Tag Archives: Meramec River

River des Peres Trash Bash: how it feels to make a four-ton impact

photos by Gabe Cotton

It is about 9:30 am, on a 55 degree Saturday morning in mid-October, and I am up to my shoulders in Gravois Creek. I have a rope wrapped around a gloved hand, with a paddle in my other hand, pulling a recently submerged canoe, half filled with dumped tires. Welcome to the River des Peres Trash Bash!

– Gabe Cotton, “Stream Team Adventures: My Gravois Creek float trip at the Trash Bash! 10/18/2014” on Camping Missouri

Gabe Cotton was one of 350 volunteers who came to the River des Peres Trash Bash, and his awesome blog post about it details every step of the way. We’re thrilled to reprint part of his story here, and happily report that his estimated 40 tires added up to 92 total tires removed, and his bags of trash were part of more than 4.33 tons collected that day. Here’s Gabe’s story, in his own words:

“Walking next to a canoe in the slow moving creek, I was making my way through the water, looking for that unmistakable round silhouette. Reaching down to pull out a tire, then taking a few steps to discover another one. It is a process of popping it loose from the mud, scraping the lodged dirt out from inside it, and then dumping as much water out before setting the tire in the canoe to be taken, after it is filled, downstream to where a group of volunteers was waiting to help load them into a trailer. I had pulled out about 14 tires from a 50 foot stretch of Gravois Creek, decided that was enough for a load, hopped in the canoe and started paddling my way to the people on the bank that were going to do the hard part. It wasn’t 30 seconds on my way that I heard the sound of rushing water. Had I thought about it, I should have stayed out of the canoe, guiding it to our landing point…but I thought that it might be nice to ride my way there, take a minute to sit and be out of the filthy water, and pull in triumphantly with my bounty of rubber and tread. Yeah, one side of the canoe had dipped below the surface due to all the weight in it, and my boat was taking on water.

At that point there is nothing you can do to stop it. It will continue to fill, and I felt that if I could pull it submerged with the air trapped in the upright tires to keep them afloat within its gunwales, I could probably get them all to where I was heading with just a bit more effort than I was planning. And that’s when I hit the deep part.

2014-10-22 15.49.26So there I was, paddle in one hand, rope in the other, swimming through the mucky water of Gravois Creek while pulling a submerged canoe with a trail of floating tires behind me. I had bitten off more tires than I could chew, and learned an embarrassing yet valuable lesson about capacity and enthusiasm that I wasn’t going to forget. Luckily I had a more seasoned veteran than myself by the name of Jay in another canoe following behind me, grabbing all the tires that had escaped. I made it to shore, unloaded the four tires I had left, and then pulled the canoe out and dumped the water, so that I could head right back in to go collect more.

This was my Saturday morning float trip on Gravois Creek in South St. Louis County, and disgusting as it was, it was one of the most satisfying adventures I have had that involved a canoe.

All in all, I estimate that Jay and I pulled probably 40 tires out of about a tenth of a mile of Gravois Creek. And there are still so many tires left.

It is a perverse and irresponsible satisfaction, that exposes one to bacteria and chemicals that we should all stay away from. The hook that gets you is when you see that pile of tires you removed heading down the road in a trailer on their way to their proper resting place, and not in the creek anymore. It makes you really see and feel the impact you can have on the health of a natural place.”

Big thanks to Gabe for giving permission to repost this. Make sure to check out all his writings in his blog, Camping Missouri.


Lee Kern’s Top Ten Missouri Float Trips

Last week we sang praises of Lee Kern for her killer river guide skills. Now we’re thrilled to give you an exclusive: Lee’s Top 10 Missouri Float Trips. If you’re only going to float ten river stretches in your life, make it these.

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Lee Kern, everybody! Being a total rockstar.
Lee Kern, everybody! Being a total rockstar.

My Top Ten Missouri Float Trips
By Lee Kern

#10 – Meramec River: Onondaga State Park to Sappington Bridge

This section of the Meramec is one of my favorites. With tall bluffs and quiet countryside it makes for a peaceful float that is not far from St. Louis.

#9 – Big Piney River: Slabtown to Ross Bridge

The Big Piney is one of my favorite rivers for fishing. Tall bluffs and swift turns on this section make for an enjoyable float that can be done in one day, but also makes for a great overnight trip. The Big Piney is never crowded and always beautiful.

