Tuck River clean up back for it’s 33rd year

The long line waiting at the Tuck River Cleanup. Photo by Hunter Bryn

The largest single day river clean-up in the nation kicks off Saturday morning, April 8, on the campus of Western Carolina University.

The Tuck River Cleanup is an annual event that takes the Cullowhee area by storm each year. This year is the 33rd annual cleanup, and it’s expected to be nothing less than spectacular.

Kay Tufts of Base Camp Cullowhee is organizing the event this year for the first time.

“Tuck River is a tradition that is deeply engrained in WCU’s community and also the local community. Students come out and go crazy for it,” Tufts said.

The cleanup is open to anyone and everyone who wants the opportunity to raft down the Tuck while giving back to the community by picking up trash. The cleanup covers over 27 miles of the river. This year organizers are expecting close to 1,000 participants.

Registration for the event starts at 11 a.m. After this time volunteers will be shuttled to the different locations, Dillsboro River Company, Locus Creek and Cullowhee Dam, to begin their journey down the river.

The first 500 participants will receive a wristband at the time of registration that they will exchange for a free t-shirt when they return from their cleanup. The line for registration starts well before 11 a.m., and it is recommended that those wanting to be within the first 500 arrive at campus early that morning. Tufts says she expects to see students beginning to line up as early as 7 a.m.

After the rafters return to campus, there will be a cookout with food provided by Aramark and live music by local musician Oliver Padgett and his band. Also during the event, there will be a drawing for door prizes donated by local businesses.

In addition to WCU students and faculty, many community groups get involved, as Tufts explained. Groups such as the Rotary Club, Trout Unlimited and local scout groups have already signed up to do walking cleanups on Saturday.

The Tuck River Cleanup is funded completely by donations from the university and local businesses. Tufts said many businesses love and appreciate what this event is doing for the community and are more than willing to jump on board.

Having fun with friends, Tuck River clean up 2015.

This week leading up to the big event Tufts and the rest of the Base Camp Cullowhee staff are working hard to finalize all the details. The planning for this event has been underway since September and now over 52 people are helping put it together.

They will be getting all of their gear together this week as well, including donations. The Nantahala Outdoor Center donated 300 paddles and PFD’s and enough rafts for 300 people each year. Wild Water, a rafting company, donates gear for 70 people.

Tufts said they are expecting good weather for Saturday’s event and a little high water on the river. She says the water levels won’t be enough that rafters will get washed out, but enough to make it a fun ride.

Mary Kindred is a Junior at WCU and an employee of Base Camp. She has worked the event the past two years and is looking forward to doing it again.

She said her favorite part of the event is getting to help people in and out of the river. Seeing the smiles on their faces and how much fun they are having makes the day worth it to her.

Students coming down the river. Photo by Base Camp Cullowhee.

“Cleaning up our environment is important. It’s cool to see all the things people find [on the river]. Sometimes they find some pretty crazy stuff,” Kindred said.

Tufts encourages everyone to come out for this event.

“We’re cleaning up our community’s watershed. I think it’s important to not only give back in that way but also it’s just fun. Free rafting, free food, free t-shirt, free concert, you could win door prizes. What more could you want?” Tufts said.

There is no pre-registration for this event. Registration is the day of on the University Center lawn. For more information about the Tuck River Cleanup visit Base Camp Cullowhee.