Tire Tug of War 

Waste Tire Recovery Project

 The Sins Of Our Forefathers

The Tug Fork River is plagued with thousands upon thousands of old, illegally dumped, waste tires. Our "Tire Tug of War" river cleanup effort was started in 2019 and has made significant progress but we have many, many years of work and many, many thousands of tires ahead.

The vast majority of the tires recovered have beeen in the river for decades. They are from an era of lax regulation and weak enforcement and are the result of a culture of treating our river as a dumping ground. The culture has changed but the tires have remained...until now.

Tug Fork River Tire Tug of War 2023

TToW 2023 Final Numbers

Our 2023 Tug Fork River "Tire Tug of War" waste tire cleanup project is done for the year with some big numbers. We worked projects along the border between Mingo County, WV and Pike County, KY.

A total of 4,566 waste tires were recovered from the waters of our river this year bringing us to a five year project total of 13,340 tires. 


The Year We Hit 10,000 

We've worked the river between Williamson and Matewan three times in late August and early September. On August 21 the target was a shoal near Lobata, WV that was lined with waste tires. The 24th of August led us to an area in Sprigg, WV just upstream of the Tug Valley Country Club golf course. A total of 874 tires were recovered during these two events. After five years of work, our 10,000th tire was recovered at Sprigg and saved for posterity.

On Sept 6 we hit the beach, Burnwell Beach, in Pike County, KY. Burnwell is a popular recreation site with a large sandy beach area along a long, fast water shoal. The shoal and area just below yielded 564 tires that day.

New five year total tires recovered form the Tug Fork River is 10,608.

Volunteers roll tires across the the low water in a shoal at Lobata, WV

Unloading the jon boat barges full of tires at Sprigg, WV

Tires in a shoal at Lobata, WV

FotTFR's John Burchett with the 10,000th tire recovered after five years of work. 

Scenic beauty being restored at Burnwell Beach, KY...one tire at a time.

Tire Tug of War 2023

April 14, 2023 - Sprigg, WV

We started our war on tires in the Tug Fork River earlier than usual this year. Working on an island/peninsula with help from Hatfield McCoy Airboat Tours, The Dirty Hooker ATV Recovery Service, Pike County inmates, volunteers, and, as always, WV DEP REAP we recovered 396 waste tires from our river channel. Since 2019, FotTFR has led an effort that has removed a grand total 9,170 illegally dumped tires from the Tug Fork River.

We always need volunteers for these events during the summer. Keep an eye on our Facebook group for announcements.

Tug Fork River Tire Tug of War 2022

2022 TToW In The Books

Thanks to a lot of local support and the help of Human Resources Development Foundation, we had a record setting 3,675 tires recovered during our annual "Tire Tug of War" river cleanup this year. As always, we thank WV DEP REAP! They bring equipment, manpower, and expertise to get the job done then properly dispose of the tires recovered.

Tire Tug of War 2022

Williamson, WV & South Williamson, KY

We began our "Tire Tug of War" river tire cleanup project in 2019 in a 1/3 mile stretch of river below the South Williamson flood wall. Four years later, we ran out of tires at this site with a grand total of 4,962 tires recovered from the river here.

There are, undoubtedly, hundreds more tires buried in the sand and silt of the riverbank and river bottom in this area. These tires will become exposed as the river shifts over time. For the first time, this year, we made a clean sweep of this section of river and could find no more tires. In years past we had always run out of time before we ran out of tires. We will be back next year to gather stragglers.

This project could not happen without involvement of State, County, and Local Governments, local businesses, organizations, and individuals. Our biggest support comes from West Virginia DEP REAP, we couldnt have accomplished this monumental task without them.

Thanks to all that have helped with this project!  

The morning after our event was complete. A beautiful, tire free, Tug Fork River.

Waste tires are one of the biggest problems in our river.

Tire Tug of War 2022

Kermit, WV - Warfield, KY

Local partners included the City of Warfield (KY), Kermit (WV) Volunteer Fire Department, Martin County (KY) and the WV Human Resources Development Foundation. As always, WV DEP REAP lead the way with their personnel, equipment an expertise.

Friends of the Tug Fork River hosted river tire cleanup events on August 29th and September 15th at the Warfield, KY boat ramp. With a lot of local support, 640 illegally dumped tires were recovered on the 1st day and 211 on the 2nd for a total of 851 tires removed from our river. Most of the tires had been in the river for decades and are believed to have been dumped there, over many years, by a now out of business local service station.

WV DEP REAP's HydraTrek works at pulling tires loose from the sand and silt. The machine is a godsend!

An empty "barge" heads upriver to reload with waste tires recovered from the river.

Tire Tug of War 2022

Crews from WV DEP REAP, WV Human Resourcees Development Foundation, and Friends of the Tug Fork River worked in our river at the Hatfield McCoy Feud PawPaw Tree Incident Historical Site on August 24th. The group effort recovered approximately 75 waste tires from the river within view of the popular tourist attraction. WV HRDF is using grant funding from WV DEP to hire local workers for a Summer river cleanup project.

Tug Fork River Tire Tug of War 2021

Tug Fork River Tire Tug of War 2020

The year 2020 was plauged by the Covid 19 pandemic. West Virginia DEP halted assisting with all group projects for the entire summer season but tire cleanup momentum was maintained with an effort by the Williamson Fire Department. Firefighters recovered 180 waste tires from the river along Williamson's business district flood wall.

Tug Fork River Tire Tug of War 2019

The year it all began!

The summer of 2019 was very dry in the Tug Valley and the Tug Fork River ran very low. Many thousands of tires poked out of the river's water between the South Williamson, Kentucky flood wall and the City of Williamson, West Virginia. A phone call was made to WV DEP REAP, a site visit was held, and then, progress was made. During a four day event with many hard working volunteers, 2,321 old waste tires were recovered from the water.