email a friend iconprinter friendly iconRafting the Rogue River
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IF WILD AND SCENIC RIVERS are generally overlooked, sadly, so are the threats posed to them.

This point was driven home to me one afternoon. We’d spent the morning tearing over Rainie Falls (where the river rips through a jagged ridge of bedrock to create a 12-foot drop), and then bobbing through an easy rapid called China Gulch, followed by a stopover on a grassy bench for lunch. While the guides laid out our afternoon meal, I found David Moryc standing on a footbridge, staring glumly into the pools below. When I asked what was bothering him, he explained that this very spot was at the center of a dispute his organization, American Rivers, had recently plunged into.

Most of the Rogue’s Wild and Scenic section is administered by the U.S. Forest Service which, Moryc explained, has strived to manage the area responsibly. Thanks to a quirk of legislation, however, a 19.5-mile stretch of the protected corridor is overseen by the Bureau of Land Management and is not so strictly controlled. Thousands of acres of that land are still open to logging and mining; last year 313 acres of old growth were nearly sold off for clear-cutting, though that plan is now defunct.

“During the summer, the main stem of the Rogue gets quite warm, so the salmon and the steelhead tend to congregate in the cooler water at the mouths of tributaries like this one here,” Moryc explained. “The logging and accompanying roadbuilding will send eroded soil into surrounding creeks, degrading the spawning habitat and compromising the health of the ecosystem.”

American Rivers is hoping to add Wild and Scenic protection to the threatened lands with a congressional bill this summer. A separate organization, Rogue Riverkeeper, had two lawsuits pending at press time that would limit resource extraction near the river.

“There’s a handful of pristine, primitive rivers in the country that we should not mess with, simply on principle,” he says. “The Colorado through the Grand Canyon certainly makes that list, as do the Rio Grande and the Middle Fork of the Salmon. Well, it turns out that the Rogue is one of those too. If this river isn’t worth leaving alone, what else is?”

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