Recently, I joined a hearty group of water-lovers who gathered along the Upper Clackamas River to celebrate their passion for adventure on one of the most exciting stretches of whitewater rivers in Oregon.
Bob Mosier, the President of the North West Rafters Association said one thing was on everyone’s mind: “There’s a whole group of people who come out the third Sunday just to raft the river, get their feet wet and keep excited about the water.”
We were dressed for the occasion in drysuits, gloves, booties – plus, helmets and Type III PFD’s to take advantage of a rare sunny break in an otherwise soggy spring season.
Karen Driver, owner and operator of All River Adventures told me: “It’s little more than seven miles to our take-out, but I do believe the rapids’ names say it all. So get ready for the likes of the Maze, Big Swirly and Rock and Roll, to name a few. It’s going to be wet, wild, and a whole lot of fun!”
New this year to Oregon rivers is a mandatory PFD rule for all river runners: all Class 3 or higher whitewater rivers (rivers are classified on a scale of 1-6 with 6 being un-runnable) boaters must wear a PFD (Personal Flotation Device) at all times. In addition, the PFD must be approved by the U.S. Coast Guard as a Type I, III, or V personal flotation device
It’s also important to remember that Class 3 Rivers like the Upper Clackamas are not for beginners. Boating safety is critical! The river is so strong and conditions can change so fast, the experience requires a breadth of whitewater knowledge and experience that only a professional guide can provide.
Broken by boulders and frothy foam, I quickly learned that teamwork was to be the secret to keeping the boats afloat atop the cold, dangerous water.
Karen Driver added, “We keep an eye on the weather and keep an eye on the water levels. It takes a long time to keep track of all those things, but it’s essential because the river level can change in heartbeat if we have a heavy spring shower.”
The Clackamas River rapids will cool you off, lift your spirits and even take your breath away for their awesome power.
“When you get on the river,” added Karen, “your stress just goes away and you get to be a kid – and we all need to be kids – We don’t want to grow old. We want to grow happy!”
TROUTING WITH KIDS and PFD SAFETY
Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife stocks more than one million catchable trout at 96 locations in northwest Oregon. There are scores of area lakes and ponds where the trout fishing is close to home and easy to find.
For example, Canby Pond in Clackamas County is stocked year round and it is open to kids, 17 and under or disabled anglers too.
In Washington County, be sure to check out Bethany Pond, just outside the Beaverton suburbs for another favorite year-round site.
That holds true for Commonwealth Lake in Beaverton too. It offers a neighborhood park that’s kid friendly and ADA-accessible and it is a delightful stop for a picnic lunch as well.
If you’re casting about for larger lakes to wet a line, Henry Hagg Lake and Scoggins Valley Park is a delightful destination where trout fishing along the shore or from a boat is most popular pastime.
“Perfect activity for kids,” noted longtime angler Trey Carskadon. “When you’re trolling along and a trout comes up and grabs it, they (the kids) get hooked. They reel fish in with a smile and it’s so easy to deal with – Hagg Lake is heavily stocked with trout and it’s got some whoppers in here too.”
More than a hundred thousand rainbow trout are planted in Hagg Lake each year according to Carskadon who favors a simple, but effective technique to catch them.
He called it “flat-line trolling.”
“On the end of my line is a snap swivel and I attach the lure to it – either a black rooster tail, a panther martin with a dark body and a bright blade or a crushed orange crippler. Many people like to go out to the middle of the lake and troll for fish, but the trout really congregate and feed along the break lines (drop offs between shallow water and deep water) that are close to shore. I simply let out about 60-feet of line behind the boat and slowly motor along– maybe twenty yards off shore."
Carskadon carried a small crew of anglers on a recent spring day; Ashley Massey and her daughters, Maddy, aged 5, and Sophia Massey, aged 11. Each enjoyed the chance to catch rainbow trout from a boat.
Ashley Massey is a life vest expert with the Oregon State Marine Board who leads her kids by example: she always wears a PFD (Personal Flotation Device) and she reminded parents that kids 12 and under must wear a PFD whenever they’re on the water.
“Conditions can change in an instant,” said Massey. “So, the key is to wear a life vest or jacket at all times. You never know when something’s going to change and there really isn’t time to put one on in an emergency, so find a life jacket that’s comfortable and wear it.”
Massey advised that parents should “read the label” when they shop for life vests and make certain that the ones they choose are marked “US Coast Guard Approved” and that they are suitable for the activities that they choose to do.
