State parks officials grappling with the Rogue River's ever-eroding banks at TouVelle State Park are looking at short-term and long-term solutions to reverse land losses there, including soil that sloughed away during December storms.
Crews had recently added wooden and gravel stairs to popular summer wading areas, continued the never-ending battle against Himalayan blackberries that choke shoreline paths, and lined some of the exposed banks with newly planted willow cuttings to stabilize soils.
But some of those improvements washed away two days after they were installed in late December, when high Rogue waters pounded the banks off Table Rock Road.
High water scoured the gravel from the newly built steps in the main portion of the park and also cut deeply into the bank right up to a popular trail from the upper park area toward the adjacent Denman Wildlife Area.
"That last little bit of flooding took out 6 to 8 feet of the bank," says Park Ranger Matt Baum.
"We need to re-establish some stability in this."
The new bank abuts a trail that recently hosted a regional high school cross-country meet, and part of it is now about a foot from a steep drop-off along an undercut bank.
That portion of the trail is considered unsafe, and Baum on Thursday placed cones and construction tape around the dangerous part.
Baum plans to temporarily reroute part of the 3.2-mile loop, tying into existing game trails to steer clear of the eroding areas until they can be buffered against the pounding storm surges of the Rogue.
"The hope is they can buy some time and keep the river from eating into it," Baum says. "The reality is, it's the river. You're just buying yourself time."
The eroded area already has been targeted for a future rehabilitation project intended to stave off the Rogue's encroachment deeper into the park, while also having it appear natural.
Sherri Laier, a natural resources specialist for the Oregon State Parks and Recreation Department near Charleston, says she envisions the careful placement of large trees with root wads and native plantings to fortify the area where the bank sloughed away in December.
The idea is to take large trees and imbed them horizontally into the bank, allowing their root wads to remain exposed in and along the water's surface, Laier says. Those root wads would help diffuse some of the energy in the rushing water, as well as provide complex habitat for juvenile salmon and steelhead using that stretch of the Rogue, she says.
"That would be essential salmon habitat there," she says.
The project remains about two years away, and Laier says she is still exploring avenues to fund it. She has no cost estimate yet.
"We've been looking at a lot of things lately, like where the logs would come from," she says.
That project would be similar to ones completed in recent years at the mouth of Bear Creek after removal of Gold Ray Dam in 2010 and above the notched Elk Creek Dam along that Upper Rogue tributary.
Those projects were designed and built by the Corvallis-based River Design Group.
"Before we do anything, it would be good for us to see those projects and talk to those experts," Laier says.
Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.