Nineteen high school and college students from different parts of the state gathered Sunday to clean up trash on Adrian's Island and other nearby Missouri River banks.
The cleanup was a joint project of Missouri River Relief and the Conservation Federation of Missouri. The volunteer students were members of CFM's Conservation Leadership Corps - students interested in conservation/natural resources.
It was the Leadership Corps' first event of the year. For some of them, it was their first time on the river.
Steve Schnarr, executive director of Missouri River Relief, said the organization does four big river cleanups each year, plus other smaller events like Sunday's.
"The real goal today is for all of these kids to get together for the first time in person, get to meet each other, work together, start to build team leadership and also get to experience one of Missouri's most powerful natural resources in a real up close and personal way together," he said.
"In the process of doing that, we hope to pick up as much trash as we can."
He said they chose Adrian's Island because of the building of the Bicentennial Bridge. Also, they've cleaned up in the area previously and knew it was accessible.
Sticks and driftwood piled up near the river banks at Adrian's Island. Walking across it could be dicey. Not all of the wood supported the weight of the volunteers crossing it. Some stepped on piles of branches/driftwood that broke through, causing them to fall a foot or two into the brush.
Past the river's edge, Adrian's Island was a wooded area with sunlight peeking through groups of trees. A dirt road goes through the island where heavy machinery is developing the area into a park.
Volunteers had a good view of the nearby Bicentennial Bridge to the island, which is expected to be completed this fall.
No snakes were seen on the property, just three deer and plenty of mosquitoes.
Most of the trash picked up washed up from the river, which was 18 feet higher just two weeks ago. The group found empty liquor bottles, water bottles, a full bottle of motor oil, foam, even a small boat that was pointing upward from within the river beside the bank.
Before going, Schnarr spoke to the group about the day's plan and safety measures, warning them about everything from maintaining a weight balance on the boats to the possibility of silver carp jumping into the boat.
He also told the group the river's nickname, the Big Muddy, was appropriate, as it contains a high amount of sentiment. At one point, one person got his boots stuck in the muddy bank while trying to help someone else who was stuck in the mud.
Abby McMurtry said the event was "a huge learning experience."
The Columbia native is entering her freshman year at the University of Missouri-Columbia and plans to major in fisheries and wildlife.
"I think it's definitely an eye-opener of how much trash there was," she said. "I knew there was a lot of trash, but oh, my goodness."
She said the amount of trash upset her, knowing the effects it has on the river and environment.
The group was divided among three boats. Before returning to the starting point at Noren Access, the groups boarded two of the boats and filled the third boat with bags of trash.