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Wabash River Defenders to Clean Up River


On Saturday,July 28, 2018, the Wabash River Defenders (WRD) will be hosting their annual Clean Out the Banks event. Participants should gather at Paradise Spring Historic Park, 351 E. Market Street, at 7:00 am for coffee and donuts with instructions starting at 7:30. After the clean-up event, the day winds down with a lunch provided by Knights of Columbus. Cleanup will occur rain or shine, with the exception of lightning.

River and land “teams” carry out the event’s goal of cleaning our local Wabash River (and tributaries) and its banks. A “team” consists of two to twenty people with a boat(s) and/or truck. When signing up, individuals should declare their “team” members or indicate river or land “team” preference, to which they will be assigned accordingly. The river “teams” focus on gathering the debris via kayaks, canoes and Jon boats or walking in the water. The depth of the water is typically from the 6-24 inches, controlled through the release of water at the Huntington Dam and Salamonie Dam by the Army Corp of Engineers. All river participants should be over 13 years of age; however, a parent or guardian must accompany those under the age of 18. The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) requires all those in a boat have a personal flotation device (PFD, i.e. life jacket). WRD requires those walking in the river to wear a PFD or be able to swim. A “team truck” to transport the gathered waste is helpful but not required. Land workers gather and transport trash in their “team truck” from the banks to Paradise Spring Historic Park. There is no age limit for land team members. Both teams are encouraged to bring sun protection, good shoes that will prevent sharp objects from hurting feet, shovel or trowel, gloves, water or beverage, and snacks. WRD will provide PFDs or canoes/Jon boats on an “as available” basis. Volunteers (no “team” required) are also needed to unload and sort debris at Paradise Spring.

Can’t attend July 28? You can still contribute. Those who would like to participate prior to the cleanup may do so by helping recruit individuals and teams and attend pre-event meetings. Those wishing to be part of the planning should contact WRD with their name and e-mail contact information via Wabash River Defenders Facebook page.

In 2011, a total of 350 volunteers gave their time and energy for the first Clean Out the Banks event. Since then, with the exception of 2015 when water levels were too high, as many as 400 volunteers have joined together every year. These river-minded volunteers have removed over 126 tons of debris, including almost 5,000 tires from the river. In addition to tires, volunteers have pulled televisions, computers, bicycles, guns, household furniture, an automobile, farm equipment, and even the front of a school bus from our local river. Seventy-five percent of the total weight of this debris has been recycled through a relationship with the Wabash County Solid Waste District and various other partners. Leaders from an Indiana river commission call the annual event “the largest volunteer river cleanup in Indiana.”

According to perennial volunteer, Rollin McCoart, “This is a terrific event. The river is definitely benefitting from everyone’s efforts. We are making a difference.”

More information and registration are available at, or call Jen Rankin, Wabash County Solid Waste executive director, at 260-563-7649. More information about the organization is also available on the Wabash River Defenders Facebook page.


Calling All Wabash River Defenders to Clean Out the Banks on July 29, 2017!

The Wabash River Defenders will hold a river cleanup on Saturday, July 29.  “If mother nature behaves this year, the Wabash River Defenders will get every last tire out of the river!”

Questions, Sign Up, Free T-Shirt Call Jen Rankin at 260-503-9880.  Limited supply of T-shirts for first volunteers who sign up.  Once the T-Shirts are gone, there will be no more made!

Who can help? Any able person age 16 and over, or 13 and over with parent,willing to get wet and muddy in the river
Help on land? People are needed ON LAND who can help with moving, sorting, and loading debris.

What’s needed? Pickup trucks, boats, shovels, trowels, rope, and personal gear like gloves, hats, sunglasses, sunscreen, bug repellant, personal beverages and personal flotation device for each person in a boat.

Organizing meeting: 5:30 p.m., Thurs, July 13, Wabash County Solid Waste District Office, 1101 Manchester Ave. All Team Leaders and individual volunteers may attend.

Event Start Time: 8:00 a.m., Sat., July 29

Start Location: Paradise Spring Park

Wabash River Defenders return to Clean Out the Banks
– May 2015

Michael Beauchamp (left), founder of the Wabash River Defenders, discusses various access points used in past years for the Clean Out the Banks events at the Wabash River Defenders team leader meeting on May 14, 2015. The organization has again partnered with the City of Wabash and local property owners to establish access points for the upcoming Wabash River cleanup event. Photo by Emma Rausch

Article Provided by The Paper of Wabash County

The Wabash River Defenders are finalizing the team assignments up for their fourth Clean Out the Banks event on July 25, but are still welcoming more volunteers to join the cause.

