What to Expect

Plan for your Iowa Project AWARE volunteer adventure.


Breakfast is served at 7 a.m. At this time, lunch is also available for you to pack in your personal cooler to take with you on the water.

If we’ll be camping at the same location that evening, you can leave your camping gear. If we’ll be camping in a different location that evening, load your camping gear and other items into an AWARE trailer, and we’ll take them to the next camping location.

Place any items you need on the river that day in a designated gear truck. We’ll take it to the starting point. You’ll ride to the starting point on a school bus shuttle. (River gear cannot be transported on school bus shuttles.)

Choosing & Loading Your Canoe

Each canoe will have a bow marker. A green bow marker means the canoe is available for anyone to use (Think: Green means “go.”) Orange bow markers indicate private boats—if it’s not yours, please don’t use it. Prior to launch, you’ll need to use the exclusive Iowa Project AWARE check-in system so organizers know who has successfully launched each day. To launch, simply attach your carabiner nametag (provided when you checked in at registration) to your partner’s carabiner and place them both in a designated bucket.

The only things you need to take with you in your canoe are your:

  • Inherently buoyant personal flotation device (PFD), or lifejacket. No self/auto inflating PFDs allowed.
  • Paddle
  • Daypack with drinking water, first-aid supplies, rain/cold gear, etc.
  • Cooler with lunch and snacks

On the Water

You’ll spend the day canoeing and removing trash from the river and riverbanks. You may find things like tires, cans and bottles, toys, furniture, and more. Wear gloves when handling trash, and keep your inherently buoyant PFD/life jacket on at all times. Learn more about safety during the cleanup.

Please stay between the lead canoe and the sweep canoe.

When possible, there will be designated “halfway” points along the route. At halfway points, you’ll be able to refill your water bottle, get other beverages and snacks, and use a restroom. When possible, you’ll be able to unload trash at these locations. Volunteers may have the option to get off the river at the halfway point if desired.

An Iowa Project AWARE support vehicle will tow a trailer with portable toilets. When possible, this trailer will be available where other facilities are not available.

Take Out

At the end of the day, check in your canoe and retrieve your carabiner. Take the school bus shuttle back to camp.

Your gear will be unloaded in a designated area. Be sure to retrieve your gear at the end of each day. Do not leave gear in trucks overnight.

Evening Activities

Every evening, local and statewide experts present educational programs on natural, cultural, and local interest topics. Visit the Project AWARE tent for a listing of each day’s programs or visit our education programs page. Education programs are open to the public.

Or, you may choose to sit around a campfire and chat, play music, or enjoy card games. For many, Project AWARE has been likened to a reunion in the way that everyone is so open and kind, it’s hard not to become attached to those around you.

Dinner is served at 6 p.m.


Most volunteers use a shower house (when available) or personal, portable shower water bags.

Honestly, many participants can tell you that since the majority of the day is spent around trash, the smell of your fellow volunteers often pales in comparison. You’ll also find that a dip in the river isn’t so bad when shower houses aren’t available and your stench has reached its maximum.

Lost & Found

A lost-and-found box will be at the registration table. Please label your gear.