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Three Montana kayakers work together to clean up the Missouri River

Posted at 12:30 PM, Dec 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-30 20:43:05-05

HELENA — We have an update to a story we have been following regarding debris and trash in the Missouri River near the Toston Bridge.

Last week the Montana Department of Transportation and a team made up of state agencies and contractors from the Toston structures project worked together to pick up trash along an eight- mile stretch of the Missouri River. Trash and debris in river surrounding this project has led to several clean-up efforts, the most notable being a group of three kayakers who love Montana and its beautiful clean waterways.

One of them is Norm Miller, who refers to himself as a river rat. He says in places like Kansas City or Sioux City you would expect the Missouri River to be filled with trash and other debris. Miller said, “Up here it is more obvious when something like that happens which I think is why it was a little disturbing and to see it, it’s like wow this hasn’t happened in the 20 years that I’ve seen it.”

After MTN News’ original report aired regarding fisherman Patrick Hogan wanting to report trash in the river near the Toston bridge, Norm gathered two of his best paddler friends and headed out onto the water.

Norm says, “I grabbed all those bags, I called Mark Dixon from Livingston and Jim Emanuel from Helena, and we put in above Toston Dam at the town of Toston and then paddled down to Townsend which is where Patrick said in the article I think he said 23 miles of garbage he found.”

Norm and his friends did not even paddle one mile before their boats were full of trash.

Norm says, “We filled all of our bags we brought within a quarter mile or half a mile of the entire river, it’s like oh my god, we were out of bags, no more.”

The men were in disbelief.

Norm added, “We just started! I mean we had only been out 20 minutes I’m like oh my god there is a lot of stuff and I’ve never seen that much stuff on the river.”

Norm has paddled the Missouri river for twenty years, and says in an entire summer of paddling he may collect one grocery bag full of trash.

Miller says, “Every time we go paddling, we aren’t picking up garbage usually, we are enjoying the river, and all of sudden we are spending the whole time (picking up trash) and it’s like wow, this is unbelievable.”

Norm added he would hate to see the Missouri river turn into a trash can where river clean ups have to be organized several times a year.

He says, “Let’s put a halt on it now before it ends up like Kansas City or Sioux City, it’s a shame that we have to be activist, why can’t we all just care!”

Norm and his friends plan on going back out on the river once the ice melts, to pick up any of the remaining trash and debris. They are part of a group called Missouri River Paddlers who enjoy paddling the beautiful Missouri River up and down the country.

11 days after Norm and his friends picked up trash, MDT also headed up cleanup efforts on the river. To view that story click here.