A New Low For The North Umpqua

Because the North Umpqua is not dam-controlled, it is not unusual for it to vary widely in size from season to season.  But nobody could anticipate that the river would reach an all-time low that saw this proud stream reduced to a creek.  But it happened last August.  In fact, the river was so low that the Oregon Dept. of Fish and Game banned fishermen from the stream.  The Dept. felt that the water was too low and too warm.  Now the North Umpqua is known throughout the world for its splendid steelhead fishing, so this was quite a disappointment for many eager fishermen and, especially for Steamboat Lodge, which offers a well-known late fisherman’s dinner.  Normally, the Lodge offered picturesque views of a falls, but the falls disappeared into a pile of boulders. A plethora of fires didn’t help any of the tourist businesses either.  All in all, a strange and sad summer for people who frequent the North Umpqua.

Sign Welcoming You To Steamboat Lodge.

Sign welcoming you to Steamboat Lodge.

Lots of luck floating this rapid. There is a sharp rock in the middle.

Lots of luck floating this rapid. There is a sharp rock in the middle.

Not much of the river left in the ribbon ahead.

Not much of the river left in the ribbon ahead.

Notice how narrow the river is.

Notice how narrow the river is.

Another view of the same rapid.

Another view of the same rapid.

Some Thoughts On Fly Fishing And The Rogue River

Fly fishing was de rigueur for my Dad.  In Oregon, he would fish from after breakfast until shortly before dinner.  After dinner, he would usually put on his heavy waders and come trudging back as darkness fell.  He would do this virtually every day of our one month summer vacation from the end of July until right after Labor Day.

His preparations, though, would begin toward the beginning of July.  Then, he would take out his fly tying equipment and begin making flies for the trip.  I remember seeing flies shining in his den with many different colors.  He was quite an expert at creating flies, and usually had an abundance of them ready to be dropped into the water for trout, and, most importantly, summer steelhead, which he loved to barbecue or put into the freezer for future eating.

Dad learned about the art of fly fishing from the chauffeur at Rogue’s Roost, Joseph Chevigny and river guides Glen Wooldridge and Bob Pritchett.  The latter initiated him into the art of boating, and locating steelhead holes on the Rogue River.  From an early age, Dad could find steelhead water and navigate a navy surplus raft.

Dad always enjoyed fishing the Upper Rogue.  He tried to teach me how to fish, but trout was all I could manage, and, besides, I didn’t want to pull fish hooks out of my ear, which happened almost every summer with Dad!  But I did learn to appreciate and love the river and all its natural habitat as well as do some inner tubing and rafting.  Swimming across the river was never one of my talents!

In the early years, the Rogue River was a pristine mountain river, its color a pristine blue and so clear that you could see trout swimming or salmon spawning.  All that changed when the Lost Creek Dam was built in the late 1070s.  Because it was an earthenware dam, it increased the amount of silt that floated downstream and the river’s clear beauty disappeared with it.  In the years that followed, more and more people used the river, though without the respect early residents had shown.  At one point, the river was declared unfit for swimming and a major effort was made to bring it back to its natural state.

I’m grateful that I saw the Rogue River in all its splendor.  The short videos that follow show my Dad fly fishing on a truly magnificent river.  I hope you enjoy them!

Our Path To The River

After building our home in 1980, we had to clear out some brush and poison oak to create a path to the river.  Technically speaking, we are on one of the branches of the Rogue River.  However, this was not always the case.  A flood in the 1970s took the main river away from our property and destroyed one of Dad’s best steelhead holes, which included a whirlpool, and a small falls below it.  But we planted a few redwood trees that blended in well with the oak and ponderosa pine to form our special path.  We, and countless visitors have walked to the river, admiring the surrounding beauty as we headed for the water.  Indeed, our path to the river will always be a special place for us.sc0001a584  sc000086fdsc0000df2fsc000167bbsc0001cdf4OP 1IMG_4847IMG_4851IMG_5129sc000037c9

