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Boating death the first by professionally guided customer in at least 20 years

Friday's boating death in the Lower Rogue River Canyon occurred in a turbulent river boil made treacherous, in part, because of low fall flows in the Rogue River, a river manager said.

Chapin Clark, 71, died during an accident in the Rogue's famed Coffee Pot boil, part of the Mule Creek Canyon that has a reputation for spinning and sinking boats.

In the accident, the Coffee Pot slammed the driftboat into the canyon's high rock walls and caused it to span the Coffee Pot's narrow exit made tighter because of low flows, said Chris Dent, who manages the canyon stretch for the federal Bureau of Land Management.

The bow hit on the right wall, swept the stern into the left wall and just pinned it right there, Dent said Tuesday.

The boat rolled and swept away Clark, guide Ethan Nickel, who was rowing the boat, and an unidentified third person, said Louise Austermeuhle of the BLM's Rogue River program.

Nickel was able to pull Clark to a downstream rock, then another guide threw the men a rope and towed them to a safer rock, Austermeuhle said. However, Clark stopped breathing by then, and CPR efforts by Nickel and others were unsuccessful at reviving him, Austermeuhle said.

The feeling is, perhaps, that the gentleman had a heart attack, Austermeuhle said.

Clark was a former dean of the University of Oregon Law School who reportedly was in poor health, and that may have contributed to his death, Austermeuhle said.

Nickel was working for outfitter Todd Weck of Eugene, who owns a commercial permit to offer guide services in the Wild and Scenic section of the Rogue. Efforts to reach Nickel and Weck were unsuccessful this week.

Water flows through the canyon were about 1,500 cubic feet per second Friday, lower than most autumns but still higher than its lowest point last year.

Dent said lower water levels shrink the Coffee Pot exit, making aluminum driftboats more susceptible to getting pinned there.

The low water had something to do with it, Dent said. Unfortunately, it just happened.

It was the first death in the canyon by a professionally guided customer in at least 20 years, according to various BLM sources.

A man died from a similar experience two years ago at Blossom Bar rapid, which is a short distance downstream from the Coffee Pot. A driftboat angler died last March in the middle Rogue when his boat sank near Galice.

Nickel's boat eventually became dislodged and sank into the deep Mule Canyon water.

When the river takes them there, they're never to be seen again, Dent said.

Dent said there were no plans to increase warnings to boaters about the river's navigability dangers that are increased by low water, nor were there any plans to close the stretch because of Friday's accident.

Black-tailed deer hunters are doing a good job providing biologists with teeth from their dead bucks, but they are lagging in providing pieces of the bucks' brains to help in separate, ongoing research projects in southwestern Oregon.

The teeth are part of an Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife study on deer populations here, while the brain matter is for a statewide survey on whether the deadly chronic wasting disease has reached the state's big-game herds.

ODFW biologist Merv Wolfer said he knows why deer hunters are vigilant about the teeth ' they have their eye on a new spotting scope.

Those who turn in teeth this fall will qualify for a drawing in which a Bushnell Sportview spotting scope will be given away. The scope was donated by the Umpqua Chapter of the Oregon Hunters Association as a way of enticing more hunters to turn in the requested teeth.

It seems to be doing its job, Wolfer says.

Agency researchers are asking hunters voluntarily to turn in two incisor teeth from the deer they kill this fall, the second year of the study. The teeth will be sent to a Montana lab for aging, and the information will be used to help develop a new computer model to estimate deer population here.

The incisors ' which are the two middle teeth from the front of the lower jaw ' should be obtained by cutting away the gum and pulling the teeth out, ensuring that the entire root is included. The teeth should be placed in an envelope provided at about 60 drop-off stations around the region, and hunters are asked to write down when and where the animal was killed as well as its sex.

Hunters who add their name and address can learn more about the deer they shot when information is available next year. Those who turned in teeth last year should learn this month how old their 2001 deer was.

For the chronic wasting disease testing, hunters are asked to bring the head of their dead deer or elk to the ODFW office at the Denman Wildlife Area in White City.

A biologist will take a tissue sample from the base of the head, and the sample must be collected within 24 hours of the animal's death for the test to be valid.

The sample will not affect taxidermy mounts.

Chronic wasting disease is a fatal condition that has been detected in 14 states and Canadian provinces in recent years, jeopardizing big-game herds wherever it is detected.

Though never detected in Oregon, the disease has alarmed agency biologists enough that the agency is looking for mass testing of animals.

The ODFW hopes to test at least 500 hunter-killed deer and elk this fall and winter. Last year, 99 hunter-killed animals were tested, and just 12 animals were tested in the previous five years. All have been negative, but ODFW biologists remain cautious about whether Oregon is disease-free.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 776-4470, or e-mail