Finally, if you choose to visit Henry Hagg Lake, be ready to fall in love with a sprawling parkland where recreation waits at every turns – a place that makes you feel right at home since it’s less than an hour’s drive from Portland.
ODFW – YOUTH OUTDOOR DAY
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Nearly 800 youngsters discovered that learning about the outdoors is fun when the lessons are filled with hands-on opportunities at a unique Youth Outdoor Day sponsored by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife at the EE Wilson Wildlife Area near Corvallis.
The day-long event offered 35 different outdoor recreation activities for youngsters who are able to learn by doing from instructors who’ve donated their time.
The instructors bring their skills while 25 organizations provide the equipment and assorted gear so that young people can see and feel what it’s like to shoot a shotgun, handle a bow and arrow, create a piece of wildlife art
or send out a champion on a long distance retrieve.
“People are just clamoring to get outdoors with their families,” said ODFW spokesperson Chris Willard. “Even though it’s billed as a youth event, what you see out here are families engaged in the outdoors and discovering what varied activities mean to them. We hope to show families how easy it is to bond through outdoor activities.”
It is a remarkable event – even more so because the organizers do little to advertise Youth Outdoor Day. It is mostly done through word of mouth …because they’d rather provide more activities for the kids.
There are many other ODFW Workshops for kids and their families that continue year round.
THREE FOR THE PRICE OF ONE GETAWAY
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This is the time of year when I refuse to let the grass grow under my feet because there is simply so much to see and do across Oregon.
That’s especially true along a unique section of the Oregon coastline where you’ll find three glorious Oregon State Parks called Sunset Bay, Shore Acres and Cape Arago.
I am thrilled with each visit to this region. You actually get three state parks for the price of one vacation and each is within two miles of the other and all are connected by road, bike trail, and hiking path.
Sunset Bay is a small overnight campground, with seventy-two tent sites and sixty-three trailer sites. The park also features a hiker/biker camp, plus ten group tent camps. Hot showers and flush toilets are available to all campers and provide a welcome comfort zone.
A mile away, a much different environment waits for you at Shore Acres State Park. Here, the wildness is tamed at a parkland that puts a smile on your face. You see, Shore Acres is the state park system’s only botanical garden.
Shore Acres, built in 1906, was once a private estate famed for gardens of flowering trees, plants, and shrubs brought from around the world aboard the sailing ships of pioneer lumberman and shipbuilder Louis B. Simpson, as well as a one-acre pond and shimmering waterfall.
A short but easy one-mile hike south takes you to Cape Arago, famous as a resort for Steller sea lions. Well, perhaps “resort” is a bit of a stretch, but the fact is that Shell Island (adjacent to the cape) is the largest Steller haul-out and calving site along the entire West Coast.
“It is critical habitat for these federally protected, endangered marine mammals that can weigh more than a ton,” noted local eco-tourism guide, Marty Giles, owner/operator of Wavecrest Discoveries.
She said that more than three thousand sea lions will haul out on Simpson Reef and Shell Island and that they put on quite a show.
“Imagine a group of anxious kids in the back seat of a car on a long trip – you’re in my way, you’re over my line, move – you touched me and you can see that kind of behavior going on - they walk over one another and grump at each other and move around.”
Any time is a fine time to visit the many viewpoints along Cape Arago’s main hiking path overlooking Shell Island, but keep in mind that the offshore rocks, islands, and reefs are part of the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge system, which is closed to public access.
KAM WAH CHUNG MUSEUM AND STATE PARK
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There is a timeless feeling at some places in Oregon’s high desert – not just the across the vast landscape – but with imagination, you can also experience it on the back roads or neighborhood streets where life passes by as it did a century ago.
So it is with the Kam Wah Chung State Heritage Site in John Day where imagination and Judy Bracken’s description may sweep you back to an earlier time.
“Chinatown was all around us, noted Bracken – an Oregon State Park Ranger. “The laundries were all along one side of the street and over in the corner was a brothel and a bar – and then we have Kam Wah Chung.”
The Kam Wah Chung or “Golden Flower of Prosperity” – was a general store and herbal medicine shop that operated for more than half a century – including a time when more than Chinese laborers worked in the region.
Bracken added that Kam Wah Chung was the social center for more than 2,000 Chinese: “They had baking powder, rice, sugar, flour, beans – everything you might need but there was so much more! This is where you would come to find a job – you could have letters written home because a lot of the miners were illiterate. You could come here and gamble, smoke, drink – have a nice relaxing time.”