#8 – Huzzah Creek: Dillard Mill to Hwy. Z

The Huzzah is a popular party float in the summer, but this section is a hidden gem that is only floatable in high water. Lots of obstacles make for a challenging adventure and there is usually a fair amount of wildlife to see.

#7 – Mississippi River: Red Star to Commerce

The Mississippi River is often overlooked by paddlers, but if you are up to the challenge it can be a great time. This section, flowing south from Cape Girardeau, is full of interesting beaches and rocky outcroppings. If the water is low enough you might get to see Commerce Rock, an ancient river map carved by indigenous people a thousand years ago.

Courtois Creek flows into the Huzzah.
Courtois Creek flows into the Huzzah.

#6 – Little Piney Creek: Lane Spring to Newburg

Little Piney Creek is best floated in the spring when the water is up. This narrow stream provides plenty of challenges with tight turns and some fallen trees. It is a very pretty float and a great trout stream if you have the time to fish.

#5 – Courtois Creek: Berryman to Onondaga State Park

The Courtois is another stream that can be crowded in the summer, but a really nice float in the spring. This creek has beautiful scenery and numerous tight turns that can make for a challenging paddle when the water is high.

#4 – North Fork of the White River: Hammond Camp to James Bridge

The North Fork is a jewel of the Ozarks. With numerous springs and clear, cold water, this trip makes for an excellent day on the river, especially in the heat of the summer.

#3 – Meramec River: Short Bend to Woodson K. Woods

When the rest of the Meramec is running out of its banks, head upstream to the very first access on the river. This 25-mile stretch of stream makes for a fast and fun paddle in floodwaters, and there is plenty of scenery along the way.

Lookit this cute little turtle.
Lookit this cute little turtle.

#2 – Jacks Fork River: The Prongs to Alley Mill

The Jacks Fork is one of the most popular rivers in Missouri, and with good reason. Towering bluffs and crystal clear water make for beautiful scenery that you won’t find outside of the Ozarks. The Prongs are only viable when the water is up, but it is one float that should be on every paddler’s list. This section makes for a great two or three day float with excellent fishing.

#1 – Eleven Point River: Cane Bluff to Myrtle

My absolute favorite river in Missouri is the Eleven Point. Swift, clear, shockingly cold water makes it my favorite destination in the hot summer months. Plentiful wildlife, many historic springs and great fishing are the hallmarks of this stream. The Eleven Point can often be trickier paddling than it looks, so it is great fun and a beautiful float in every season.

47th Annual Operation Clean Stream + Passport to clean water

cleanstream_drop_middle_withOSCActivities: Join thousands of other volunteers to clean the shores and waters of the Meramec River in this project run by the Open Space Council for the St. Louis Region.
Date: August 23-24, 2014
Time: 8:00 a.m.
Place: State Parks and other sites along the Meramec (full list below).

What to expect: Since 1967, The Open Space Council for the St. Louis Region has organized Operation Clean Stream. Volunteers take to the Meramec River and its tributaries, working to undo damage caused throughout the year by flooding, careless littering and the unlawful dumping of trash. Volunteers participate both in canoes and boats, as well as on the shore, in nearby parks, and along nearby trails. In 2013, more than 3000 volunteers pulled 2,607 tires and 351 cubic yards of trash from the river.

girlsWhat to expect if you’re a youth: You are extra special. The Passport to Clean Water Program began in 2012 as an educational tool for young, Operation Clean Stream volunteers. Each year, organizations throughout the St. Louis Region, whose mission includes water quality, facilitate educational, interactive activities, discussions, and explorations that explain different aspects of water with youth and their families. Our goal with this program is to provide all participants with crucial, take-home knowledge on how they can improve water quality in their own daily lives

The Passport to Clean Water program will take place on August 23, 2014 in Greentree Park in Kirkwood, MO and is free and open to all youth ages 5-18.  The program will run from 11 am – 1:00 pm.  


