Chris Kearns and his daughter Sara wear masks and gloves as they volunteer on a river cleanup on the Popo Agie River in Lander. (Landon Blanchard)

A recent spring clean-up of the Popo Agie River through Lander removed nearly 2,500 pounds of metal scrap and trash from the waterway, organizers said. And, in a glimpse of what may become the norm in the COVID-19 era, volunteers wore masks and gloves, alternated days to keep their group sizes small and kept six feet of social distance as they combed the banks for garbage.

Wyoming Rivers Cooperative, a new raft guiding outfit based in Lander, spearheaded the event. Co-owner Landon Blanchard said the pandemic brought a lot of uncertainty this spring as to what the immediate future would hold, “but we thought we might as well clean up the river.” The corridor they focused on, he said, “just looked out of shape and kind of like it had been mistreated for a while.”

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Working with the City of Lander and with the permission of nearly all the private landowners along the river, the Wyoming Rivers Cooperative broke its volunteers into groups of one to three people and assigned them two-hour time slots on specific parts of the river over the course of four days. 

During that time, 15 people pulled a hefty load of detritus from the waterway, most of it metal scraps. They found large pieces of fencing, rusted car parts, hunks of chrome, the front seat of an old truck and an entire motorcycle frame, Blanchard said. 

Katie Klingsporn is WyoFile's managing editor. She is a journalist and word geek who has been writing about life in the West for 15 years. Her pieces have appeared in Adventure Journal, National Geographic...

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