KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Volunteers picked up more than 13,000 pounds of trash from four different rivers within the Cherokee National Forest during an annual cleanup.

The “Cherokee National Forest River Clean-Up Series” was created by Keep The Tennessee River Beautiful to help preserve lakes in Tennessee’s largest tract of public land. Since 2001, 166 volunteers have removed 44,870 lbs. of trash from waterways in the Cherokee National Forest. This year’s event had four cleanups across the national forest.

The first cleanup took place on Feb. 5 at the Watauga River in Elizabethton, where 24 volunteers collected 4,616 lbs. of trash. The second cleanup was held on Feb. 19 at Tellico Lake of the Little Tennessee River in Vonore. This event saw 29 volunteers collect 5,509 lbs. of trash.

The third cleanup was on Feb. 26 at Parksville Lake of the Ocoee River in Benton, where six volunteers collected 1,462 lbs. of trash. The fourth was held on Sept. 10 at South Holston Lake on the Holston River in Abingdon, Va. where seven volunteers collected 2,004 lbs. of waste.

Overall, the cleanup series was successful in collecting 13,137 lbs. of trash and had 66 volunteers participating in the events. The series also saw volunteers remove 32 tires from the waterways.

The trash collected during this event has KTNRB set up to surpass its record-breaking year in 2021, in which more than 700 volunteers removed over 152,000 lbs. of trash. So far this year, the group has removed 149,320 lbs. of trash from the Tennessee River watershed.

“The lakes within the Cherokee National Forest are some of the most stunning among the bodies of water within the Tennessee River watershed and it’s always a privilege to showcase their stunning beauty as well as the need to address litter that has entered their waterways,” said Kathleen Gibi, Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful (KTNRB) Executive Director. “We’re so grateful to Oris, additional sponsors and partners, and especially the volunteers for making this series such as success.”

To join the 2024 Cherokee National Forest River Cleanup Series, click here. The series receives funding from the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and the Tennessee Dept. of Transportation’s ‘Nobody Trashes Tennessee’ litter campaign.