River Cleanup trip, low water rafting (380 cfs), and fires in the Wenaha

It has been a very interesting week or two. We have made a voluntary agreement with SOLVE for quite a few years now to do 2 river cleanup trips per year. Since we are acting as volunteers, the signed agreement is really just a symbol that we are doing our best to be good stewards of the section of river that we make our living on. But I take it seriously and twice a year come hell frozen over and high water in the spring, or hell on fire and low water in the summer we run a trip. What marked this last trip as so “interesting” was the low water of 380 cfs when we put in. I normally ask some close friends and people who have volunteered to come along and help, but I didn’t know how much dragging of rafts through shallow gravel bars would be involved at 380 cfs, so I took the crew I have rafted the most with and trust the most. The crew I knew could endure, persevere, and kick butt at any flow high or low! I took my family.

Click the photo above for slideshow.

Click the photo above for slideshow.

First the low water. What, you ask, is 380 cfs like? Ehhh . . . not too bad if you pack light, deflate your boat to wet noodle status, and don’t get too worried about hopping out here and there to give your raft a shove. If you can’t meet any 3 of those criteria above; don’t raft at low flows.

Second the cleanliness of our river. We have been doing river cleanup trips for 5 years now beginning with the first year we bought the raft rental business at Minam and frankly, there are years that have pissed me off. Between garbage floating down the river from towns upstream, people who feel like they need to make campsites feel like their home by leaving trash, broken beer bottles, crapping near where they sleep, etc. there have been some camps and trips that make me mad. Yes, I have a bit of Scottish and Irish blood in me (last name Richie, go figure) so certain things absolutely make me mad. But each year our river cleanup trips have gotten easier and easier and we find less and less trash. I can only attribute those facts to YOU, my fellow river users. All of you must be putting in more effort and watching out for the resource we all care about more, or these river cleanup trips would not have gotten easier. So I say THANK YOU!!!! to all of our fellow rafters out there who care, take the time to makes things better, and make our river cleanup trips easier.

Third, the huge fire that has scorched nearly 75,000 acres in the Wenaha River Canyon and tributaries. When we started our last river cleanup trip the Grizzly Bear Complex Fire (as it has been named) was pretty small, far away, and not really a concern. When we got to the takeout sustained strong winds had pushed the fire from very small to very large and as we took out evacuation notices were going to people all over NE Oregon near Troy, Boggans, Eden Bench, Grouse Flats, etc. A large billowing black cloud formed on the skyline after loading our last raft and bit of garbage onto the trailer. As we made our way up the zigzag of Powwatka Ridge Road, the black cloud towards the north was one of the scariest things I have ever witnessed form in such a short time. As it began to glow red, reflecting the heat and light of the fire, I became very worried about my very beloved Wenaha River.

The stress of worrying about that fire and what it might do to the roadless section of the Grande Ronde has kept me from updating our facebook page, river reports page on our website, or talking about our river cleanup trip. A crew of over 700 people have been working hard at building fire lines and protecting as many structures as possible around Troy as well as to the west and east of Troy. The fire jumped the reinforced 62 road a few days back and tried to start down Elbow Creek to the Grande Ronde, but fire crews have been able to contain it and keep the fire overwhelmingly to the north of the 62 road that splits the ridge between the Wenaha and Grande Ronde. Strong winds yesterday could not break the fire lines and today . . . thank god, finally we had a good rain. I haven’t heard a fire update since the rain this afternoon, but a good rain is only good news in a time like this. At this point, I think the fire is finally reaching an end at least to the south and east. On the north and west boundaries, it is still in wilderness and who knows where it will stop on those boundaries, but I hope the rain today will get things under control. Enough of the Wenaha River watershed has burned for this year. Mother Nature can leave those other tributaries for another year. Please! That is a request . . .

To end I hope everyone will keep contributing in a very personal way. Take responsibility for the river each and every time you are here, not just responsibility for yourself. We still have to make up for the few idiots out there. Be safe, keep the river clean, and by all means BE SMART when it comes to fires!! Click the photo below for more pictures, sorry I didn’t take more.  See you on the river

Click photo above for slideshow

Click photo above for slideshow

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