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Logjam Blocks Metolius River (OR)

Posted: 07/08/2002
by Jason Robertson

Dave Summers reports that the Metolius River is now fully blocked by a logjam. His safety report is posted below. This provides an interesting opportunity to reflect on American Whitewater's large woody debris policy.

The logjam is approximately 6 or 7 miles downstream from Camp 99. The logjam is at the same place where last year boaters could get by on the far river right. The logs have moved around and now there are several new logs added to the mix!

The takeout for the portage is marked by a large orange flag. Take out just above the flag on river right. DO NOT pass the flag. We had light cat boats and the carry was not too bad. We made up strap carriers that attached from the front and rear inside d-rings and then supported the boat in front and rear with the straps over our shoulders. We carried from the river to the old road on river right, then down the road about 100 yards to a place where the river is close and there are just a few small maples along the river.

Even with the portage, the river trip was worth the effort. There are many osprey with nests full of chicks and we saw no one else on the river. We put in at the Camp 99 bridge and took out at Monty Camp above the lake.

I am going to run the Metolius again several times yet this summer and again into the fall. It's the best piece of Oregon water in the summer I know given the relative wilderness setting and low use. While this is not big water by any means, you are always working as one must constantly avoid logs/sweepers, rocks and holes. It's fun!

The Forest Service is managing this river with a directive to leave all wood in the water. In my opinion, they can manage for both boaters and for fish. There are enough logs and obstructions for the river fish habitat without risking someone getting hurt. Time to write letters to the Forest Service and tell them what you think?

American Whitewater does not generally advocate for the removal of large woody debris. Our general policy is that if we as boaters cherish and respect our nation's rivers and natural ecological processes, then we have an ethical obligation to consider and lessen our impacts on them.

When we are looking at strainers we should weigh the advantages that the logs provide the stream with our own situation. In short, the stream's health should be considered before our whimsical urge to spend a few seconds paddling a few feet of river. Surely there is a set of continuums of ecological importance and another set that defines the log relative to paddlers. Some combinations of factors tell us we should not remove the log, others tell is it is more okay.

We provide an outline for weighing these continuums in American Whitewater's large woody debris policy.

Most paddlers have a strong environmental ethic, and respect and even love rivers. We pride ourselves on approaching Nature on Nature's terms, not Man's. If we wish to paddle on Nature's terms we will have to negotiate with Nature, in our hearts and in Nature's whitewater canyons.

In the case of the Metolius, the portage is difficult, though not beyond the pale. The strainer is very dangerous, though it is clearly marked with a large flag. The area is not pure wilderness, as the area is roaded.

Thus, we fall in the middle of American Whitewater's decision continuum. It might be time to ask the Forest Service to help with clearing a channel, or it might not.

Of further consideration, and for some people the only consideration, this is a designated Wild & Scenic River.

Our goal is not to create controversy over the log jam; however, if you care to contact the Forest Service regarding this issue, you can email the District Ranger and share your thoughts.

Paddle safe!

Jason D. Robertson
635 Joseph Cir
Golden, CO 80403-2349