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Chetco and North Umpqua river runners face new, natural obstacles

The tough-running Pinball rapid on the North Umpqua River has become much tougher to run now that nature has added a new and dangerous bumper to the mix.

Last week's high flows floated a Douglas fir log into the rapid, where it became lodged in rocks to form a dangerous impediment to rafters and kayakers.

Cheryl Caplan, spokeswoman for the Umpqua National Forest, says the new-look Pinball — which already is a Class IV rapid run only by the best of boaters — remains passable to the most experienced of kayakers.

But anyone floating the stretch between Horseshoe Bend and Gravel Bend ought to scout the altered Pinball before attempting to row it, Caplan says.

The rapid is about a half-mile downriver from Apple Creek Campground. It is within the North Umpqua's so-called Segment II.

The snag, which is about 100 feet long, is charred and likely a remnant of 2002's Apple Fire, which has dropped several trees into the North Umpqua since it burned, Caplan says.

The Forest Service has no plans at this time to remove the tree, chiefly because of money, Caplan says. However, the Forest Service will scout the rapid and assess the tree's hazard level weekly, she says.

"Since high flows brought it in, they're really hoping that high flows will move it out," Caplan says.

If it remains into low-flow periods later in the year, the Forest Service likely would look into cutting and removing the snag, Caplan says.

No other new impediments to rafting and kayaking have been reported since recent high-water events, Caplan says.

Chetco sand shoal merits caution from boaters

BROOKINGS — The U.S. Coast Guard is warning boaters motoring over the Chetco River mouth to be wary of a significant sand shoal created there by heavy storms earlier this month.

The shoal is seaward of the south jetty and sloughs into the navigable channel, and it is high enough that water depths over it have dropped to as little as 8 feet during low tide, according to officers at the Coast Guard's Chetco River Station.

It's just outside of the jetties along the southern part of the channel.

At some water levels, the shoal has created breaking surf that boaters should be aware of and avoid.

The same series of storms that put the log in the North Umpqua's Pinball rapid was responsible for creating the shoal.

"It happened in that last big runoff," says Coast Guard Chief Steve Weber at Brookings-Harbor. "If we get some swell in here, it might move things around."

No accidents have been reported, Weber says.

Big-game tags up for auction

The first of 11 big-game tags will go on the auction block Saturday to kick off the annual fundraiser that helps Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists pay for management of Oregon's largest land animals.

The auction will be held at the Blue Mountain Conference Center in LaGrande, but proxy bidding over the telephone is available. For more information, telephone Jason Pennington at 541-910-1239.

Statewide deer, bighorn sheep and statewide elk tags will be up for auction at three other events next week.

Nine of the tags are offered annually through the ODFW's Access and Habitat Program, which funds habitat improvement and public-access opportunities for hunters in Oregon.

The sheep tag, as well as a pronghorn tag, are offered outside of the A&H Program package, but their proceeds go into research and management of those species.

Up to 10 percent of each auction's proceeds will go to the sponsoring organization.

Eleven identical tags also will be offered this year by raffle.

Read page 21 of the 2009 Oregon Big Game Regulations for complete information on the auction hunts.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 776-4470, or e-mail mfreeman@mailtribune.com.