This recent Saturday, our company got to participate in an exciting volunteer event with the San Diego River Foundation. Once a year, San Diego opens up the estuary at the mouth of the San Diego River to kayakers to come in and pick up trash along the marshes. This sensitive habitat is home to several endangered species of birds and fish that thrive off the unique environment where salt and fresh water meet. In the middle are mudflats where reeds and water grasses grow, as well as these floating white flowers. Unfortunately, it also creates a net for trash that flows down the river.
We got lucky and were able to reserve a spot for 3 kayaks for this annual event, which limits the amount of kayakers who can go. We headed down to a location under a bridge near sea world where teams of volunteers from the San Diego River Foundation and REI were there to inform, educate, and help people launch into the river. There were also several people on land, picking up trash along the edge.
The wind was wispy, and the water was very cold, but that didn’t stop us from enjoying the adventure of going into forbidden territory and cleaning the environment. Most of the trash we found were small pieces of debris and plastic trapped in the snares of reeds and grasses. It may seem insignificant compared to large debris, but those small pieces often get gobbled up by fish and birds, which are critically endangered in this area. There was the challenge of also not getting stuck in the mud flats, or encroaching in sensitive areas. Along the way we did get near, but not too close, to some of the birds, and also found lots of snails living in the grasses.
Paddling back was certainly a challenge in itself as the current was pretty strong. But we all made it back in one piece and pretty proud to be part of such an awesome event that only happens once a year.