OCS Locations:

Arnold City Park — Volunteers should meet at 8:00 am. The park is located at: 1 Bradley Beach Rd, Arnold, MO 63010

Greentree Park — Volunteers should meet at 9:00 am at the shelter. The park is located at: 2202 Marshall Rd, Kirkwood, MO 63122

George Winter Park, Volunteers should meet between 8:00 am and 9:00 am at the main picnic  shelter. The park is located at: 401 Allen Road, Saint Louis, MO 63026

Route 66 State Park — Volunteers should meet between 7:00 am to 8:00 am at the Route 66 State Park Visitor Center (Exit 266) located at: 97 N Outer Rd E #1, Eureka, MO 63025

 Meramec State Park — Volunteers should meet at 8:00 am at Shelter #2. The park is located at: 115 Meramec Park Drive, Sullivan, MO 63080-4271. Lunch for volunteers will be at 12:30 pm

Castlewood State Park — Volunteers should meet at 9:00 am at the east side of the River Access Day use Area located at: 1401 Kiefer Creek Rd, Ballwin, MO 63021

For more information: Visit the official Operation Clean Stream site.

25th-ST_Logo-Color-FinalSubmit an activity report to claim your stake in the mega-cool drawing for Stream Team 25th Anniversary greatness. Time is running out to fill up your passport, but you can still check out the fall events, including a float on the Current River!

The Meramec Watershed Celebration will be the best time of your summer.

Logo-NORPActivities: Potluck lunch, annual Stream Team awards, tube float, kids’ program, attendance prizes, raffle, networking and fellowship with teams from the Meramec watershed and beyond, free group camping and canoe races. See details below!
Date: Saturday, July 26, 2014
Time: 10:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Place: Meramec State Park, Shelter #2, Sullivan, MO

SONY DSCWhat to Bring: Guests are invited to bring a side dish to share at the pot luck lunch and also an item to be included in the raffle, if you feel so inclined. For those who are camping, bring your camping gear (obviously)! And whatever else will make you happy.

But wait, there’s more! This is a veritable CARNIVAL of fun stream activity.

Floating (floating!), floating (floating!), floating on the river!

Get yer tubes out! Folks can be picked up at the picnic site and shuttled to the park’s boat ramp from where they can float a little over a 1/3 mile back to the picnic site.

And for the less lazy of the river-goers, there’s the canoe races…

“Women (and gentlemen), start your…paddles!”

SONY DSCThe MDC provides 10 canoes for canoe races. Each of four heats is limited to 10 canoes. The canoe races start at 10:30 a.m., so you need to be there at 10:00 a.m. to sign up for the canoe races.  

The races are held between the bridge (near shelter 2) and shelter 3, a distance of about 400 yards.

Think you can handle it?

  • The first heat is a youth doubles (2 in a canoe) race starting at 10:30 a.m. It is a downstream race starting at the bridge. The youth race is for kids 12 and younger.
  • The second heat at 10:50am is a men’s singles race. It is an upstream race starting near shelter 3.
  • The third heat at 11:10am is a women’s singles race. It is a downstream race starting at the bridge.
  • The fourth heat at 11:30am is a mixed doubles race. It is an upstream race starting near shelter 3.

NORP awards trophies for 1st and 2nd place, and medals for 3rd place. These are awarded during the award program shortly after lunch.

Skip the lines when you camp with Club Stream Team.

Stream Team has group campsite “C” reserved for  Friday and Saturday night, 7/25 and 7/26. Feel really famous when you pull up to the entrance and tell the attendant, “It’s cool, I’m with Stream Team.” They know you’re coming. They won’t charge you.Group Tent Area

Kids get the coolest stuff

The kids program include games such as watershed bingo, tic-tac-toe, plinko, and frog jumper. We have hundreds of kids prizes to give away thanks to one of our sponsors. Kids can also build something at the kids wordshop sponsored by Home Depot of Chesterfield, MO.

The Oscars of Stream Team

SONY DSCYou may not win a gold statue, but you will witness several peers being oficially honored by Stream Team and other river associations for their good work on streams state-wide. Gala wear not required. Actually, gala wear discouraged.

And then there were prizes

As if you need another incentive to come, we also have a huge raffle, which our guest look forward to every year.

Directions to Shelter #2:

To the campground: Follow the main road to the campgrounds. You can follow signs along the main campground road to the group sites. Group site “C” is the last group site at the end of the road.

For more information: call (314) 638-9646.

Stay tuned tomorrow for a little history on NORP and the Meramec Watershed Celebration, which has been rocking since 1998.

25th-ST_Logo-Color-Final(white-center)Not only are there raffle prizes at the Meramec Watershed Celebration, but you can also get a sweet kayak, free fly casting lessons, and other things through the 25th Anniversary Passport Program. Each official event you attend earns you an entry to the raffle, and your first five stamps will get you a sweet lunch cooler with everyone’s favorite logo, the “man-fishing-in-a-Missouri-stream-or-what-we-assume-is-a-Missouri-stream-because-the-image-is-contained-within-the-shape-of-Missouri-itself.” Enjoy!

