In 2003, three dozen volunteers spent a week of their summer camping, canoeing, and picking up trash from the Maquoketa River. That first-of-its-kind event became known as Iowa Project AWARE. It quickly became the state’s largest volunteer river cleanup.

AWARE began organically, with a passionate group of about thirty individuals forming the first cleanup effort. A front–page article in the Sunday Des Moines Register fueled interest in continuing the event. From that beginning, the event has rapidly grown and evolved.

During AWARE’s early years, the project was coordinated by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. Today, Iowa Project AWARE is a nonprofit event coordinated by volunteers with N-Compass, Inc., in partnership with the State Hygienic Laboratory at The University of Iowa and the all-volunteer Iowa nonprofit N-Compass, Inc. Today, Iowa Project AWARE is a nonprofit event coordinated by N-Compass, Inc.

Hundreds of participants each year include multi–generational family groups, youth groups, church groups, and scouting groups — all sharing an interest in Iowa’s outdoors.

Event History

July 7–12, Boone River

July 8–13, Maquoketa River

July 10–14, 2017, Cedar River

July 11–15, Lower Des Moines River

July 11–16, Wapsipinicon River

July 12–19, Big Sioux River


July 6–13, Des Moines and Boone rivers

July 7–14, Iowa River

July 9–16, Little Turkey, Turkey and Volga rivers

July 10–17, West and East Nishnabotna rivers

June 20–27, Cedar River, Wapsipinicon River, Big Creek and Indian Creek

August 2–9, Winnebago, Shell Rock & Cedar rivers

June 16–23, Middle and North Raccoon rivers

June 17–24, Iowa and English rivers

June 18–25, Little Sioux River

June 19–26, Des Moines River Watershed — Lizard Creek, South Skunk River (Skunk River Watershed), Walnut Creek, Badger Lake, Brushy Creek Pond, Fraser Pond, and Big Creek Lake

June 1–8, Maquoketa River