This weekend, Tim and I realized it was now or never. Well, maybe not “never,” but at least not until next year, as I will soon be traveling again and when I return the weather could be iffy. No one, especially me, wants to get in the river when it’s cold outside. So Saturday we put on our hip boots, hauled the necessary gear down to the Reedy, and celebrated Labor Day weekend with the Second Biennial St.Clair Riversweep.
Though I often write about the Reedy River in glowing terms, Friends of the Reedy note it is historically the most polluted river in South Carolina. Even from our home’s high perch, Tim and I can see aluminum cans glinting in the sunlight and the dark form of automobile tires half buried in river sand. On our first riversweep, undertaken on Labor Day weekend in 2012, we wrestled more than 45 automobile tires from a few hundred feet of riverbed, plus removed cans, broken bottles, old shoes, and other trash, including a typewriter.
Rather than struggle as we’ve done in the past, Tim fashioned an easy method of getting in and out of the river with a step ladder and length of rope. Getting down to the river is not much of a problem, but getting out with a garbage bag packed with debris can be a challenge.
Our focus area is the stretch of river which begins behind our upstream neighbor and extends just beyond our property. We start upstream since the trash there is headed our way next and clean roughly 300 feet because it’s what we can do in a day.
In all, we moved about 15 tires and collected three bags of trash on Saturday. This doesn’t sound like much, I know, but the cumbersomeness of the hip boots and the force of the rushing water, which is more than knee deep in some places, make the effort exhausting. Plus, everything is full of sand, tires must be scooped out and each can must be torn open and emptied.
In the photo above, the overhead tree branches indicate how high the river reached in the August flash flood–more than 11 feet above normal. And below, you can see that our neighbor lost another chunk of land to the rushing waters.
Despite the pollution, the river teams with wildlife. Small fish dart about and I frequently see a blue heron high-stepping through the shallows, focused on its next meal. The two snakes I scooped from the inside of an old whitewall in 2012 seemed healthy enough too, and thankfully, were as eager to escape from me as I was from them. Red-tailed hawks are frequent visitors, the great horned owl we hear at night has used the rail of our deck as a hunting perch, and we’ve even spied river otters on occasion.
A riversweep is physically demanding work, and at times even unnerving, but I know the effort we have put into the job, and will continue to make, is worthwhile.
For locals who care to lend a hand, Friends of the Reedy just announced plans for a community event…