On May 14, the organization’s committee met with nearly a dozen team leaders to update the volunteers on the cause’s recent developments, coordinate location assignments, and organize tool responsibilities for each team.

Ideally, the organization would like to have 19 teams for the upcoming cleanup, one team per mile of the 19-miles the river runs through Wabash County, said founder Michael Beauchamp.

“I think the more teams, the more team leaders, the more people, the better our chance of getting our trash out,” Beauchamp said. “You can never have too many teams.”

Since the organization’s founding in 2011, the Wabash River Defenders have cleared over 62 tons of debris from the river. In 2014, the Defenders determined that there was not enough debris in the river to organize a cleanup event and, instead, celebrated their efforts and thanked the volunteers with the 62 Ton RiverFest.

The committee determined earlier in 2015 that there is enough debris in the Wabash River to assemble another Clean Out the Banks event. The Defenders have again partnered with the City of Wabash and local property owners to establish access points for volunteer defenders to enter and clean areas of the river, Beauchamp said.

This year, in addition to clearing trash out of the Wabash River, the organization is also pursuing an effort to prevent future water pollution and preserve water quality, according to Beauchamp.

“There are active watershed initiatives on up river from us, starting in Huntington County,” Beauchamp said. “So I wanted you to know that we’re not just doing a clean out, that’s what we’re here about, but we’re also pursuing an in-depth effort on water quality.”

In order to achieve this, the committee has also applied for various grants to assist with the effort’s costs. In February, the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF) awarded the Wabash River Defenders with a $5,000 grant. The funds have gone toward formalizing the organization, collaborating with other water-cleaning initiatives for ideas, social media, marketing, and strategic planning, according to a NEEF press release.

The Defenders have also applied for a Clean Water Act Section 319 grant and Lake and River Enhancement (LARE) program grant, according to Steve Johnson, committee member and Wabash County United Fund, Inc. executive director.

In addition to funding, the organization has also been working with the county’s farming community to combat water contamination, Beauchamp said.

“As we’re working with all this agricultural run-off, we’re becoming more involved with our farming community, with the NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service), with the Wabash County Soil (and Water) Conservation,” he continued. “We’re never going to force a farmer to do anything he doesn’t want to do. That is not our goal. Our goal is not to be a policeman.

“Our goal is to be an advocate for river quality.”

The Wabash River Defenders is still accepting volunteers for the Clean Out the Banks event. Volunteers must be older than 13-years-old and all participants in high school or below must be with a parent.

If interested in volunteering for the Clean Out the Banks event, email for more information.



From the Wabash River to the Gulf of Mexico
Kayaking couple stops in Wabash on their way down stream
– April 2015

LaNae and John Abnet are heading south for the next four months on a kayaking trip from the source of the Wabash River to the Gulf of Mexico. To their knowledge, they will be the first couple to make and document this journey. Photo by Emma Rausch

Article provided by The Paper of Wabash County

From the source of the Wabash River, John and LaNae Abnet plan to spend the next four months kayaking and camping on their voyage to the Gulf of Mexico, and, to their knowledge, they’ll be the first to document it.

“Life is too short to sit on the banks watching the water go by, wondering … wondering where the water flows,” the Abnets wrote on their blog. “Sitting is safe, but all these questions will never be answered, and we stay in a state of wondering, while sitting in silence, so … we decided to ‘LIVEout-loud.’”

On April 12, just two weeks into their trip, the Abnets stopped in Wabash to camp for the night on the River Walk near the Wabash Street bridge.

Although the couple has never reached out to the local papers to publicize their journey, somehow word always gets around. As Mrs. Abnet recalled, while in Wabash, a curious jogger had stopped by and heard their story.

“The jogger just so happened to run into Mike Beauchamp’s wife who then came down to the river to meet us himself,” Mrs. Abnet said in an interview with The Paper of Wabash County. “He told us all this information about the river that we didn’t know before.”

“He’s a great guy and big on the (Wabash River Defenders),” Abnet said. “It’s just funny how people come out of the woodwork (as we travel from bank to bank).

“We’ve met amazing people without doing anything.”

Beachamp announced the couple’s journey at the Wabash County Comissioners meeting on Monday April 13 where The Paper of Wabash County picked up the story.

Originally from Berne, near the Ohio state line, the Abnets began planning every detail of their trip a year prior to setting out, including mapping out the post offices along the entire route, dehydrating meals for every day of the trip, and Abnet quitting his job.