How “the Mighty 211” became a Stream Team powerhouse

photos courtesy Brian Waldrop, unless otherwise noted

They earned the title, “the Mighty 211,” for a reason. Brian Waldrop, who co-leads Arnold Stream Team 211 with Bernie Arnold, says the gregarious team’s goal is “to get large and strange stuff out of the creeks and floodplains.”

The strangest thing in the river, however, might be the team itself. “People call us animals,” Brian says. “When we say we’re having a cleanup, we’re going to get 500 tires and 150 barrels and 2 boats and a dumpster.” At river cleanups across the state, you’ll see the Mighty 211 armed with boats, kayaks, canoes, wrenches, saws and special pulleys. Any other weekend, you’ll find the team’s volunteers at home on the Meramec, chipping away at the watershed’s massive trash.

What’s their secret to tireless, brawny cleanups? Is it something in the water? Brian was eager to share.

Why is there so much big trash on the lower Meramec? It all goes back to 1993…

Remember this? Maybe not, if you’re a millennial. For everyone else, the Great Flood of 1993 is unforgettable. That year, high moisture, heavy snow, and unrelenting storms took over the Midwest. The Mississippi and the Missouri Rivers broke their levees and spread over nearly 20 million acres in the floodplain. Thousands of homes were lost and some towns had to relocate. If you look carefully, you can still see high water marks in places like Westport, Confluence State Park and Alton, Illinois.

arnold moArnold, Mo., located at the confluence of the Meramec and Mississippi Rivers, was primed for disaster. “Hundreds and hundreds of river houses and trailer parks used to be in the floodplain of Arnold,” Brian says. “In the flood of ‘93, all that was destroyed.”

Out of those ruins came Stream Team 211. Founded by Mike DeRuntz in 1993, the volunteers cut their teeth on big, messy rubble, and it took two decades to fully clean the floodplain. Now, Brian says, the only trash remaining is one huge metal boat. “Everything else—washers, driers, ovens, stoves, all the tanks—all that’s back to nature to repair itself,” he says.

That doesn’t mean the 211’s work is over. Brian says that for the past half dozen years, the team has systematically worked upstream from the Mississippi River, with a special emphasis on creeks and tires. On March 23, 2013, twenty-five volunteers hauled a record 1,065 tires out of Louisville Creek and its floodplain in just one hour and forty-five minutes. Later that year, August 16-17, Waldrop and his crew traveled to Perry County, where they pulled 904 tires out of two sinkholes and dislodged a 2,850-pound tire from Little Whitewater Creek.

Bernie’s legendary  2,850-pound tire. The man is truly “tireless.”

Why so many tires?

Back in the day, it was no big deal to dump stuff in ditches or on farmland, and it’s cheaper to dump an old tire than to recycle it. “Not only that, the Big River has hundreds of thousands of tires,” Brian says. That comes from the Lead Belt, in which factories used tires to dam their outflow. Lots of dams broke in the ‘70s and ‘80s, sending those tires downriver. (And don’t get us started on the heavy metals that went with them.)

The 211 dispose of their tires with the help of the MSTWC’s Revolving Tire Fund through the Department of Natural Resources. Click here for more information on how your Stream Team can use this program.

There used to be a large pile of tires on the Meramec river across from Emmenegger Nature Park. These tires were remove in 2005 with the help of Open Space Council for the St. Louis Region, Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District, and a few local stream teams.
There used to be a large pile of tires on the Meramec river across from Emmenegger Nature Park. These tires were removed in 2005 with the help of Open Space Council for the St. Louis Region, Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District, and a few local stream teams.

The 211’s three secrets to a strong team and successful cleanups:

1.) Give newbies the chills. In a good way. Here’s how: “We’ll take newbies out on the river, and we’ll give them all the trash we pick up because then as they’re going down the river, other people who are floating it are really stoked, and they’re giving those newbies kudos for picking up trash. And they get the goosebumps that go up your spine and down your arms, and they don’t know what to say other than, ‘thank you.’”

