Adopt-A-River Program

The Adopt-A-River program is a river, lake, shoreline and wetland cleanup program. Participants register with a stretch of river/shoreline that they wish to commit to caring for by cleaning up trash. This program has been managing cleaning up efforts since the mid-1980s. The Minnesota DNR ran the program for 25 years until being taken over by the Conservation Corp of MN and IA in 2016. It is currently being managed by Freshwater, a long-time partner with the DNR.

Next Clean-up Details:

Date: TBD 2024

TIme: 4:30PM – Sundown

Location: Sucker River – Scenic HWY 61 parking lot

There will be a casual parking lot meet & greet following our clean up. Bring a Chair and your favorite beverage for some socializing and angler comradery. We will have the grill going as well.

Volunteers Needed: Our Adopt-a-River clean up efforts are open to all like-minded individuals who desire to gift time to help preserve and protect the environment they enjoy so much.

What to bring:
We will provide the collection bags for the event.  We will also have required safety vests for all due to the work needed in the parking lot and Highway areas.  We have some gloves, but bringing your own pair that fit is a great idea. 

If you are planning to stay for the social gathering after the clean up, a chair, your favorite beverage, and a smile should be all you need.  We will have some hot dogs or brats, but feel free to bring your own item to grill if you like.

MN Steelheader Adopt-a-River

What to expect:
We will be picking up any and all non-organic debris and trash.  The river valley and run-off areas are our focus, from the river mouth and Lake Superior Shoreline upstream, along the banks, in the wooded areas, along the Highway overpass, and the parking lot.  Historically the Highway and parking lot areas have had the most litter. Collecting at these locations are critical, and help eliminate trash from entering the River and Lake Superior.

We have picked up everything from fishing line, sinkers and hooks, to bottle caps and cans, cigarette butts, car and tractor tires, culvert metal and fence and sign posts.  Spring is the ideal time to clean the area, the new growth has not yet begun to thicken and cover the ground making spotting garbage a bit easier.  We have collected between 60 to 200lbs. annually since the program started. The good news is we are seeing less and less debris and trash along the Sucker River each year.  Please consider helping out.

History & How we got involved: In the winter of 2010, we opened a poll on the news and reports page of our website asking for your feedback on which river would be a good fit for Minnesota Steelheader (MS) to Adopt through the MN DNR Adopt-a-River program. A big thanks to all of you who took the time to vote and/or contact us with your comments and opinions.

After collecting and scoring the votes, we had a tie between the Sucker River and the Devil Track River with the Baptism River running a close second. Throughout the poll, we received a variety of comments and opinions as to which river would be the best fit for us and why, and feedback expressing angler interest in helping rivers from the Lester River all the way up to the Flute Reed River- a pretty impressive span.

Reiterating what we stated in our poll, our selection process needed to focus on a few key elements: Level of visible trash/pollution, accessibility for a diverse group of volunteers, and overall steelhead habitat.

River accessibility varies dramatically along the North Shore and deserved a close look. We have a diverse group of friends and volunteers at MNST, from young teenagers to veteran anglers in their 70’s. Selecting a river that requires strenuous hiking, climbing, or wading in tough conditions could dramatically limit the amount of volunteers able to assist in any stream-side cleanup. The distance up the shore was also a factor. With the majority of anglers fishing for steelhead south of Grand Marais, it was questionable whether we would have an adequate number of volunteer staff willing to make the journey for a clean-up day in the upper shore area.

Finally we had the trash/pollution element. This was obviously the biggest factor in our decision. Our Field Staffers referred to years of mental notes as to what river consistently has had an issue with trash along trails, river, parking areas etc. We also looked at which rivers also got a fair amount of tourist pressure throughout the year. We all know that the trash issue is not just from careless anglers, tourists play a role in this as well.

After a collective review, it was decided the river that best fit all criteria and considerations was the Sucker River. The location was convenient for the majority of volunteers, and accessibility not a significant problem, even under tough conditions. The habitat is good, and the Steelhead population is healthy and growing. At that point we moved forward with the DNR, and are now the official Adopt-a-River sponsor of the Sucker River. The section we committed to is from Lake Superior upstream for roughly one mile. We focus our clean-up efforts in the lower reaches of the river that receive the most fishing and tourist pressure, but also send scouts upstream to report on whether other areas need attention.