Fox River Cleanups and Celebrations

by Gary Mechanic, Executive Director

The Fox River has come a long way from the days when it was the most used and abused river in Illinois.

An 1908 monograph describes the Fox River: “… the tributaries often bring large amounts of sediment, and various manufactories along the river discharge a large amount of refuse into the stream, and it has, of late years, become so foul that nearly all fish except carp and other filth-enduring species have been drowned out.

A 1914-15 survey of the river by the Illinois Rivers and Lakes Commission concludes, “Now it is in low summer flow a dirty, evil smelling waterway near the cities.”

In 1999 the Fox River was named by American Rivers as one of the most endangered rivers in the U.S (see the report at the bottom of this page).

Now, with the removal of some dams, improved water quality and increased public access, more fish, birds and people have come back to the Fox. So we think it’s a good time to recognize the progress that’s been made, and celebrate our collective success in making the river cleaner and healthier.

Clean-ups and Celebrations

Each spring we partner with co-sponsors to conduct shoreline cleanups in towns along the Fox River. We work with our co-sponsors to raise funds to support cleanup volunteers with a free lunch and live music after their hard work picking up litter and trash. We call these cleanup/celebrations “Love Our River Days“.

But we can only conduct one cleanup, in one town, per day. With thirty-nine villages and cities on the river, you can see how our capacity to produce cleanups is limited.

So each fall, on the 3rd Saturday in September, we coordinate a river cleanup along the entire river by supporting local cleanup organizers. We call this river length cleanup and celebration produced by local event organizers “It’s Our Fox River Day“.

2020 “Love Our River Day” SPRING CLEANINGSRep Anna Moeller

Saturday, April 18, 8 am – 12 pm in Aurora – Help cleanup both sides of the river in Aurora as Friends of the Fox River supports the Aurora Kiwanis Club‘s “One Day” Cleanup. Due to community health concerns this clean-up has been cancelled.

Saturday, April 18, 9 am – 12 pm in Elgin – Co-sponsored by Illinois Rep. Anna Moeller. Due to community health concerns this clean-up has been indefinitely postponed.

Saturday, May 16, 10 am – 12 pm in Batavia – Co-sponsored with the City of Batavia. Meet at the Blackard Skate-park (east side of Rt. 25 1/3 mile south of Wilson St.)

Please fill out the form below to volunteer for a cleanup.

It’s Our Fox River Day!

On Saturday, September 19, 2020, Friends of the Fox River will coordinate a cleanup on the entire Fox Elgin Cleanup volunteers 2019River from Waukesha, Wisconsin to the the confluence in Ottawa, Illinois.

We are reaching out to towns, counties, park districts and forest preserve districts along the river, along with environmental groups, faith communities, youth organizations and individuals throughout the watershed to join in this annual event and celebrate the place the Fox River has in our lives and our communities.

We encourage individuals, groups and organizations to run a clean-up along the river, but some other ways to help and celebrate the river include, but are not limited to, a canoe clean-up, bike trail clean-up, a family creek walk, birding, fishing, paddling, riverside yoga, a community water blessing, art making, or a river photography workshop. Creative, and fun, all ages community events and celebrations are what will make “It’s Our Fox River Day” a strong tradition in all of our communities.

Friends of the Fox River will support local organizers by:

  • helping you plan your event
  • helping you obtain site permissions, permits and providing insurance
  • publicizing your event with a dedicated webpage and regular social media posts
  • helping you recruit, register, inform and thank your volunteers

We can also support local events by:

  • providing an environmental education exhibit (an Enviroscape) with a trained demonstrator
  • a Friend of the Fox River board member can attend your event and speak briefly and/or conduct a water ceremony
  • providing one of our six speakers who offer presentations about the history, health, protection, and future of the Fox River

For more information please visit our Organize A River Clean Up and River Cleanup Organizers Toolkit webpages. Register your event using the form on the Organize A River Clean Up page.

The “It’s Our Fox River Day” Proclamation

Friends of the Fox River has produced a resolution proclaiming the the 3rd Saturday in September “It’s Our Fox River Day” and has distributed it to the Mayor’s and President’s of the thirty-nine cities and villages along the river from Waukesha to Ottawa, and the nine counties in both States. We’ve invited those elected leaders to present it to their town or county council for adoption.

