Successful Canoe and Clean Season

Friends’ sell-out Canoe and Clean events are one of the most popular ways to get involved with our ongoing Litter Free Chicago-Calumet River initiative. This Canoe and Clean season, Friends brought more than 110 paddlers out on the Chicago and Calumet rivers to create cleaner, safer rivers by cleaning up trash. They were complemented by more than 2,000 Litter Free volunteers who collected litter from river-adjacent parks and forest preserves.

Canoe & Clean Video

“We bring all the supplies, canoes, bags, gloves, and grabbers, and the volunteers bring the can-do spirit,” said Annette Anderson, Friends’ volunteer and events coordinator. “Volunteers pull out everything from water bottles, toys, shoes, pumpkins, and food wrappers, lots of food wrappers.”

Kicking off on Chicago River Day in May and running through October, Canoe and Clean volunteers work throughout the Chicago and Calumet River watersheds, from River Park on the North Branch to Bubbly Creek on the South Branch, and Beaubien and Kickapoo Woods in the Calumet region.

Every paddle ends with piles of garbage pulled from the river, as well as lively chats about what was found – from the strange to the mundane – as well as discussions about how people can work together to reduce the use of single use plastics and prevent litter. Friends is grateful for the help of Wateriders and Chicago River Canoe & Kayak who provided discounts to groups who wanted to pick up trash as they paddled, which expands footprint of Canoe and Clean's impact.

Canoe and Clean teams utilize Friends’ Litter Free Chicago River Toolkit safety tips while on the water. If you are interested in planning a Canoe and Clean in 2022 for a group of 10 or more or a corporate custom canoe trip, please contact Annette Anderson, Friends volunteer and events coordinator at

Click here to watch a short video of the final Canoe and Clean of the 2021 season.