BUTLER, Tenn. (WJHL) – An organization named ‘Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful’ hosted a cleanup at Watauga Lake, where volunteers helped pick up trash and debris along the shoreline.

The cleanup at Watauga Lake is the first of the Cherokee National Forest River Cleanup Series. A cleanup event is happening at lakes in the Cherokee National Forest every Sunday in February. Other lakes included in the series are South Holston Lake, Tellico Lake, and Parksville Lake.

“It actually shows just how expansive the Cherokee National Forest is,” said Kathleen Gibi, Executive Director of Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful. “Cherokee National Forest is actually larger than Smoky Mountain National Park. So, it’s really an eye opening experience,” she added.

“There’s a lot of wildlife to be seen. We just saw a bald eagle out on the lake while we were scouting, so the volunteers are in for a treat while they help clean up the habitat,” Gibi told News Channel 11.

‘Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful’ seeks to educate volunteers on the importance of the waterways. Tennessee lakes and rivers help generate revenue for the state’s economy.

“The Tennessee River, alone, generates $12 billion a year just in the recreation industry,” said Gibi. “And so it’s really vital that we help to keep it clean, make it so people want to come back and visit it. And the reason that people want to visit it is because of a very delicate ecosystem that has to be protected,” she said.

A lot of the trash that’s found near the water isn’t always directly from people littering on lakes and rivers.

“Most of the litter, in fact, 80% of the litter that’s in our waterways was originally littered on land, and that’s why it’s so important to make sure that we’re properly disposing of our trash, because all these rains we’ve been having wash it straight into our waterways,” said Gibi.

Around 5,000 to 6,000 pounds of litter was collected at Watauga Lake today, according to the organization.

The next clean up will be on Feb. 12 in Abingdon, Virginia on South Holston Lake. The organization is still looking for volunteers. Those wishing to volunteer at cleanup events during this series can register here.