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'Pram Man' back on the water

The Rogue River's unofficial "Pram Man" is back in his 8-foot boat and hoping to complete his quest of rowing the 157-mile stretch from Lost Creek Dam to the ocean some time this weekend.

Bad weather and high water caused Casey Roland, 46, of Ashland, to beach his boat in the Rogue Canyon and take a two-week hiatus from his attempt to be the first oarsman to row the stretch in a metal boat since Gold Ray Dam was removed from the Rogue this summer.

Roland and Shane Dougherty of Coos Bay launched a raft Tuesday at the Grave Creek boat ramp and entered the Wild and Scenic Section of the Rogue, headed for the spot where Roland stashed his pram about eight miles down river Jan. 10 before hiking out.

Once he reaches his boat, Roland will have to tackle the Coffee Pot boil, Blossom Bar and other nasty features that await him and his tiny craft.

"The worse has yet to come," Roland said Monday, hours before launching. "None of it's going to be easy. None of it has been easy."

Roland launched his pram — less than half the size of a typical driftboat — on New Year's Day in hopes of reaching the sea in as little as nine days.

But the quest proved to be far slower than expected, in part because debris from winter runoff had altered many of the rapids enough that Roland had to park and scout the waters before attempting to traverse them in his small craft.

He broke an oar rowing Dunn Riffle near Galice and took on water at a few other sites, but his pram has proven quite sturdy so far, he said.

Having Dougherty accompany Roland through the Lower Rogue Canyon will provide a safety net for him, as well as giving him a river Sherpa, of sorts. Dougherty will ferry Roland's provisions, making for lighter passage in the pram, he said.

"I can run the stuff unladen," Roland said. "That will definitely help a bit."

When he does make it through the canyon, Roland will have easy sailing for the final 35 miles of his quest from Agness to the Pacific — except for the stiff upstream winds that could make for some slow sledding.

"I'm hoping to be at Gold Beach by Saturday," he said.

Several rafters and kayakers over the years have made the 157-mile journey from Lost Creek Dam to the Pacific, but all had to trailer their boats around Gold Ray Dam, which was removed in August. Boat traffic resumed through the stretch in October.

Roland said he realizes some rowers won't recognize his adventure as legitimate because he took two weeks off while about halfway through his trek.

"But I really don't care anymore," he said. "If anyone else wants to try this, fine. Go right ahead."

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470, or e-mail mfreeman@mailtribune.com.