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History of the Charles River Cleanup

The Annual Earth Day Charles River Cleanup was started by the Charles River Watershed Association in 1999, in an effort to clean up the river. The Cleanup builds on a national effort as part of American Rivers’ National River Cleanup®, which to date, has removed over 25 million pounds of trash from America’s waterways. From 2016 to 2019, the Annual Earth Day Charles River Cleanup was recognized by American Rivers for the Most Pounds of Trash Collected and Most Volunteers Mobilized.​

Our Cleanup is part of a larger annual effort in Massachusetts State Parks, Park Serve Day. Park Serve Day gives Massachusetts residents the chance to help clean and prepare state parks and beaches for the summer recreation season. Thousands of volunteers spruce up as many as 30 parks each spring.

Our Cleanup brings together over 3,500 volunteers each year to pick up litter, remove invasive species, and assist with park maintenance along all 80 miles of the Charles River and the 1,100 acres of Emerald Necklace park land surrounding the Muddy River. Residents are drawn to the popular Charles River Cleanup from a desire to give back to their community while enjoying the beauty and wildlife along the river. Volunteers hold onto the connections they establish during this day of stewardship by returning to the Charles and Muddy Rivers to exercise, play, and enjoy nature throughout the year.

In the News

'Love that Dirty Water': Is the Charles River actually that dirty?

April 21, 2023

Volunteers collect thousands of pounds of trash during annual Earth Day cleanup along Charles River

April 22, 2023

Thousands of volunteers in Massachusetts to clean up Charles River on Earth Day

April 22, 2023

25th Charles River Cleanup

Press Release

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Program Partners

The Charles River Cleanup is made possible by the following organizations:

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