The global COVID-19 pandemic has created some new, unique, and unpredictable challenges to the Verde River. “Stay at Home” declarations imposed early in the pandemic specifically excluded outdoor recreation, like kayaking the Verde! This produced an incredible increase in river kayaking, tubing, and swimming. Many weekdays now exceed what used to be weekend-sized usage
A large percentage of the use is now new users, which we love to see, but there are challenges associated with it. There are now a lot of boaters in their first kayaks or stand-up paddleboards, and many have little to no experience on a river. About 80% of today’s boaters are not following Arizona state laws dictating that all boaters have a PFD (life preserver) on board, and all boaters 12 and under must be wearing a PFD
At the same time, inexperienced river boaters often have trouble in the few rapids, and many lose their belongings. This means that streamside trash—flip-flops, water bottles, etc.—have increased tremendously.
The Verde River Institute decided that we wanted to help see that these new users have a safe and fun experience on the river, and we wanted to decrease the trash along the way. So, we developed a new program, called the “Verde River Rangers.
Our Rangers will be out on the Verde River @ Clarkdale stretch, from Lower TapcoRAP to TuziRAP, some Fridays and most weekends until October. We’ll be in Verde River Institute boats, and we’ll carry spare PFDs for people who want one, as well as medical kits, trash bags, and other items that will help us help you!
Our Loaner PFDs are supplied by the AZ Game and Fish Boater Safety Program. They get them from cooperators like the Ryan Thomas Foundation. The Verde River Institute worked with the Town of Clarkdale, AZ Game and Fish, AZ State Parks and Freeport-McMoRan to place two loaner PFD kiosks at Lower Tapco RAP and TuziRAP. There, you can grab a PFD and use it while you’re on the water, then return it to either of the kiosks when you’re done. Really a cool program, and a first of its kind on a river in the U.S.!
As we boat the river, we look for trash and we pick up everything we can. An average trip down this stretch yields about 47 items that total about 12 pounds! The two most common items are flip-flops and bottled water bottles. To help boaters keep their water bottle on-board, we developed a 3D-printed water bottle holder, and we’ll give one to anyone on the river who wants one. Here’s a picture of the ingenious little item.
Here are a few days’ trash hauls:
Look for our Rangers when you boat this stretch, we’re here to help!