What comes into clear view inside this tiny, dim-lit shop was a big business that once flourished on the western frontier beginning in 1887 when two young immigrants, Ing Hay and Lung An, bought the Kam Wah Chung.
In addition to food for the stomach and solace for the soul, you might also find a cure for what ailed you.
You see, “Doc” Hay was the most famous herbal medicine doctor between Seattle and San Francisco – Christina Sweet, OPRD Curator, added that Hay served both the Chinese and the white communities:
“He took your pulse, told you what was wrong with you, gave you Chinese medicines and herbs, and made you better. Doc Hay cured influenza, blood poisoning, even broken bones with a thousand different herbs.”
Even more remarkable - the shop was locked up for twenty years, and when it reopened in 1969, perfectly preserved artifacts were revealed.
From a box of Wheaties - the Breakfast of Champions - to marshmallows sealed in a can - the stone and brick structure protected the building’s contents from blistering heat or frigid cold.
Like everything in this wonderful state park time capsule, all of it is perfectly preserved! Just as the story of the unusual men who ran a business that became a legend.
ALL OREGON BOAT
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When you sit between the oars of an Oregon classic called the “Driftboat,” you slide across rapids, slip past boulders and leave all of your troubles behind.
For local boat builder Ray Heater, you also touch Oregon history.
“Oh, the drift boat is really a special type of boat the represents the state of Oregon. That has always attracted me – why don’t I build something else? Because I’m a fisherman and I love to float rivers and I’ve never seen a craft that can perform as well as this simple boat.”
Heater builds wooden drift boats in his Welches, Oregon shop; a business called Ray’s River Dories.
He’s the last to make a living by cutting, drilling and hammering doug fir and cedar into boats that take people down rivers.
Drift boats were spawned on the McKenzie and Rogue Rivers in the early 20th century and at first, the boats hauled supplies.
By the 1940’s anglers paid big money to fishing guides like Woodie Hindman who would take fishermen, called “Dudes,” down rivers to catch fish.
Roger Fletcher never thought of himself as the man to save a chapter of Oregon history – he just likes the shape and feel and history of wooden drift boats.
He builds them too – models - that are scaled down versions.
“They basically require the same technique of a person building a traditional drift boat – just smaller. There isn’t anything fancy about it, but when you look at the lines of a Mckenzie River drift boat, there isn’t a prettier set of lines
Fletcher has had a love affair with drift boats since a boy. Today, he is the author of a new book called “Drift Boats and River Dories,” that tells the story of the earliest boats that were developed for Oregon rivers.
He calls the drift boat design a “unique contribution to the boating world” and adds that few people know about them although they’ve likely seen them and perhaps been lucky enough to even fish in one.
“It’s the crescent shape and a fellows like Hindman, Veltie Pruitt and Prince Helfrich who designed and originally built them. They all fell in love with the design because it assumed the crescent shape of the waves. Plus, people fell in love with the ride.”
And who wouldn’t? Today, drift boating’s popularity has spread across the country. The “All Oregon Boat” can be seen on rivers across the country, wherever there are rivers waiting for adventure.
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Summer mornings along the coast are often met by folks in hip boots with shovels or rakes – but they’re not there to work, rather they’ve come to play; especially on a minus low tide on Tillamook Bay at a place where clamming is king.
I joined Trey Carskadon, longtime fishermen and a member of the Oregon State Marine Board at the Port of Garibaldi.
I went aboard Trey’s 22-foot boat to learn more about the bay. He explained to me that it’s quite a popular destination for so many reasons:
“The bay offers what many call it a great stay-cation where you can stay close to home, try something like clamming, fishing or crabbing for a day or even a longer weekend.”
Carskadon advised that all mariners use caution when they venture into the shallow areas::
“For starters, I always have – right at hand – a vhf radio – so if I have any trouble, I can immediately get emergency assistance out here. Also don’t forget to bring and wear a good PFD, (Personal Floatation Device.) A hand held GPS (Global Positioning System) can be a huge help out here, but if you don’t have one of those having a map and knowing how to use it and knowing where you are is essential. Finally, don’t be in a big hurry – slow down. There’s no need to go racing around the bay. Take it easy!”
My longtime fishing partner, Birt Hansen, joined us as did his grandson, eleven-year-old Cole Hansen - who had never tried his hand at bay clamming before.
Hansen is an old hand at the bay clamming game because he grew up on Oregon’s Coos Bay and spent childhood days exploring tidal flats, backwater sloughs, and freshwater ponds.
