Wildcat Creek & Wabash River Cleanup
photographed by www.IndianaOutfitters.com

As a nice end to National River Cleanup Week, and a nice end for the first Indiana Rivers Rally, we participated in a river cleanup on Wildcat Creek and Wabash River, near Lafayette, Indiana, on Sunday, June 10th, 2007. Chuck Weis, of Wildcat Guardians and Wildcat Creek Foundation, helped us set the shuttle. Paddling and cleaning up that day were:

Immediately upon getting on the creek we found a sink and most of a rusty metal chair, so we were able to leave those large items in the parking lot of the put-in site at Peters Mill Landing. Trash was in no short supply on this day. We found 9 tires, another sink, a rusty metal 55 gallon drum, a blue plastic 55 gallon drum (which had to be tied and floated behind our canoe), a basketball, a mangled lawn chair, various unidentified metal objects, one half of a broken paddle, scads of miscellaneous trash (bottles, cans, plastic bags, doll's arm, etc.), and more. The most labor-intensive find, which took everyone's help to free, was a 16 foot piece of aluminum siding (partially buried). Getting it out was half the battle. Then it had to be folded up (a noisy process) so we could fit it in our canoe. The most interesting find was an old tire with rim that had been decoratively cut, and the tire flipped up so that it looked like a flower, and it appeared to have been used as a flower pot. We found so much trash that we ended up filling our 3 canoes and 1 kayak before we even met up with the Wabash River. Unfortunately, we had to pass by several more tires and a bowling ball as we continued down Wildcat Creek and on to the take-out at Davis Ferry Park on the Wabash River. However, at Davis Ferry Park we sparked the interest of a husband and wife who said they wanted to help with the next cleanup.

While we saw a lot of trash on the trip, we also saw a lot of wildlife. Collectively, we saw several gar (some big ones), some carp, lots of kingfishers, a green heron, a great blue heron, several fish guarding their nests, a couple of robins bathing in the creek, and an immature bald eagle (just downstream of the confluence of Wildcat Creek and the Wabash River). We also saw signs of deer and beaver. We also encountered lots of people fishing from the bank, a group of kids rope-swinging and playing in Wildcat Creek, and a group of kids floating in tubes down the Wabash.

According to the gauging station on Wildcat Creek near Lafayette (station #003335000), the river level was at about 3.05 feet, and the river flow was about 230 cfs (cubic feet per second). The flow was fine (not too fast or pushy), and there was enough water to always float (no dragging of boats required).

All in all, the trip was a success, and it was also fun. However, in thinking about the cleanup after the fact, I started wondering how much of the "trash" we picked up could have been refurbished and reused, or made into something new, instead of just going into some landfill. I thought it would be nice to have contests along these lines, and/or the refurbished/"new" items could be sold for fundraising for the rivers. I mentioned this to Chelsea, and she said that Iowa's Project AWARE turns their trash into art, and they recycle 74% or more of their trash. Their cleanups are several days long and incorporate several other events. Wouldn't it be great to do something like this in Indiana?

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