Zach Davenport and Phoebe, 4, make their way to the river bank to pick up trash after being dropped off via boat on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021, in Miami, Mo. Due to concerns about the pandemic, the Davenports temporarily pulled Phoebe and her sister Gretchen, 7, out of school in favor of homeschooling; creating a curriculum that emphasized exploring the outdoors and learning about the environment. With easing restrictions came a return to public school, but the family continues to stress the importance of environmental conservation.  This was the Davenport family’s third river cleanup together. 

As the sun rises early Saturday morning,  Missouri River Relief rises with it. 
Tuesday was the day for celebration. It was the organization's 20th-anniversary party, and volunteers came from far and wide to share in the festivities for the cause that many of them have watched grow from the beginning. But on Saturday, there is work to be done. 
The work in question is the eighth leg of the 2021 Big Muddy Clean Sweep, a two-month-long river cleanup stretching almost 200 miles from Kansas City to Columbia that is meant to honor Missouri River Relief's 20th year. While the organization started simply to help clean up the Missouri River, it has since evolved into a way to get local communities engaged in the conservation and exploration of the longest river in America, and even includes an educational program for children
With high spirits and friendly banter, the volunteers pile into two boats and set out onto the murky waters. The river is calm, the air is clear, and the day's river cleanup is underway.
This story was edited by  Tristen Rouse and published by the Columbia Missourian with an accompanying story by Connor Giffin. 

Phoebe Davenport, 4, picks up a discarded water bottle Saturday in Miami, Mo. Phoebe's mother, Sabrina Davenport, breaks down an old styrofoam cooler behind her; evidence that this portion of the bank is a popular fishing location. Davenport works for the United States Geological Survey, where she tracks native fish populations in the Missouri River. 

Trash that Missouri River Relief volunteers encountered sits on a riverbank during their cleanup of the Missouri River on Saturday in Miami, Mo. To celebrate the organization's 20th anniversary, they launched the 2021 Big Muddy Clean Sweep, a series of river cleanups spanning 200 miles between Kansas City and Columbia, Mo, and lasting a total of two months. This was the eighth in the series, and the next river cleanup will take place Sept. 25 in Glasgow, starting at Stump Island Park.

Volunteers for Missouri River Relief pile trash they collected from the Missouri River into a single boat for transport Saturday in Miami, Mo. They had collected 40 bags of plastic as well as larger items such as a filing cabinet, a fridge, a wet floor sign and a dump truck tire. During this river cleanup, the organization reached the milestone of collecting 1,000 tons of trash over the past 20 years. 

Steve Olson digs up a large tire alongside his dog, Banjo, on Saturday in Miami, Mo. Elke Boyd assisted with the excavation from inside the tire. Covered in dirt, the two emerged to greet the approaching boat, taking a break from three straight hours of work. 

Nancy McKenna holds Banjo the dog on the boat ride back to the parking lot Saturday in Miami, Mo. Fellow volunteer Steve Olson adopted Banjo, the runt of the litter, at three months old, and she now often accompanies Missouri River Relief on their cleanups. 

Attendees of the Missouri River Relief’s 20th-anniversary event gather on the edge of the Missouri River, Sept. 14 at Cooper’s Landing in Columbia. During the celebration, boat rides were given on the river that the organization has worked hard to protect.

Steve Johnson, left, presents Chad Pregracke with a poster depicting Cooper’s Landing signed by Mike Cooper, former owner of Cooper’s Landing, on Sept. 14 at Cooper’s Landing in Columbia. Pregracke is the founder of Living Lands and Waters, was CNN's 2013 Hero of the Year, and took part in the Missouri River Relief's first-ever river cleanup. 

Spectators listen to a speaker at the Missouri River Relief’s 20th-anniversary event, Sept. 14, 2021, at Cooper’s Landing in Columbia. The speaker celebrated those who had previously volunteered with the organization, the board of directors, and volunteers who had been with the organization for 20 years by asking them to stand while the crowd clapped.

A table of items retrieved from the Missouri River by Missouri River Relief sits adjacent to the stage on Sept. 14, 2021, at Cooper’s Landing in Columbia. Over the past 20 years, the organization has collected almost one thousand pounds of discarded items from the river, including old toys, shoes, and signs.

Eileen Combs works the raffle at the Missouri River Relief’s 20th-anniversary event, Sept. 14, 2021, at Cooper’s Landing in Columbia. In the past 20 years, the organization has hosted nearly 28,500 volunteers that have made over 190 river clean-ups possible. Though not all were able to attend the celebration, those who did go recounted good memories from past cleanups and enjoyed the live music, boat rides, raffles, and catering. 

Attendees of the Missouri River Relief’s 20th-anniversary event take a sunset boat ride on the Missouri River on Sept. 14 at Cooper’s Landing in Columbia. As the event wound down, reminiscing over the past 20 years and hopeful optimism for the next 20 to come echoed over the river.

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