Rivers served as the highways for explorers and avenues for transportation and trade in the early days of North America. Thoughts of those days recalls the adventures of Lewis and Clark, Father Marquette, birch bark canoes and the voyagers who traded furs and ventured into unmapped waterways. This was a hard and dangerous way for a person to live. Even with the advent of the paddle wheel boats that traversed rivers like the Ohio, Missouri, and the Mississippi, danger still lurked due to shoals, submerged logs or even fire.
Today we use the rivers more for recreation than we did in the past. We tube, kayak or canoe. We also fish. Weekends on some rivers has created so much congestion that governmental agencies have regulated the numbers and time people are allowed to float them. Unfortunately with all this use comes a large amount of misuse.
I enjoy fishing and kayaking rivers and I am always amazed at how some people who use these waters treat them as though they were their own personal trash can. Some of the most common items are beverage containers (aluminum, glass and plastic), plastic bait containers, fishing line, snack wrappers and empty cigarette packages. I have also seen tires, clothing, and appliances by the river.
Today I went out with a group from Trout Unlimited to pick up trash along the Rogue River in West Michigan which is used solely for recreation, while we achieved our goal of collecting the trash left behind by people; it would have been a better day had there been nothing left behind to pick up. I returned to the same area that our group had just cleaned two hours earlier to do some fishing. After a few different groups of kayakers passed by, would you believe, I found some beverage containers in the river.
If we all took out what we brought in and tried to leave as little sign as possible on the landscape that we had been there, what a difference it would make on our environment. We may never be able to get back to the pristine environs of the past but we can have a major impact by treating the outdoors as though it was our living room.