“We saw an opportunity to do this,” Abnet said. “I was going to leave what I was doing and so this was a great time to (have an adventure). We have enough money saved that we can go for four months and three days.”

“And then we’ll be broke,” Mrs. Abnet said with a laugh.

The 1,591-mile journey will take four months to reach the Gulf, or so they’re guessing, according to  Abnet’s calculations.

“We did the math,” Mrs. Abnet said.

“If we go 15 miles a day for six days of the week it comes out about four months,” Abnet said. “We can do 30 miles in a day. Today we did 12, and the last stretch was 23, so 15 miles is a reasonable average.”
When the couple originally started their journey on April 1, they were dragging their boats behind them for 18 miles over three days.

“The Wabash River starts in a field behind a farmer’s house,” Mrs. Abnet said. “It just bubbles out of the ground and we had to walk 18 miles before we could find somewhere deep enough to put our kayaks in. It’s just a creek to begin with and you think, ‘This is really a river?’ So we started at the very beginning of it and we’re going down to the Gulf of Mexico.”

The Abnets have kayaked for many years, taking many trips to the Artic Ocean and traveling through northern Canada, Mrs. Abnet said. So while they’re experienced with kayaking, Mrs. Abnet admitted they have never done anything this lengthy.

“We live close to the Wabash River (in Berne) and we actually drive over it a lot,” she continued. “John always teases and goes, ‘You know we could just put our boats in there and go anywhere.’”

In March 2014, the Abnets attended the Quiet Water Symposium at Michigan State where they made an inspirational acquaintance.

“There was this lady there who had started from the head waters of the Missouri (River) and gone down to the Gulf by herself,” Mrs. Abnet said. “And I thought, ‘Wow. That’s cool.’ I would never want to do it by myself ever. That’s just a bit too scary, but then as we were talking, we thought, ‘That’s cool. We could maybe do that—‘”

“It was literally her idea to do that,” Abnet added with a smile. “The next week, we’re driving home and she’s going, ‘We should do that.’ So it’s really her fault we’re doing this.”

Although the couple isn’t doing this journey for any recognition, Abnet said that while they are out there they might as well do something worthwhile and bring awareness to a charity called Fortress.

“(Fortress) is a really good cause,” he continued. “There’s a woman in Uganda doing great things for pregnant moms. … She’s got this little rented place that’s quite a ways from the hospital and they’ll put a girl in labor on the back of a motorcycle and get her to the hospital. … It’s great but it’s not sufficient for all the work that they’re doing and they want to get their own place.

“So we’re going to try to raise $40,000 to help them get their own place.”

To follow the Abnets’ journey south or to donate to the charity, visit

Celebration surrounding the success of the Wabash River Cleanup
– July 2014

The Wabash River Defenders have announced that this year’s river initiative, the 62 Ton RiverFest, will revolve around celebrating the success of the past three river cleanup campaigns and the hundreds of volunteers who dedicated their time and resources to protecting our natural waterway.

On Saturday, July 26the public is invited to participate in a group/family float along the Wabash River. Launching from Lagro between 9:00 am to 10:00 am and getting off of the river at the Carroll St. access point in Wabash.

The Wabash River Defenders (WRD) and the Knights of Columbus will host a celebratory lunch and concert at Paradise Spring Historical Park beginning at Noon. This completely free event will include all-you-can-eat Wabash River Silver Tail and Riverbank Tatters along with a live musical performance by Small Town.

“This entire county has worked tirelessly over the last three years removing 62 tons of debris and pollutants from the water and the banks of the entire length of the Wabash River,” shared Michael Beauchamp, founder of the Wabash River Defenders. “That is just over 19 miles from Miami to Huntington counties.”

In 2011, more than 400 volunteers gathered for the first organized “clean out the banks” initiative, making Wabash County the largest river clean-up project in the State of Indiana. Wabash County United Fund (UF) serves as the fiscal agent for the program. “United Fund encourages the investment of community
spirit,” stated Steve Johnson, executive director for United Fund. “Myself and the UF Board of Directors
sees this community beautification project as a way to publicly serve and strengthen the entire county.”

In addition to removing 62 tons of debris, the WRD in partnership with Wabash County Solid Waste Management District have erected (10) dumping regulation signs at heavily abused sites along the Wabash River. Additionally, Wabash County Solid Waste Management District will accept old tires from Wabash County residents for free at their facility as a way to discourage using the river as a trash can.

“Each year volunteers pull out more than 500 tires from the river during the cleanup,” expressed Jen Rankin executive director for Wabash County Solid Waste Management District. “We recognized the need to remove the barrier of cost and help prevent tires from being tossed into all our waterways.”

