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.
What began as an Iowa DNR event today operates through a nonprofit organization known as N-Compass, Inc. Major partners include the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and the State Hygienic Laboratory at The University of Iowa.
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.