CREEK Program

The Catawba Riverkeeper Environmental Education and Kayaking (CREEK) program teaches youth in the Catawba River basin about their watershed, its threats and how to protect it. Also, the program teaches children and teens basic water safety and kayaking skills.


The Problem
In 2013, a university study identified the Catawba River as the most stressed river east of the Mississippi. Also that year, American Rivers named the Catawba the 5th most endangered river in the United States.

One of the Catawba's biggest threats is the lack of understanding about the impacts of our actions on our water supply. Many people do not connect the health of the River to the health of the economy and the people who depend on it for clean drinking water. 

Simply put, if people do not know about the importance of the River, they will not protect it. 

The Solution

In 2008, CRF began a youth kayaking program. Over the past six years, it has evolved into our flagship education program.

The program teaches youth in the Catawba River basin about their watershed, its threats and how to protect it. Also, the program teaches children and teens basic water safety and kayaking skills. 

About the Program

The first half of the program served kids in South Carolina and the second half served kids in North Carolina. Most participating groups in NC are Charlotte area Boys and Girls Clubs.

CRF designed the program to have two parts: 

1) "Classroom" Session

CRF presents to youth groups at their meeting places, Landsford Canal State Park, or Tailrace Marina. The "classroom" presentation combines traditional lecture style teaching and hands-on water sampling. CRF staff and volunteers lead the youth to a nearby creek while encouraging them to think like scientists. Then the kids get to sample the water from the creek. The students see the results of their water testing a couple of days later.

Amy water sampling with kids at LCSP

2) On-the-water Session

CRF staff and volunteers teach the participants how to kayak in flat water. Participants also learn basic water safety skills that may save lives in open water accidents.

Youth kayaking

Why we continue to run the youth education and kayaking program:

Teaching children about their local environment will give them the knowledge they need to protect it. But CRF believes in more than just educating children. CRF gives kids the chance to walk and paddle through nature.

Connecting with nature inspires children and adults to protect our watershed.

Ultimately, the program participants learn to be better environmental stewards. One day, they will become the leaders of the region. And when that day comes, we hope they will make smart decisions that positively impact our water quality and quantity.

The J. Marion Sims Foundation, the African-American Community Foundation, and CRF members funded the 2016 program. Thank you to all the donors, volunteers, and partners who made this program possible. 


 youth kayaking circle


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Jan 25, 2017 NC Riverkeeper Report
From the perspectives of 12 NC Riverkeepers, this report discusses how multiple environmental issues pose challenges in the pursuit of clean, plentiful water. Whether you are in North Carolina or downstream in South Carolina, read this report about the state of environmental enforcement.
Dec 13, 2016 Community Foundation of Gaston County grants $5,000 to CRF for Riverkeeper Program
The Community Foundation will fund Catawba Riverkeeper's work in Gaston County.
Dec 12, 2016 A Successful Launch of our Water Education Program at Great Falls Elementary
Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation in partnership with 4-H Clemson Cooperative Extension successfully completed our pilot Education Outreach Program with 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students from Great Falls Elementary.
Sep 27, 2016 Lake Wateree Fall Cleanup a Sweeping Success
86 volunteers collected 5,490 pounds of trash from Lake Wateree
Jun 13, 2016 Dozens of Youth Reached in Water Education Outreach Program Pilot Lessons
More news…
Report Pollution in the Catawba River

Help protect your River! 

Tell your Riverkeeper if you see:

  • Sewage Overflows
  • Failure to control sediment from construction sites
  • Illegal clearing of buffer areas
  • Fish kills 
  • Unpermitted discharges
  • Other issues that concern you

Click here to fill out a pollution report or to report water pollution to Catawba Riverkeeper by phone, call 1-888-679-9494 or 704-679-9494.  In addition, to informing your Riverkeeper, you should also report spills or contamination to federal, state and local environmental officials.

To report South Carolina water pollution call 1-888-481-0125.

To report North Carolina spills or fish kills, call your local regional Department of Environment & Natural Resources office during normal business hours (704-663-1699 for most Catawba basin areas or (828) 296-4500 for Burke, Caldwell, McDowell and other mountain counties) or 800-858-0368 after hours.  (For more information on NC spill reporting, click here)


The Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation is a proud member of EarthShare North Carolina, the North Carolina Conservation Network, River Network and the Waterkeeper Alliance.  It also in in an alliance with Clean Air Carolina to address issues, such as sprawl, that cause air and water problems.

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715 N. Church St., Suite 120 . Charlotte, NC 28202 . Phone: 704.679.9494 . Fax: 704.679.9559