2010 NWRA/OWA on the Umpqua River

April 16, 2010 at 9:17 AM

Trip Report: NWRA/OWA on the Umpqua River

April 16-18, 2010 • Submitted by Walt Bammann

Sunburns, bloated stomachs and 25 boats on the river say it all – the first lower-North Umpqua OWA/NWRA outing was a huge success! Last fall while looking for a family-friendly outing, Brenda Bunce suggested a joint trip on the lower North Umpqua River with the Umpqua Chapter of the NWRA. The25-mile, mostly Class II section from Glide to Winchester fit the bill. With Brenda coordinating the OWA side of things and this writer working the NWRA side, the trip came together smoothly. Beginning Friday afternoon on April 16, boaters started rolling into Whistler’s Bend County Park (about 12 miles east of Roseburg) and the parade kept going into Sunday morning. The challenge on Friday was to find a camp site in the park. While we knew in advance there was a frisbee (disc) golf tournament at the park the same weekend, we hoped they would all be camping in the group areas they had reserved. Wrong! Now we know that disc golf is at least as popular as rafting and we had to compete with their overflow for the limited number of first come-first serve camps. As boaters rolled in at all hours, we did our best to confuse the elderly camp host as we shuffled people around to fit RV’s and tents into the limited number of openings.

Based on our Friday afternoon scout of the potential launch sites in the Glide area, we felt we could split the ever-increasing number of boats between the three options. On Saturday morning with everyone pitching in with vehicles, trailers and muscles, we soon had the many rafts, catarafts and kayaks moved and stacked to minimize the number of vehicles going upriver. The heaviest boats headed for the user-friendly concrete ramp at Colliding Rivers, lighter cats and some kayaks used a very tight access “road” a mile upstream, and a variety of boats used the driftboat ramp at Lone Rock another three miles upriver. Being able to spread out over the three spots was a huge advantage in getting the many boats to the river, not to mention parking all the vehicles.

The three launch sites provided an eight- to 12-mile float down to Whistler’s Bend. Hoping to join all the groups at least by lunch, we pushed off under partly cloudy skies. The river is mostly read and run Class II but there are a couple spots approaching ClassIII. Boaters enjoyed the leisurely float through a mix of farm land and riverside homes. Several driftboats were passed along the way and the fishermen reported good luck on steelhead with several in the 10-pound range. The four mile spread between the groups was finally closed at lunch which was at the half-way point. This was our first opportunity to take a boat count. What a sight – 25 boats of all colors lined-up on a gravel bar. Wow!

As the clouds parted and the temperature climbed, heavier clothing items were quickly shed unless you happened to be a kayaker dealing with the cold water. With a perfect flow of about 4800 cfs, the river moved right along even through the flat stretches. Whistler’s Bend saw the first boats landing just after 2:00PM. One of the coordination perksof this trip was that the Sunday boaters could just tie up to the bank near their campsite. We did have to retrieve some of the vehicles at the launch sites, but there was still plenty of time to cleanup and relax before preparing for the potluck that evening.

This isn’t just any potluck. The NWRA Umpqua Chapter has been a doing a similar trip (on the upper North Umpqua in early June) for seven years and the Saturday night potluck at this event has a well-deserved reputation for some amazing food. The secret was starting a dutch oven competition with some prizes on the second year of the event. Dutch oven cooks came out of the woods so to speak with meals ranging from chili to exotic cakes to coconut catfish. We decided to carry this tradition over to this event and once again we were rewarded with some gourmet cooking. The trip report wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the efforts of Garry Steffy and Mary Hubler (OWA/NWRA members fromAlbany). Garry goes way, way beyond the call of duty at these events. He and Mary drove down mostly for the dutch oven cooking as Garry is awaiting shoulder surgery and can’t boat. Garry’s raft trailer has become a dutch oven trailer as he brought six or seven dutch ovens, fire pans to hold them and all the accessories to cook. While we were boating, Garry was cooking. He and Mary eventually prepared four entries. They even brought two extra recipes and dutch ovens so that anyone interested could prepare a meal with his coaching. Thank youGarry and Mary for all your hard work and the wonderful food!

With everyone contributing, there were many salads, a stove-top venison stew and other treats in addition to the entries in the dutch oven competition. The two clubs donated some nice prizes for first and second place in main, side and dessert categories. First place in the main dish category went to Lenise Kaup for her chicken potato casserole. Second place went to Garry for his bacon-wrapped/herbed pork tenderloin. The only side dish entry was Garry and Mary’s huge and delicious scalloped potato and ham casserole which won that category. The dessert category was won by Shane and Tonya Daugherty with theirstrawberry/pecan cake with cream cheese frosting. Garry’s apple/currant pie won second place. There was so much food we even had leftovers on Sunday. Thanks to everyone for bringing good food and big appetites.

Sunday we awoke to clear skies and the anticipation of a great day on the water. Everyone got an early start and drivers were ready to roll by 8:00 AM for the 40-minute drive to the takeout above Winchester Dam. Umpqua members drove all the drivers back to Whistler’s Bend. Hard to believe, but by 10:00 AM all 20 boats were launched and heading down the 10-mile section. This section is mostly Class I-II with the exception of Dixon Falls at the four-mile mark. The “falls” has a reputation of being squirrelly at lower flows so we weren’t sure what to expect. But at 4300 cfs, it was a fun straight forward Class III chute. No problem for anyone in this skilled group! We enjoyed the scenic country side with only a few areas having riverside homes. Lunch was a 30-minute layover on a nice beach to stretch our legs and let the dogs play. With temperatures moving up into the high 70’s, swim suits and white legs started appearing. By 2:00 PM we could tell the trip was about over when we hit the slow water of the lake backed up behind Winchester Dam.

The takeout was not particularly raft-friendly – a muddy bank with a two-foot drop off. But with lots of helping hands, the boats were quickly pulled onto the landing and hauled to waiting trailers.

It was impossible to get an exact headcount as people came and went throughout the weekend, but we’re sure there were well over 50 in attendance. Brenda and I want to say “thank you” to everyone for being so helpful and efficient. Based on all the comments and smiling faces, we are already looking forward to the second annual lower North Umpqua outing next April.

Tags: Umpqua River Dutch Oven Contest
Category: Trip Report

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