The winter RV life has thwarted many of our lofty Wild & Scenic River exploration goals this winter, so when the snow and ice broke down toward Portland, I (Susan) jumped at the chance to explore.
As it turns out, other river adventurers here in the Pacific Northwest have also found a way to celebrate the upcoming 50th anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. Not surprisingly, Zach Collier, owner of Northwest Rafting Company, NWRC, and his intrepid guides have decided to personally paddle or visit all of Oregon’s 59 designated river reaches before 2018.
Enabling his guides to be explorers naturally makes them better guides. They want to see new places and learn about what makes them special. The rafting guests on the Rogue and Middle Fork Salmon where the company primarily operates can’t help but absorb the enthusiasm and fun facts these guides exude.
Thus, NWRC’s goals exceed selfish desires to ditch work and paddle. Guides will all contribute to the Oregon Wild & Scenic resource website for each river explored. Check it out to follow-along and to add your own river story!
Michael suggested the Sandy River outside of Portland Oregon for us to visit. I’ve paddled some stretches in this drainage, but never knew which carried the honor of a Wild & Scenic designation.
We opted for a stretch closer to the confluence with the Columbia River. Recent snow and ice storms likely left the upper designated stretches full of wood and debris. And today, we just wanted to paddle and enjoy the views, rather than struggle and suffer through winter conditions and potentially impassible waterways.
Bull Run flows into the Sandy, and having 2.5 miles of fun class III whitewater, we decided to start there. The cliff walls must have thought flat was boring, and so instead they allowed weather and floods to carve deep caves and caverns the entire way down. Or perhaps the flows that exited the upstream powerhouse were a little more than the geology bargained for. Either way, Bull Run set us up for a scenic and fun paddle.
We started floating at the farthest downstream point on Bull Run accessible to the public. The entire watershed upstream is protected so that the water quality remains high for the 950,000+ Portland residents who get their drinking water from Bull Run reservoirs. The forests filter the cool water and we collect that water to sustain one of the largest cities in the Northwest. Thus, the Wild & Scenic stretches below Bull Run Watershed are incredibly clear and clean.
At Dodge Park, we floated into the Sandy and the river doubled in flow. Rapids slowly dissipated into fun wave trains and eventually calm meandering river bends.
On NWRC’s Sandy River report page Michael and I both describe our perspectives of this run in a bit greater detail. What struck me the most was my joy at seeing and touching rocks covered in Moss.
“THIS is what winter in the northwest is like!”
The moss seriously initiated a little pulse of nostalgia in me. I realized how much I miss the damp (but relatively mild) NW winter. Oh mossy rock, please come back.
After the reprieve, we returned to a snowy White Salmon. I may crave the rain, but I’ll continue to find joy in the gorge’s snowy landscape. Soon enough, it will disappear and we’ll have our warm river days back.