Last week, the Oregon State Marine Board and local sheriff’s office marine patrols were notified by boaters about a dangerous navigation obstruction on the North Santiam River. Recent wind storms and rainfall had saturated the river banks resulting in landslides and tree falls across the region.
A large tree had been uprooted and fell into and across the river on the Marion County side just below Mad Creek about ½ mile above Gates. The bend in the river is tight at that spot and the current naturally pulls towards it.
“The North Santiam is a very popular river for beginner / intermediate boaters / floaters. About 85% of the river was slamming full force into the log. and posed a real danger to the community. Had it stayed in place, it very easily could have killed someone,” said Sam Drevo director of Northwest River Guides and Rescue 3 instructor in swiftwater rescue who coordinated the efforts.
After alerting the marine board of the hazard, Marion County deputy Dave Zahn put hazard signs up at Packsaddle park, and at Minto on the river level. Boaters were later seen appropriately portaging the entire side of the river.
The Marine Board is only authorized to remove obstructions that are an “extraordinary hazard to boating safety.” If there is a need to mitigate, the Board will work with stakeholders to determine the best course of action, and will consult with partner agencies to minimize environmental impact.,” said Ashley Massey Public Information Officer for the Marine Board.
“The marine board quickly prioritized this hazard as “high” and subsequently offered support to remove it. They consulted with the biologists and determined that with Steelhead season approaching we would either have to get the log out within the next week or two, or we would have to wait until the season was over. Thanks to the civic good nature & volunteer efforts of tree removal experts Randy Hildebrant and Mike Hebing, and white water safety experts Eric Monroe, Val Shull and Tim Widmer we were able to team up with the marine board to mount a successful removal of this obstruction,” said Sam Drevo.
The Marine Board reminds boaters who are venturing out in the beautiful weather to scout ahead, know where to put-in and take-out, pay attention to posted warnings, carefully read the river and check the Marine Board website ahead of time to learn where the known obstructions are located.
Trees, root wads, and other natural debris are a common part of Oregon’s rivers and streams, providing important ecological benefits such as fish habitat and sediment removal. However, this debris can be very dangerous to boaters. Deadheads (old pilings or logged trees) may lie just below the surface, so keep a close look out for subtle changes in the water’s surface. Strainers (trees hanging out from the bank) can trap a boat and the current could force it underwater.
“The North Santiam and McKenzie Rivers see the most obstructions year-round,” said Ashley Massey. To learn where the reported navigation obstructions are: http://www.oregon.gov/osmb/pages/safety/navigation_hazards.aspx.
All Photos by Claire Holman
Story by Karen Widmer