Among the strongest and most lasting memories for this sixty-something gentleman are youthful times in the sand and muck digging for clams.
He showed us how it’s done:
“Oh, it’s so easy – especially if you have ever weeded a garden. That’s because our clamming rake is actually a four-pronged weeding rake and all you do is get that rake our in front of you and slowly pull back through the sand. As you pull, feel the tines of the rake hitting the clams. The rake actually ‘pings’ a bit when you roll one up--especially the cockles. If you feel something then hook it with the prongs and lift it up. When that happens, we like to say “Clam On.”
There are six species of bay clams found in Oregon’s estuaries. Four are most popular for the rake and shovel crowd; they are called “Steamers,” “Butters,” “Gapers” and our clam of choice, “Cockles.”
Our adventure didn’t end at the coast, but continued in the kitchen as we assembled what Birt Hansen likes to call his “Seafood Getaway Chowder.”
First, he sauted a cup each of onion and bacon in butter – to that he added 4 cups of potatoes and four cups of water – plus a cup of clam or oyster nectar that he purchased at a store. He boiled it all for 15 minutes.
While the mixture boiled he cleaned the clams and chopped up approximately two limits – or forty cockle clams – into small pieces.
After 15 minutes, he added a cup each of fresh fish like snapper, sole or salmon – and then all of the chopped clams.
He noted: “This is the part where it all starts smelling good.”
Finally, he added a generous amount of half and half (approximately two cups) and brought everything in the large pot to a roiling boil.
Then – it was time to eat! Then – it was time to eat!
Hansen note that the meal brought the entire experience full circle:
“Cooking is the reward, the culminating reward and it brings back so many great memories of the Oregon outdoor experience while you eat it. I just love it!”
Seafood Getaway Chowder
I asked the reason for this novel title. Birt’s answer: “It’s so good that when you take just a taste, people will be lining up. You want to say, “Get away, get away,” laughed Hansen, “Save some for me.”
1 cup minced onion
1 cup chopped bacon
In a deep pot, saute both in butter
Add 4 cups of diced potatoes
2 cups of water to cover
1 cup of clam or oyster nectar
Bring to boil and cook for 15 minutes0
Add: Try to add at least 2 of these:
1 cup each of chunked fish (sole or halibut or snapper or salmon)
2 cups chopped Cockle or other Bay Clams
2 cups of half and half or whole milk.
Bring to the start of a boil, (rolling boil) then pull from stove and serve with warm sour dough bread.
TREE-TO-TREE ADVENTURE PARK
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It’s a point of view that will take your breath away: up to 60 feet off the ground!
It is found only at the new and unique Tree to Tree Aerial Adventure Park set in the foothills of the Oregon coast range in Western Washington County.
The 57-acre forested parkland is unlike anything you’ve ever experienced off the ground.
In fact, you might consider it a playground in the trees.
Marissa Doyle, co-manager of the of the new park, said, “You will feel like a kid again when going through this course. We have tunnels and bridges and Tarzan-like ropes…all sorts of fun stuff built for adults to play up in the trees.”
Instructor George Bidiman guides folks across the four different tree-to-tree courses – each course is progressively more challenging and he helps people find steady steps on a shaky trail or across a swinging, swaying wobbly way.
Bidiman said, “It is flat out freedom up in the air and probably the closest thing you can get to flying outside of an airplane.”
Each climber must wear a safety harness that connects with two lanyards that sport lobster-claw type clips that link you to thick wire cables.
Each cable can hold up to 10,000 pounds, so once you’re clipped in - you’re not going anywhere except across the aerial trail.
The new Tree-to-Tree Park is a family-owned business that is brainchild of Co-Owners and Managers, Doyle and Molly Beres.
Molly hopes that the park’s location (a short drive from Scoggins Valley Park and Henry Hagg Lake) will attract a following once they have discovered the park’s unique features.
“Portland is the best place for this sort of thing because there are so many outdoorsy people here. Everyone likes to be outside doing active things and extreme sports and this will fit in just fine.”
The park’s many course features are called “elements” and range from simple swaying bridges to horizontal rock walls and tunnels that you must climb across or climb through so to continue the course.
Instructor Bidiman added that everyone who has completed the course since it opened this spring has left with a huge smile: “Everyone’s having a great time – they come for the challenge but also the fun of feeling like a kid again and it doesn’t get any better than that.”
“Our whole purpose is to be outdoors, enjoy nature and enjoy being in Oregon – just to love where you are – it’s the best!”