Members of the White Rose and Leeds canoe clubs took to the waterways to reach litter trapped in overhanging trees, while others picked up litter blighting the riverbank.
Canal Communitities provided a long boat and refreshments for the 30 or so volunteers, who included residents from Knostrop Quay.
John Cummins, of Groundwork Leeds, said: “It was a really good turnout with the locals. We tackled a long area of the riverbank from the Royal Armouries going past the student halls.”
The event, managed in partnership with the Canal and River Trust, is part of an ongoing river stewardship programme.
Teams from Yorkshire Water and Mott McDonald, an engineering consultancy with offices in Brewery Wharf, will continue the work with another session on Tuesday.
Mr Cummins said: “We’re trying to get rid of the debris left by the Christmas storms. It’s going to be a concerted efforts over the future months to improve the whole river and to talk to businesses and residents about flood resilience.”