2.) Make friends in flow places. “We travel to Jack’s Fork, the Current River, Big Piney River, and wherever River Relief goes, and help other teams,” Brian says. “They’re our friends.” Then, whether it’s a sense of indebtedness or sheer joy in hardcore cleanups, teams from those rivers in turn come to Meramec events.

3.) Fight to the death (of trash). “The neat thing about Missouri Stream Team programs is we make it a competition between other teams because we can set the bar that way. What’s funny is even though we’re competing against these other teams, they’ve actually also joined our team.”

Volunteer AJ Feicht on a cleanup in a floodplain that had been untouched since 1993.
Volunteer AJ Feicht on a cleanup in a floodplain that had been untouched since 1993.

On defending their title:

Speaking of competition — if you think 211’s champion status is unattainable, think again. “Last weekend, we felt threatened,” Brian admits. “Stream Team 4660 pulled 460 tires out of Joachim Creek, and we’re thinkin’ we need to step up our game.”

How to clean rivers in freezing temperatures:

At this year’s Stream Team 211 Annual Wintertime Clean-up in March, the day’s average temperature was 36 degrees. Are you shocked? Don’t be; they’ve done colder clean-ups. “It’s no big deal,” Waldrop says. “We wear waders. And if we know we’re only going to be there for a little bit, just get in and get it done.” He pauses for a moment. “Maybe that’s why they call us animals.”

How Brian got started:

i WAS..
“We try to get the land to a point where it’s manageable, and then we let the novices come in and they pick up the litter. We’re in there to get the large stuff out, the things that need heavy equipment. We’ll loosen it up.” – Brian Waldrop

“I was always an outdoors person, always did trail hikes and orienteering. But it was my grandpa who took me to the first Stream Team cleanup, around 1995. The leader, Mike DeRuntz, had all the maps out, and he needed somebody to lead a group into the woods, so I volunteered. And I was amazed by all the areas you could walk on the trash without touching the ground. And it was great! They fed me, I got a shirt, I got a pencil. After a while, cleaning up trash was all I could think about. It’s all my grandpa’s fault. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be doing all this.”

There’s still more to do:

Brian leaves us with this humbling thought: “We feel we still have to make a statement. We haven’t done enough.” 


Brian, you do more for our streams in a weekend than some people do in a lifetime. Not saying you should stop. Just sayin’.

Want more from these rockstars? Become a Facebook fan of Arnold Stream Team to keep up with its events, photos, and daily musings.

Arnold Stream Team 211 Annual Wintertime Cleanup Results

The first “25 Days of Stream Team” event was a smashing success! Thanks to the 67 volunteers who showed up on a cold March morning, Arnold Stream Team 211 collected:

  • 43 passengers tires
  • 2 truck tires
  • 8 farm tractor tires
  • 1 kiddie pool
  • 20 cubic yards of trash
  • A  full metal dumpster

And that’s just small potatoes for the Mighty 211.  Co-leader and MDC Stream Team assistant Brian Waldrop says the team once got 1,065 tires out of Louisville Creek in less than two hours.

New: Learn a little history on the Mighty 211 here!

25th-ST_Logo-Color-FinalDid you miss this event? There’s plenty of time to get your Passport stamped! See what’s coming up on our Events page.



Arnold Stream Team 211 Winter Cleanup is March 1

Activities: Clean up the Meramec River floodplain and plant trees  at this 23rd annual event!
Date: Saturday, March 1, 2014
Time: 9:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.
Place: Arnold City Park

What to expect: Volunteers will meet in the parking lot of Arnold City Park. Arnold Stream Team coordinators will give groups their assignments, and they will go out to pick up trash in the Meramec River floodplain.

The cleanup will last about two hours, and there will be education displays for kids and adults.

In addition to a sense of accomplishment caring for one of Missouri’s most populated watersheds, you’ll learn about what makes streams healthy, and connect with neighbors both upstream and downstream!

What to bring: Just yourself! StreamTeam will provide bags, work gloves, trees, and equipment, as well as a light breakfast. Dress in layers, and wear shoes you don’t mind getting muddy. Afterwards, stay for lunch!

For more information:
Call Brian Waldrop, St. Louis area Stream Team coordinator, at (314) 606-0755, visit Arnold Stream Team 211’s Facebook page or RSVP on Facebook.


25th-ST_Logo-Color-FinalThe Arnold Stream Team 211 Winter Cleanup is part of “25 Days of Stream Team” and counts as a stamp on your stream team passport. Click here for a flier on all 25th Anniversary events.