Trip Report: 2021 OWA & NWRA Umpqua Camping Weekend

Annual OWA & NWRA Upper North Umpqua Trip

Submitted by Bill Goss

1pinball.jpgAs the sun went down on Thursday evening it was a dark and rainy night at the Horseshoe Bend campground. And cold. As they arrived, rafters could be seen scurrying about, trying to get their shelters up before the rain got even more intense. There was no community bonfire. Everyone disappeared into their sleeping bags seeking warmth. It was especially miserable for the late arrivals. One group even turned around and went back to Portland for the night and returned early the next morning. (With some forgotten gear). 


Happily, the weather was OK Friday morning.

2BillWPinball.jpgBefore beginning the shuttles to the put-in at Boulder Flat, the organizers of the event conducted a safety briefing. Brenda B. (OWA) outlined the logistics of the day: three pods of about six boats per pod would shuttle and launch at staggered intervals. This procedure worked out quite well as the shuttles, launch and take-out went smoothly. Then Walt B. (NWRA) who has been rafting the North Umpqua since the Truman Administration gave a detailed description of all the hazards of each rapid with stories of carnage at each one. By the time he was finished, we were terrified and nervous and intimidated. The river was running about 1250 CFS, which made for a day of dodging boulders and technical maneuvering, whatever that means. And finally, Michele G. begged for someone, anyone, to file a trip report. The possibility of a $200 reward for doing so proved irresistible to us, as you can see. 

Photos: View of Pinball from downstream, Bill W negotiating Pinball - submitted by Scott Harvey

Friday’s float yielded no carnage, tragedies or even any good stories for discussion around the campfire that evening. The take-out at Gravel Bin went like clockwork, a mirror image of the well-oiled machine at the put-in. 

3Mike&EgranePinball.jpgSaturday’s weather was pretty much the same as the previous day: cloudy, no wind, maybe a little warmer. The shuttles and launches went smoothly again, but then things got interesting. At the rapid formerly known as The Wall, a happy little wave train that runs straight into a house rock, there were two flips. A rafter known as Chris who was in a new prototype R2 boat from Sotar that he, his daughter, and one of Paul E.’s kids were test driving went swimming but recovered easily. Chris credited the new mesh design of the boat’s floor for the easy recovery. Mary and Bill W, accompanied by the super dog Merlin also got wet. A new guy named Ben saved the dog. We won’t reveal who was driving the boat, but the rapid’s name is being changed from The Wall to Mary’s Washing Machine. The greatest tragedy of the day occurred on a lazy flat stretch. We were floating sideways to the current when the downstream oar blade became entrapped in some rocks and stopped while the raft kept moving. The now busted oar went flying, but was retrieved by onlookers, thankfully. Now we really need that $200 reward. 

Photo: Mike and Egrane Brown in Pinball - submitted by Scott Harvey

OWANWRApotluck.jpgSo now there were plenty of stories to tell at the real reason for the weekend’s activities: the dutch oven cooking contest! New this year was a category for a vegan dish as well as the usual side, main and dessert dish categories. Bill W. arrived with his dish half an hour late, still damp from the morning, and announced that his tamale pie was ready. Should his tardiness be disqualifying? Guess not, since his entry won the prize for a main dish. There was a big bonfire, plenty to eat and drink and a great time was had by all. Until it started to rain… 

As it always does, the sun came up as scheduled on Sunday morning, and as the campers emerged from their shelters, they observed a bright blue sky and felt the warming rays that had been missing during the recent few days. Typical. Some people got up and left right away while others lingered over breakfast, putting off the return to reality as long as possible. And then, just like that, it was over. 

Photo: Lining up for Grub at the Potluck - submitted by Scott Harvey

Slideshow Photos below:  Michele G in Frogger, Brenda and Crew at Camp, Camp Life, Lounging Before Rolling the Boats - submitted by Scott Harvey

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