Each year thousands of people kayak, canoe, or tube the two rivers (Platte River and Crystal River) in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore to experience the fun of navigating a flowing stream and enjoying the flora and fauna on the river. Downed trees or branches or other strainers and erosion of banks, can make the river trip more difficult or dangerous. River adopters commit to patrolling their river section about once each month on their own schedule to clear small obstructions by hand or with hand tools and to communicate larger obstructions or erosion to Park Roads and Trails group. Also, even though most people who boat the rivers are aware of the problem of litter and leave the river in the same or better condition than they found it, having volunteers regularly patrol the rivers assures that they will be clean and in good condition for future visitors.

The Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes in cooperation with Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore has developed an Adopt-A-River program to provide regular monitoring and clean-up of the rivers within the Park. On the Platte River, we also coordinate with the Traverse Area Paddle Club to do large clean-up events a couple of times each summer.

To become an Adopt-A-River volunteer, you or your group must commit to patrolling your river segment about once each month during the spring, summer and fall. Review the River Procedures below. Still interested?

Here is how you can become an Adopt-A-River Volunteer:

  1. Contact us to indicate your interest. The Coordinator will help you select a river segment and help you through the process of getting signed up and obtain the materials you will need including an Annual Pass to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
  2. Sign up as a Volunteer-in-Park (VIP) at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. If you are already a VIP, we will add this job to your existing VIP profile. If you are not a VIP, fill out the Volunteer Agreement Form.

After each time you paddle your River, you will report your volunteer hours, the trash you picked up, and any other observations about the river. Make your report here.

Adopt-A-River Volunteer Procedures

Description of Project:
The volunteer will patrol designated river segments, perform low level river bottom and shoreline maintenance, watch for any problem areas and report them to park staff.

Duties & Responsibilities of volunteers:
The volunteer will patrol the rivers to provide a situation report including windfalls, drainage problems, erosion, vandalism, and litter. The volunteer will provide their own kayak or canoe, paddles, PFD.

The volunteer will pick up litter, remove trash and debris from river, shoreline, and portages. The volunteer will report volunteer hours and observations online. Click here to report.

Anticipated Results & Benefits of Project:
Park rivers will receive more frequent scrutiny than is possible through visits by paid staff. Problems will be corrected on the spot, or else reported to the appropriate staff member for prompt attention. The presence of volunteers on the rivers will provide a positive influence on visitor behavior.

Skills and Abilities Needed by Volunteers:
The volunteer’s physical conditioning and skill level must be good enough to permit paddling moderate distances and negotiating portages. The volunteer needs to be able to work alone without frequent supervision and to exercise good judgment. Litter-gitters are available for use by volunteers.

Limitations for Volunteers:
Volunteers may not use power tools for river maintenance without supervision from park staff. Volunteers need to respect the rights of private property owners along the river.

Minimum Time Commitment of Volunteers:
Volunteers are asked to paddle their river segment once per month from April through October, conditions permitting.

Report volunteer hours and observations here.

Sign Up for our Newsletter