year is to increase the safety and risk management on the river,” Tufts said. “There are going to be several rafts that will have a guide, along with the volunteers, which should help out immensely with timeliness getting down the river and safety. Also, there will be several safety personnel in kayaks assisting rafts.”

Event Schedule

  • 8-9 a.m. and 12-1 p.m. – Rafting registration
  • 10-11 a.m. ― Walking route registration
  • 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. – Transportation to the river
  • 2-5 p.m. – Transportation from the river

Trash Cleanup Rules

  • Do not pick up any glass, large metal objects, animal carcasses, sharp objects, needles or weapons.
  • Don’t place items weighing more than 50 lbs. in raft.
  • Base Camp Cullowhee programs and events are alcohol and drug free.
  • Inclement weather means stop picking up trash and paddle immediately to the designated take out.

A student trash collection competition will be held for most trash by weight and there will be a drawing for door prizes donated by local businesses.

Civic and community groups can get involved with Tuck River Cleanup by contacting Conner White at cawhite6@wcu.edu to get more information. Last year, Boy Scout Troops 914 and 999, along with the Tuckaseigee Chapter of Trout Unlimited and the Sylva Rotary Club, took part, Tufts said.

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