Scenes From The North Umpqua

NU 5*NU 4The North Umpqua, which arises near Diamond Lake, is one of the most beautiful rivers in America.  Its blue-green water splashing over boulders is a must see for river enthusiasts.  An agreement was made with the Power Commission that if the extensive power plant was built there would be no further dams on the river.  That agreement, and the abundance of forestry-owned land has protected the North Umpqua from further human obstructions.  To top it off, the North Umpqua is world-renowned for its wonderful steelhead fishing.  It is not an easy river to fish, since it offers many ledge rocks that a careless angler could slip off of into turbulent water.  However, that situation deters few.  In fact, during the summer, the Steamboat area is strictly regulated by fishermen to ensure the best fishing.  Should you wish to stay the night, the Steamboat Lodge offers a sumptuous feast known as the Fisherman’s Dinner served at dusk.  From Boulder Creek Campground to Steamboat, the gradient and sharp rocks keep inner tubers and casual tahiti rafters off the river.  Famous rapids include Pinball(Class 4), which swirls around a series of boulders, and Boulder Hole(Class 3), a long rapid that ends in an abrupt drop around a corner.  The river flows through magnificent forest and is highlighted by awe-inspiring spires and rock formations.  The photos  include:   Approaching Boulder Hole, The last drop of Boulder Hole, Happy Rock, Rapid below Headknocker’s 3 .  If you get the chance, do visit!NU 1   NU 3

Lower Takelma Rapid Packs A Wallop For Inner Tubers

Lower Takelma Rapid, just below Takelma Park, packs a real wallop for inner tubers.  The rapid begins with an innocuous rock bar that occurs to the right of an island.  Tubers need to pull to the left as they pass over the bar, because the right current will take them into a tree and an overhanging bush that are close to the right bank.  Nevertheless,  tubers will find themselves on the right.  Now they must pull hard to the left to dodge a waterfall over a ledge on the right, and, in particular, avoid a nasty boulder at the left end of the ledge.  Then they will drop a few feet into some truly large waves.(At high water the waves converge to form a huge hole, which must be dodged to avoid a swim.)  Tubers will need to balance themselves as they climb the steep waves until they encounter calmer water downstream.

The rapid has an interesting history, and the current rapid is a relative newcomer, having been formed by high spring water just a few years before.  As long as I can remember, the river always split into different channels and some of them were so shallow that a child could ford them easily.  As this was one of Dad’s favorite steelhead holes, I often did just that.  An hour to a restless child is a long time and I recall wading the shallow bars around me in search of a shiny jasper or multicolored agate.  Often I was more fortunate than Dad, and the bottom of the raft was littered with shiny minerals.  Over the years the river continued to push the bars down, culminating finally in the threatening Lower Takelma Rapid.  The imprints of children’s feet on the sand bars have become a mere memory.

Introducing TouVelle State Park

TouVelle State Park on the upper Rogue River is one of the most scenic parks in Southern Oregon.  It presents a riparian environment rife with wildflowers, blackberry bushes, trees, and many kinds of birds.  As to the latter, the park is a favorite of birdwatchers, who are seen often wearing their binoculars.  Tou Velle Park has expanded to include a nature trail which hooks up with the Denman Wildlife Refuge.  Before the flood of 1955, a military bridge connected the two parts of the Tou Velle Road, which remain as isolated segments in different parts of the valley.  One of my photos shows what’s left of the bridge, a mere pylon.  At the lower end of the park,  Bybee Bridge, a double cantilever bridge, once ruled supreme, but was removed for a cement bridge that created numerous obstacles for boaters, and detracted greatly from the beauty along the shore.  The lowest ramp is recommended as easier and safer, and many boats take advantage of it.  Fishing is plentiful, but no famous holes for summer steelhead.  The park’s inhabitants also include frolicsome children, for whom a special rock dam was built so they could play in the river without danger, and dogs chasing sticks.  Below I have posted photos from Summers 2011-2012, which give a feel of the park’s activities and pleasures.

The rapid above Tucker’s: The Stair Steps

The rapid which my Dad called “The Rapid Above Tucker’s” was known locally as the Stair Steps or the Steps.  This rapid survived the ’64 flood, although it lost some of the sharpness of its drop since the river widened.  The rapid came after a series of narrow drops that were negotiated on the left, because there was a river wide bar.  Following the drops, the river turned right and the Steps began.  You followed a current on the right passing to the left of two boulders, then made your way to the center to slide over a ledge.  This was a tricky maneuver since the ledge was chock full of rocks, and you had a tight squeeze.  Once over the ledge, you needed to dodge a few boulders in the left channel, especially the last wave, which was a large hole.  The river dropped several feet from the top with the right resembling a falls.  Following immediately was a large bar with waves that tried to take you into the bank.  This was a rapid that I inner tubed many times with my sister Nancy and my cousin Gregg Turner.  It was always a challenge and great fun.  Just below was a famous fishing spot, especially for steelhead.