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  • From hazard to kayakers' haven on the Rogue?

    Mapping of Rogue River near Mugger's Rock is first step toward whitewater course envisioned by a Gold Hill man
  • GOLD HILL — Rafters and kayakers know this gnarly and dangerous Rogue River whitewater rapid as Mugger's Alley, and its main feature — Mugger's Rock — for a reason.
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  • GOLD HILL — Rafters and kayakers know this gnarly and dangerous Rogue River whitewater rapid as Mugger's Alley, and its main feature — Mugger's Rock — for a reason.
    "That's where you flip and get mugged," says Steve Kiesling of the nearby Gold Hill Whitewater Center.
    But take a little dynamite to Mugger's Rock and anchor some well-placed concrete faux-boulders to the Rogue's bedrock, and Kiesling sees Mugger's Alley becoming a whitewater haven that would draw kayakers from across the globe to recreate, compete and even train for the Olympics.
    "With a little bit of shaping, it goes from something that nobody runs into a world-class course," Kiesling says. "We could have world-class events here.
    "Making waves isn't that difficult," Kiesling says.
    The ambitious idea of creating a whitewater course in this stretch of the Rogue took a step forward this week when river experts began mapping the Rogue streambed and water depths in and around Mugger's Alley.
    The mapping will give course designers a blueprint of what structures are currently in the rapids and where adding rock or removing it would create the gurgling features desired by boaters with varying whitewater abilities.
    "It's the first stage toward the reality of filling in the details," says Kiesling, a former Olympic canoeist who owns the land on the rapid's south side.
    But this is not the 1920s of famed Grants Pass boater Glen Wooldridge, who simply blew up Rogue boulders that were in his way while navigating the Rogue's more treacherous reaches.
    Adding or removing rock from the Rogue requires state and federal permits that come only after various agencies review the proposals for their potential impacts on everything from water quality to fish passage and navigability.
    Compounding the process for Kiesling's plans is that the stretch is part of an area designated as critical habitat for the Rogue's wild coho salmon, which is protected as a threatened species under the federal Endangered Species Act.
    The project would require permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Oregon's Department of State Lands, both of which would consult with state and federal fish biologists about whether the proposal would illegally harm wild salmon if allowed.
    The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife would be asked to review any state permit application, while NOAA-Fisheries biologists would be consulted on any Corps permit application.
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