Adopt a River

A shoreline cleanup program for everyone!

Want to help keep our water healthy?
ANYONE can mobilize a group and plan a cleanup event! Or adopt a shoreline that you clean up every spring and fall. Our Adopt a River program will support you with the planning tools you need.


Add your name to the growing Adopt a River community!


Report a shoreline cleanup!

Whether it’s a one-time cleanup or an adoption (a commitment to clean multiple times), a stretch of the Mississippi or your neighborhood pond, participating in Adopt a River could be a unique experience for you and your group.

Adopt a River Toolkit

Check out our practical guide to planning and completing a shoreline cleanup!

Story Map

Check out our story map featuring cleanups across the state!

WHY should I organize a cleanup?

• Make water safer for us, and for wildlife.
• Prevent pollution downstream!
• Connect with fellow volunteers—form bonds and take pride in your contribution.

WHEN should I plan a cleanup?

Anytime after the snow has melted is fantastic!

WHERE should I clean?

Consider a shoreline where you work, play, or live. It doesn’t have to be a river—lakes, streams, and wetlands are great, too!

WHO should I invite?

Anybody you want! Cleanups are great for families, work teams, church or social groups, neighborhood groups, scouts or youth groups, and more!

HOW do I get started?

Freshwater has an online toolkit with everything you need, for help from planning to executing to reporting your successful cleanup!

What if I want to clean up, but not a shoreline?

That’s great too! Our streets are an extension of our waterways. Most storm drains flow directly into lakes and rivers. That means everything we do on land affects our water.  Check out our community cleanup page for info on other cleanups!

Adopt a River so far

More than
service hours
miles of shoreline
pounds of trash

Map of Cleanups

Take a closer look at our interactive story map featuring cleanups around the state!

Adopt a River history and impact

Adopt a River was established in 1989 at the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, moved to the Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa in 2016, and finally to Freshwater, where it continues to empower Minnesotans in their journey to becoming stewards and ambassadors of our state’s waterways. We want to support you in your efforts to keep Minnesota waters clean and healthy for all.

Over the course of more than 30 years, Adopt a River volunteers have participated in thousands of local shoreline cleanup events. These projects include one-time events and adoptions with a two-year cleanup commitment. Whether you choose to clean once or several times, your efforts go a long way!

When you pick up litter around a body of water, you are making the water safer for us as well as our wild friends who inhabit Minnesota shorelines. And your efforts extend beyond Minnesota! What is in our water here floats downstream to other states and eventually reaches the ocean.

A shoreline cleanup not only reduces stress on the environment, it may also lower your stress, as you connect with nature and form bonds with your fellow volunteers and the community! You can also take pride in your work, knowing that you have done something to protect and improve water quality for all who depend on it.


Our past volunteers

Students and school clubs

Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts

Conservation organizations

Civic organizations

Businesses and corporations

Religious groups

Concerned individuals

Cleanups at a glance

Not just rivers—lakes, streams, and wetlands too!

Small section of shoreline

Any number of volunteers

1–2 hours of hands-on labor

A wide variety of litter


Environmental remediation

More ways to help

Pick up and compost leaves, dirt, grass, etc.

Sweep up sidewalk salt

Stencil a storm drain

Install a rain garden

Install a rain barrel

Support organic farming

Maintain your car

Join online communities

Attend a workshop or event

Donate money

Share your story or knowledge

Invite friends, family, neighbors

We recognize that cleanups are just one way to take care of our water. If you or someone you know has other ideas or practices for water conservation, let us know!



In light of the pandemic we will not be hosting larger events. We still encourage you to register to participate in the program and to report the results of your cleanups online. If you have questions, please contact our Program Coordinator, Alex Van Loh.

Always make safety your priority with these tips.


Frequently Asked Questions

What should I do with the trash?

Here are some examples of what other adopters have done:

  • Contacted city or county parks and recreation departments, public works departments or city, county or state highway departments. The community is often more than willing to assist a motivated volunteer!
  • Partnered with community trash haulers (some of whom will donate part or all of the hauling charges).
  • Divided the trash among volunteers to be taken home and disposed of in their homes' trash bins.
  • Raised money for a dumpster, or asked for the donation of a dumpster within their community. This is a great opportunity for area businesses to get involved with your cleanup, and it's great advertising for the business as well.

Check your county office for disposal locations for items such as electronics, appliances, etc. They typically waive fees for public service projects like yours.

How do I calculate the total pounds removed?

Reporting accurate weights of collected trash is a foundation of the Adopt-a-River program. To estimate the weight of trash removed, follow these guidelines:

  • On average, a bag of trash weighs about 10 pounds.
  • A standard pickup truck load weighs about 480 pounds.
  • When filled, a small commercial dumpster weighs about 2,880 pounds.
  • A normal tire weighs about 20 pounds (40 pounds if still has its rim). A semi-truck tire weighs about 90 pounds (180 pounds with its rim).

How do I dispose of tires?

You cannot legally place tires in landfills in Minnesota. Tire piles must be disposed of properly because as they collect water, they pose a threat to public health and safety as mosquito breeding habitat. Businesses that may agree to take tires for recycling include tire retailers, automotive dealerships, junkyards, and mechanics. Some may charge a small fee for each tire delivered.

How do I dispose of batteries?

Batteries can leak lead-laced acid into our landfills and waterways, so it's critical to dispose of them properly! Please contact your local household hazardous waste disposal service to learn where to properly dispose of batteries in your area.

What do I do with any hazardous materials I've found?

If anyone comes across any of the following items, leave them where they are and contact local authorities.

  • Propane cylinders: Most propane cylinders have brass fittings, which will turn blue or bluish-green in the presence of ammonia, which is a common ingredient in a methamphetamine drug lab. This indicates a weak fitting, increasing the likelihood of it blowing apart. Some cylinders have been modified with different fittings so they don't turn blue, but they can be just as hazardous.
  • Bulging metal containers: When a sealed metal container like a 55-gallon steel drum bulges outward, it indicates a large amount of pressure has built up inside. This pressure could cause it to explode if handled improperly, depending on the contents. Report such items, but don't move them.
  • Containers with hazardous material labels: These labels tell about the specific type of threat posed by the items inside. Report such items, but don't move them.