PORTLAND, Ore. -- About 1,000 people from Portland to Eugene were out to make a difference on Saturday, volunteering their time to participate in Willamette Riverkeeper’s “Great Willamette Clean Up” event.

“You can either complain about it or go out there and do something about it, that's how I feel,” said Tyler Hope, one of the volunteers in North Portland.

He and other volunteers found all sorts of trash along the riverbank.

“This year, I found a couple pairs of shoes, some clothes, beer cans, just there's all sorts of stuff,” said Hope.

Volunteers were well-equipped to do the job.

“I've got my ubiquitous grabber and bag, and pick up everything from cigarette butts to great big objects,” said volunteer Doug Warneke.

Folks even went out on canoes and came back with some pretty interesting stuff.

“We got the top of an outhouse,” said one woman as she and another volunteer in a canoe dropped off their garbage.

Bag after bag, it's hard to believe so much garbage came out of the river, and it’s likely there’s a lot more.

“It's a very real issue if you look at all the plastics that end up in the river. That can affect water fowl, fish and other species,” said Travis Williams, the riverkeeper and executive director at Willamette Riverkeeper.

This summer, Poet's Beach, located just under the Marqam Bridge, opened with lifeguards at the ready. The move encouraged people to swim, but some Portlanders said they were hesitant to go in the water because of its dirty reputation.

But indicators show the river is safe to swim and kayak in, said Williams. Volunteers we spoke to hope their work to clean up the Willamette will lessen the stigma around recreating in the river.

Williams said there are many opportunities to help clean up the river and events like these benefit both the river and people who volunteer.

“It's that connection to the Willamette, its long-term health and really that's what Willamette Riverkeeper is about,” said Williams.

It's that connection that keeps volunteers coming back year after year.

If you'd like to get involved you can keep tabs on the Willamette Riverkeeper’s website.