September 2006

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Paddlers Of All Ages Clean Up At Patagonia Lake State Park

Text, Photos By Norma Miller

Southern Arizona Paddlers just don't talk trash; they pick it during their annual club picnic and "For -the-Sake -of-the Lake" activity

Lake Patagonia SP is not only a beautiful lake; it's also a clean one, and the adopted "home port" of the Southern Arizona Paddlers Club from Tucson.

Every year, around the first weekend in October, club members organize and participate in their annual picnic and lake cleanup in partnership with the State Park rangers.

This year the event will take place Oct. 7 with family and friends of the club driving in with paddleboats from as far away as Yuma. The lake itself is about 50 miles south of Tucson near Nogales, Ariz.

Long time club and lake supporter Royce Davenport has been helping organize this event for years. They've been so successful that he's now organized a spring cleanup as well in April for the last three years.

The weather is warm and mild, the fishing and birding always productive on and around the lake that is fed by Sonoita Creek near the town of Patagonia. Folks start arriving at around 8 a.m. with paddle craft, gloves, gear and ice chests and are on the water with trash bags and pickers by 9 after orientation by Davenport and the Park Service.

The kids always have fun in either sit-on-tops or inflatables. There's always a rather colorful and varied flotilla on the beach or water. And, the family dog even gets into the act.

The park rangers use their pontoon boat as a support craft while everyone is out collecting whatever trash they locate among the trees, reeds, and shoreline. And, it's a big shoreline as there are several coves and inlets to cover.

Sometimes it's challenging and tricky not to "tip the boat" when reaching too far over with a paddle to snag a floating plastic bottle or foam cup. The rangers help pick up full trash bags and give back empty ones.

They say that Lake Patagonia has never been cleaner, thanks to the efforts of our paddlers’ club. Everyone seems to enjoy the scenery so much more and the birds are less apt to get tangled up in monofilament line or 6-pack holders.

Davenport has also managed to get Tucson's Summit Hut to sponsor our efforts by providing some very cool give-a-ways from their store as awards for the best and most unusual trash picked up. Anything from a Sponge Bob doll to a Porta-potti and a variety of interesting "toys" have been recovered from the shoreline. Another gift is given to the participant there from the farthest location; last time it was Minnesota.

After everyone comes in with loaded boats, it's all packed up by the rangers who build up a heap for us to get around for a group photo. The club supplies lots of good barbecued burgers and chicken; other potluck items are donated by members and friends.

When everyone finishes with lunch, we demo our partners’ watercraft for fun to see how it feels on the water. Some folks who are in the market to buy a kayak have some good examples to try here in this nice, protected environment.

If you're interested in joining us with your own paddlecraft to help clean-up and picnic at Patagonia Lake SP this October or for directions to the lake and instructions for free entry, please contact Royce Davenport at (520) 762-9263 or Norma Miller at Also, visit our Web site at and check the Annual Picnic link under the Activities section.