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Trash Trackers Clean Up Lake Powell

Volunteer Opportunity
The "Trash Tracker" houseboat with the "Eliminator" barge and small runabout. – Glen Canyon Photographer

Would you like to sleep on top of a houseboat to view the stars and enjoy a cool night breeze?
How about sharing food and drink with new and old friends?
Or hiking along a white sandy shore?
Or swimming in a clear, blue lake underneath a blazing sun?
Do you think paradise and picking up trash go together?

They do at Lake Powell.

You Will Be Out of Touch with Society
My first outing occurred the eve of 9/11. As eight of us (four men and four women) traveled across Lake Powell, we witnessed a sunset that I labeled the "Opening of the Heavens." Light fluffy clouds hung high in the sky and a muted rainbow of light sprayed down through the middle as if a window had opened. It was the most beautiful sunset I had seen in a long time and everyone agreed. Little did we know that the next day tragedy would strike. We didn't hear about the macabre event till two days later because our captain had turned off all radio contact. We were lost in time and that is what Kay Alderton, a twelve year veteran of Trash Trackers, says is the best part of this program.

Of course Alderton isn't your typical woman in her sixties. She is very much the outdoors person and is an avid hiker, kayaker and camper. "Every trip is different," Alderton says, "never go with expectations, go with an open mind and go with the flow. I have never had a bad trip."

Items of all Kinds are Recovered
The recent drought has created low water in the lake and Alderton's group once found a whole speed boat with a large chunk of cement in the middle of it. These circumstances did look suspicious, she said. That particular trip, her group also found a small aluminum fishing boat and tons of shattered boat pieces. In the group I was with, we found miscellaneous cans, bottles, pieces of tarp, paper and hundreds of golf balls.

On another trip Alderton says, " Captain John volunteered us to clean up this abandoned poorly built houseboat that could be seen from the air and was quite an eyesore. Even though it was only five to ten minutes away from Wahweep Marina, the remains were a 1/4 mile up a gully. That project took us two full days to clean up. First, we had to disassemble the boat, then saw it in two and finally haul the huge pieces in wheel barrows to the barge. In one morning, we filled five barges. Unfortunately, one of the ladies cut her leg and left early. After that there was only myself and this French guy so we just played for the next two days."

A retired couple acted as dual captains for my group and for play day they drove us over to Rainbow Bridge National Monument. The eight of us arrived just as an intense summer rain leashed its fury creating a cavalcade of waterfalls spilling from the top of the ridge into the lake. It felt like a scene out of a science fiction movie as mist filled the canyon. On the route back to the houseboat, we saw several Anazasi "ladders" or steps called Moqui (pronounced Moki), as well as an older heavy set man scaling these narrow steps up the canyon wall. I guess if he can do it, anyone can.

Appropriate Ages for Volunteer Opportunity

Must be at least 18 years of age.

Special Skills that May be Required or Helpful

Be in good physical condition. Be willing to work 8 hours a day.

Crew members bring their enthusiasm and gear.

Nobody Goes Hungry!

Of course the best part is the food and everyone is asked to bring one evening meal to share, while breakfast and lunch are up to the individual. Alderton suggests to not bring cheese in the middle of summer, " One year I brought a taco chicken casserole and it was so hot that the cheese melted in the bowl!"

Volunteers such as Alderton are motivated to keep coming back year after year because of the feeling of accomplishment in such a picturesque area. During the day the tangerine and beige sandstone rocks look like a tapestry. In the evening while resting on top of the houseboat the stars start quietly dancing for you. In July, you may even catch a show of the Perseids meteor showers. Alderton says, "Doesn't feel like work at all" and I have to agree.

If you plan on applying, please read the "Equipment List" page. Participants receive a Trash Tracker t-shirt, a magnificent experience on Lake Powell and the personal satisfaction of taking care of the park.

Types of Volunteer Work Needed

Several volunteer opportunities exist between the first of April and November such as GRIT (Graffiti Removal and Intervention Team), Houseboat Pilot and Trash Trackers. This is an unordinary working vacation that offers plenty of time for fun. For the past 20 years, the United States Department of the Interior has offered five and three day trips aboard a houseboat on Lake Powell which is located in the Glen Canyon Dam Recreation Area outside of Page, Arizona for volunteers to enjoy while cleaning the lake during daylight hours. Volunteers for the Trash Tracker program clean up trash along the shoreline.

Nearby Places