Get Ready for Creek Week!

By Ellie Dilworth, AmeriCorps Environmental Outreach & Volunteer Coordinator, Keep Durham Beautiful

With Spring fast approaching, it’s hard not to stare out the window and dream of being outside. Luckily, the third week in March offers a great chance to get out there: Durham Creek Week.

This year, Creek Week runs from March 18th through March 25th. Creek Week is one of Durham’s largest litter cleanup initiatives of the year; a collaboration of over 15 community groups, organizations, local government divisions, and businesses; and a week-long celebration of Durham’s creeks, streams, rivers, and lakes.

Volunteers from Durham Tech at a litter removal event at Long Meadow Park along Goose Creek, Creek Week 2019 (Credit: Tania Dautlick)

Tackling Pollution

One of Creek Week’s main initiatives is removing litter from waterways and raising awareness about water pollution. Litter flows into our waterways with runoff and pollutes water as materials degrade, leaching chemicals into the surrounding water and soil. Did you know, the chemicals from just one cigarette butt can contaminate around two gallons of water—removing litter is a big deal!

Durham’s main source of drinking water is Lake Michie, located in North Durham. However, most of the creeks and streams in Durham flow into Jordan or Falls Lake, which serve as drinking water sources for surrounding cities. March is a great time to remove litter from our waterways as much of the overgrowth is dormant, making it easier to get close to waterways, spot the litter, and go in there to get it out.

Durham has celebrated Creek Week since 2009. In Creek Week’s 13-year history, approximately 4,117 volunteers have removed 190,637 pounds of litter from Durham’s waterways. This year, Creek Week will host a variety of cleanups across Durham to remove litter both on foot and by boat. Below we’ll tell you how to get involved.

Educational Opportunities

            While litter removal is a big part of Creek Week, it’s also a great time to learn more about our waterways, aquatic life, and water infrastructure in Durham. Participants can gain knowledge and experience through hands-on learning opportunities.

Kids searching for frogs at last year’s Frog Watch at Sandy Creek Park, Creek Week 2022 (Credit: Laura Webb Smith)

Some of this year’s events include:

  • Experiencing the explosion of spring song and mating activity among frogs at Sandy Creek Park
  • A bioretention tour at the City of Durham’s General Services Building
  • A Green Stormwater workshop at the Museum of Life and Science

An Educational Resource Guide with youth book recommendations and classroom activities and lessons can be found on the Creek Week website for a great way to learn and participate from home!

Recreational Activities

After lots of litter removals and educational events, it can be nice to spend some time exploring and enjoying our local waterways. Creek Week has ample opportunities for both fun and challenging—but still fun—recreational activities. Join Creek Week partners for one of many canoe and kayak adventures and classes which offer a new perspective on our lakes and rivers, enjoy free admission to explore the Museum of Life and Science on Durham Community Day, or team up for a hike along one of Durham’s many trails that run alongside our waterways.

Participate from Home

Whether you can attend an in-person event or not, you can still participate in Creek Week! Visit the Creek Week website to fill out this year’s bingo card. Participants who complete five spaces will receive a Creek Week patch. Those who fill out ten spaces will be entered for a chance to win a $120 gift card from Frog Hollow Outdoors. Durham County Stormwater is hosting a virtual scavenger hunt via social media with prizes for participants who get all the questions correct.

In addition to events in Durham, the Clean Water Education Partnership of the Triangle J Council of Governments hosts a Regional Creek Week event. For this year’s Regional Creek Week theme of “GSI Oh My!,” CWEP will be hosting a virtual scavenger hunt highlighting local examples of green stormwater infrastructure (GSI). GSI provides an alternative to sending runoff unfiltered directly into waterways via methods of filtering and absorbing stormwater in the place where it falls. Implement green stormwater infrastructure at your home through things like a rain barrel or rain garden, or take on a larger project like bioretention cells or redeveloping the riparian buffer along a waterway. For more information on the scavenger hunt and Regional Creek Week events, visit CWEP’s Regional Creek Week webpage.

Volunteers at a litter removal event at Beaver Marsh Preserve, Creek Week 2022 (Credit: Laura Webb Smith)

Register and Learn More

If you’re interested in joining a cleanup, participating in a workshop, or attending a recreational event, visit and navigate to the events page for registration links. Space is limited for many events, so sign up soon to secure your spot. If you’d like to organize or lead a litter removal event, please fill out this form. Keep Durham Beautiful will provide tools for those leading litter cleanups. If you’re not in Durham but would still like to get involved, keep an eye out for similar events in your area by visiting CWEP’s Regional Creek Week webpage or the NC Creek Week Network Hub from the NC Department of Environmental Quality.

However you choose to participate, we hope you take the chance this March to explore, appreciate, learn, and care for our local waterways. See you out there!

Resources/Links: (Includes Event Registration, Educational Resource Guide, Bingo Card)

NC Creek Week Network Hub

CWEP’s Regional Creek Week webpage

Registration Form to Lead or Organize a Cleanup

Article Short Link:

Rain is Rushing Down My Street

It’s raining – again! Do you wish you could save some of that rainwater for later? Maybe you are tired of seeing your soil and mulch wash down the street during heavy downpours. There are some things you can do.

Stormwater Management in the Garden

by Michelle Wallace, Consumer Horticulture Agent, Durham County

There are butterfly gardens, children’s gardens, and vegetable gardens – all of which are designed and developed around a central theme. So, what kind of garden is built around the theme of rain? Rain gardens are gardens created to help with stormwater management.

In the past, the goal has always been to manage stormwater by getting rid of the surface water as fast as possible. The water from roads is drained into the city sewer system, where it disappears. With more flooding of streams, creeks, and rivers, everyone is becoming aware of how important it is to manage storm water. In addition, the old methods of managing stormwater did nothing to reduce pollutants from entering our watershed.

It has taken some time, but the old method of managing storm water is changing. Instead of trying to get rid of the stormwater as fast as possible, stormwater is retained and allowed to slowly percolate into the soil. Wetlands and bog plants are used to help filter out the pollutants in the water.

More subdivisions are required to manage their own stormwater. Bio-retention ponds made beautiful with plantings of attractive water loving species become desirable focal points and also increase the bio-diversity of insects and wildlife. Some subdivisions are even doing away with tradition curb and gutters along the streetscape and utilizing drainage ditches, more common in rural areas.

What can you do? To start, consider utilizing the water that falls on your property. If you have gutters, connect the downspouts to a rain barrel or cistern. Cisterns will also solve your water problems during the long dry spells in the summer. They can be attached to an irrigation hose. Another solution is creating a slight depression in your landscape where water can collect and drain. Amend the soil in the depression to avoid standing water for extended periods. Utilize water loving plants that can sustain themselves while submerged in water over a short period of time. Many of these plants are also well adapted to dry periods. There are several plants that will flourish in wet soils including: Hibiscus moscheutos (swamp hibiscus), Iris pseudacorus (yellow flag iris), Baptisia species (false indigo), Lobelia cardinalis (cardinal flower), and Itea virginica (Virginia sweet spire). For more information on Rain Gardens visit

[From Ann Barnes, blog administrator]: One of my fellow Master Gardener Volunteers shared this photo of a rain garden on her property. Beautiful, isn’t it? It’s also good for water quality and the environment. If you have a suitable area in your yard, please consider installing a rain garden. You can contact the Master Gardener office for more information.