Twenty wood duck boxes and (20) bird houses, built by Heartland Career Center with materials paid for by a Wabash County REMC Operation Round-Up grant, have been installed along the Wabash River.

“We have worked tremendously hard at defending our river,” continued Beauchamp. “Now it is time to celebrate with a little fun and a lot of fellowship.”

The Wabash River Defenders is a volunteer group who want to preserve and protect the Wabash River. The WRD want to protect the river as a haven for swimming, paddling, fishing and camping. The group is building an organization of hundreds of friends of the Wabash River who are committed to preserving the
river’s legacy for generations to come.

July 2014

Wabash River Defenders (WRD) have partnered with the Knights of Columbus Squires to further their mission of wildlife preservation along the Wabash River. On the morning of April 26 the Squires, Kevin Hipskind, John Foor along with Wabash River Defender degree Knight of Columbus, Sir Keith Poole installed multiple styles of bird and 4th houses along the Wabash River Walk.

The installation of bird houses included: (2) wren; (2) blue bird: (2) chickadee: (2) nuthatch; (2) tuffted titmouse; (2) screech owl: (2) Kestral: (2) flicker: (2) robin shelves. The bird houses were built by students at Heartland Career Center with materials that were purchased with funds awarded to the WRD from Wabash County REMC’s Operation Round-Up Grant.

“The (Wabash River) Defenders are humbled by the support that we continue to receive from organizations like the Knights of Columbus, Jen Rankin of Solid Waste Management, Todd Titus of the Wabash City Parks Department and so many others,” said Keith Poole, a key leader serving among the Wabash River Defenders.

“Preserving the wildlife that live along the banks of the Wabash River are just as vital as the wildlife living in the river. Our work doesn’t end after the day we cleanout the banks. It is ongoing and we are determined to advance our efforts and defending our waterways,” Poole continued.

The WRD have changed their logo to represent more than just their cleanout the banks initiative. “We want to be known as the “water people,” said Michael Beauchamp, found of the Wabash River Defenders. “It is our goal to serve as a leader regarding water and river wildlife conservation; that includes the tributaries that feed into our main waterways.”

The Wabash River Defenders will host the 62 Ton RiverFest, which will revolve around celebrating the success of the past three river cleanup campaigns and the hundreds of volunteers who dedicated their time and resources to protecting our natural waterway. On Saturday, July 26 the public is invited to participate in a group/family float along the Wabash River and a free lunch and outdoor concert at Paradise Spring Historical Park.





July 8, 2013

Outdoor Indiana, the official magazine of the Department of Natural Resources, published an article in their July/August 2013 issue titled, “WE ALL LIVE DOWNSTREAM”.  This is the motto of the Wabash River Defenders, coined by volunteer Keith Poole.  Magazine reporter, Nick Werner, and photographer, Frank Oliver, were on hand during our 2012 Clean Out the Banks.  They revisited Wabash to collect interviews with a number of Wabash River Defenders’ volunteers.  Pick up an issue at your local magazine stand and enjoy reading about what you have helped accomplish.  The word about Clean Out the Banks is spreading and the Wabash River is the beneficiary.  As Mike Beauchamp said in the article. “This is God’s garden and it is our responsibility to take care of it.”






July 15, 2013 9:00 a.m.

Wabash River Defenders needs your help!

Attorney General of the State of Indiana, Greg Zoeller, is coming to Wabash to celebrate the Wabash River Defenders and the 2013 Year of the River. A.G. Zoeller will lend his support for river cleanups throughout Indiana and he is particularly interested in stopping Asian Carp infestation of our waters.  You can help! There will be a gathering at Paradise Spring or the new Hikers, Bikers & Paddlers Campsite (weather depending).  Our new campsite is just off Race Street behind the Temple’s Auto Laundry and Crystal Flash. This will take place on Monday morning, July 15, at 9:00 a.m.  Show your support by coming to the event.  It will last one-half hour.  A.G. Zoeller will launch a boat from our DNR Ramp site just west of the Wabash Street bridge and will head for New Harmony, Indiana. Greg Zoeller has heard about the Wabash River Defenders and chose Wabash as the starting place to launch his campaign for clean rivers.

Let’s show Attorney General Zoeller our Wabash “Oubache” Spirit!  Wear a Wabash River Defenders “Clean Out the Banks” t-shirt if you still have one.


