DESERT HILLS – At least 50 kayakers shoved off Saturday from Castle Rock Bay in Crystal Beach and paddled downriver through four miles of backwater collecting plastic bottles and party cups, Frisbees and flip flops, and still-full cans of beer.
The trash collection was the first-ever organized cleanup of Lake Havasu Wildlife Refuge. It was organized by Friends of Bill Williams River and Havasu National Wildlife refuges.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife, the agency who oversees the wildlife refuge, were pleased with the volunteer turnout.
“I knew it was going to be big,” said USFW park ranger Alan Murray. Murray initially said he had hoped for at least 30 to turn out, earlier reports stated.
Volunteers turned out for reasons of giving back, habitat beautification, and old habits of helping out in similar type projects.
“It’s a great excuse to get out and get in the water,” said Juliann Miller, of Havasu, who paddled her kayak into Mesquite Bay Central after the few-hour excursion.
Barry Thieman, project volunteer, said the trash was located on the back side of outcroppings and land points in the wildlife refuge.
“It’s in the reeds mostly,” he said. “The reeds strained them from the water.”
USFW officials timed the event with National Public Lands Day. The event also was used to unveil the opening of Mesquite Bay Central, which is new launch site for canoes and kayaks.
Local wildlife refuge areas re-opened this year to kayakers after a decade-long closure.
Saturday, kayakers said they couldn’t reach a blue plastic kiddie pool, or possibly a blue tarp, that was sunk on the water trail. But that wasn’t the only hitch.
One participating kayaker sank his boat. Fellow kayakers helped the swamped kayaker to bail out water and offered a tow. The non-emergency situation was about a 15 minute snafu. The man declined to share his name.
During the event, Western Arizona Canoe and Kayak Outfitters, or WACKO, owner Jim Abdon, of Havasu, provided the use of 22 kayaks, six of which carried two kayakers. WACKO staffers Jason Abdon and Akayzia Ariyoshi helped.
Jerkwater Canoe Co., based in Topock, Ariz., arrived with six canoes for use at the event. One went out. Jerkwater staffers Amanda Nethery and Katie Hayes helped carry trash from the shore, and assisted with carrying the kayaks to the parking area.
Friends of Bill Williams and Havasu National Wildlife refuges group is made up of about 15 members, many of who live in Bullhead City. The group seeks to bulk up its Havasu membership. They meet the second Wednesday of each month. The meeting locations shift to including Bullhead, Parker, and Golden Shores; for information visit www.billwilliamsriver-havasufreind.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Event organizers said they anticipate the kayak clean-up excursion to be an annual event.
The Havasu National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1941 and is one of at least 530 refuges in the U.S. The wildlife refuge protects 30 river miles, or 300 miles of shoreline, of the Colorado River from Needles, Calif., to Havasu.
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