Has your town or county adopted this Proclamation? Contact your local elected official and ask them to support this watershed wide and river length effort to unify our communities, recognize the unity of the river and watershed, and protect the river that connects us.

Healing the Fox River

Gary Swick“We are all friends of our Fox River. Friends help each other in in hard times, and celebrate with them in good times.” says President Gary Swick. “Helping to heal our river by removing trash is important. This year, we are inviting community organizations and residents to join us in several riverside celebrations of our community’s most important resource.”

For many years Friends of the Fox River has coordinated river cleanups with towns, fire and police departments and other community groups from Algonquin to Yorkville.  Founder of the Friends of the Fox River, Pat Reece proclaimed in his 1988 vision for the recovery of the Fox River:  “a few groups and agencies could not protect the Fox River. It would take a watershed scale effort involving each state, county, and community working together in harmony.”

Creating “It’s Our Fox River Day” is just one step Friends of the Fox River is taking toward our goal of creating a unified community of caretakers along the entire Fox River.

It’s Our Fox River Day Events 2019

Saturday, September 21st

Noon to 4 pm in Algonquin – Cleanup in Towne Park organized by the Environmental Defenders of McHenry County

9 am to noon in St. Charles – Cleanup organized by The Conservation Foundation and the River Corridor Foundation of St. Charles.

10:30 am to 12:30 pm at the Jelke Creek Nature Preserve – Water quality monitoring, Enviroscape demonstrations, and Nature Preserve hikes, organized by Dundee Township Open Space.

9 am to 1 pm in Elgin – Cleanup at Voyageurs Landing Forest Preserve organized by Pete Becker, Friend of the Fox

9 am to 12 noon in South Elgin – Cleanup at SEBA Park organized by Kristin Delaney, S. Elgin High School student.

9 am to 12 noon in Carpentersville – Cleanup from Fox River Shores Forest Preserve to OTTO Engineering, organized by the Rotary Club of Carpentersville Morning.

11 am to 12:30 pm in Elgin – Flow with Yoga by the Fox River on Riverside Drive and Fountain Square, organized by Vida Yoga & Fitness. Free class followed by a mini-cleanup! Register here

2:30 pm to 3:30 pm in West Dundee – Cleanup along Lincoln Ave on the west side of the river, organized by Jenni Shiavone, FOFR Educator and W. Dundee resident.

2019 Love Our River SPRING CLEANINGSRep Anna Moeller

Saturday, April 13, 8 am – 12 pm in Aurora – Volunteer now to help cleanup as Friends of the Fox River supports the Aurora Kiwanis Club‘s “One Day” Cleanup.

Saturday, May 11, 9 am – 12 pm in Batavia – Co-sponsored with the City of Batavia. Meet at the Blackard Skate-park (east side of Rt. 25 1/3 mile south of Wilson St.)

Saturday, May 18, 9 am – 12 pm in Elgin – Co-sponsored with Illinois Rep. Anna Moeller. Meet at the west end of Ann St. on the north side of the Gail Borden Library.

Saturday, June 29, 1 pm – 4 pm in Yorkville – Co-sponsored by
Southbank Original BBQ and Sweetwater Brewing Co.

Please fill out the form below to volunteer for an It’s Our Fox River Day event.

If you’d like to organize an It’s Our Fox River Day clean up, please visit our Organize A River Clean Up and River Cleanup Organizers Toolkit webpages.

TO REGISTER as a Cleanup Volunteer, or just help out as an Event Volunteer, please fill out the form below. Please fill out a separate registration form for yourself and any child or underage family member who is volunteering with you. The form will only register one person at a time.

Questions? Please see the Love Our River Day FAQ page or contact us here.

Cleanup Volunteer Registration Form

  • Thank you for volunteering to help at a river cleanup. You must be 18 years or older to register. Parents and guardians may register for children seven years and older.
  • Entering your phone number will help us notify you of in case we need to make last minute changes, or cancel the event.
    Choose the location(s) and date(s) you can volunteer

Fox River named Most Endangered by American Rivers – 1999 Report

Download (PDF, 546KB)

Girl Scouts cleanup in Batavia