July 16, 2013

The only required Team Leaders meeting is scheduled for 6:55 pm, Tuesday, July 16 at the Wabash County Solid Waste District board room. This will be the ONLY meeting
 for Team Leaders to review the Clean Out the Banks event, schedule, team requirements, access points, transportation, etc. If you cannot make the meeting, please report this to Christine Flohr at 260-571-7318. Bring your ideas for event improvements!

May 1, 2013

See the new video on our home page produced by Steven Weir of our 2012 Clean Out.  Who knows, you may see yourself in the river!  You can also follow the Wabash River Defenders on Facebook.

April 5, 2013

Thanks to the work of Keith Poole, the City of Wabash “Hikers, Bikers, and Paddlers Overnight Campsite” along the new Wabash River Trail, has as nice new picnic table.  The City of Wabash and Parks’ Director, Todd Titus, have been great partners to help the Wabash River Defenders establish a campsite along the river.

March 13, 2013

The Wabash River Heritage Corridor Commission of the State of Indiana held its regular meeting in Knox County, Indiana. Keith Poole, Assistant Commissioner for Wabash County, sought and gained approval of a $1000 grant for our 2013 Clean Out.

February 22, 2013

Our 2012, Sagamore of the Wabash awardees, John and Gloria Foor, have picked up every tire, couch, T.V., or other large trash item along Old Road 24 from Largo to Wabash.  One more example why these two people are such special friends of the Wabash River Defenders. This river road stretches for 5.5 miles.  Thanks John and Gloria!

Outdoor Indiana, the foremost nature magazine in our state, visited our city for interviews about the Wabash
River Defenders for their July issue.  Keith Poole, who worked with the Department of Natural Resources as a state biologist for twenty years knows personnel at the magazine.  He has promoted our summer clean out with them.

November 28, 2012

The Banks of the Wabash, Inc. is non-profit organization based in Lafayette, Indiana, dedicated to preserving, enhancing and promoting the significant historical and natural resources of the Wabash River Corridor. At their monthly meeting held in November at the Honeywell Center their board designated the Wabash River Defenders and our River Clean Up as the best community project in the State of Indiana along the river.  Michael Beauchamp and Keith Poole were on hand to accept the award.

September 26, 2012

Jen Rankin, Executive Director, of the Wabash County Solid Waste District and Michael Beauchamp presented a program to the Wabash Optimist Club concerning the 2012 Clean Out.  They showed a video from our website produced by Lindsay Clark.  If your group would like a similar program, call Jen or Mike. The main program emphasis was that much of the “trash” we find in the river will be claimed free of charge by the Solid Waste District. The Solid Waste District operates on funds collected as “tipping fees” from the Republic Services landfill.  Don’t dump tires in the river!  Visit the Wabash County Solid Waste District.

March 13, 2012

The Wabash River Defenders purchased surveillance equipment to monitor sites along the Wabash River, and volunteers mounted the equipment. If you plan to dump along the banks of the Wabash River, be sure to SMILE. Your picture may be on one of our cameras.

March 11, 2012

Wabash County has a new “Hikers, Bikers, & Paddlers Campsite”. With the help of Mayor Robert Vanlandingham, Park Director Todd Titus, and the Wabash Park Board, the new site is located in the City of Wabash along the Wabash River Trail. This is another great “first” for our county, as this is unbelievably the first public campsite along the entire stretch of 512 miles of the Wabash River. The Wabash River Heritage Corridor Commission, an official Indiana State commission, is striving to add campsites, access points, and river trails along the Wabash River. Our county is the first to have all three!

February 1, 2012

Ten more automotive tires were located along Enyeart Creek, a tributary of the Wabash River. Thanks to the generosity of the Wabash County Solid Waste District, these tires will be removed.

January 15, 2012

Volunteer John Foor found approximately 70 commercial semi-truck tires, weighing 2 ½ tons dumped on the bank and in the water of the Wabash River. John personally drug the tires from the banks to the county road nearby. The Wabash River Defenders is working with Conservation Officer John Salb to apprehend of the culprits. The Wabash County Solid Waste District paid to have the tires picked up and removed by their tire recycler from Peru, Leffler Tire Recycling.

January 9, 2012

Volunteers Michael Beauchamp, Keith Poole and Richard Beamer met before the Wabash County Commissioners to explain the successful 2011 Clean Out the Banks campaign. They sought to have the Commissioners take a hard look at the littering ordinance that has been in place since 1987, which calls for a fine of $100 for anyone found dumping trash. The volunteers asked for a more stringent ordinance and asked the Commissioners for the general support of the Wabash River Defenders.