The weekend of September 22 will be all about the Chetco River.
Birds that fly over the Chetco, and plants that live on its banks. Chetco Chinook. Snorkeling, fishing and boating – all on the Chetco.
It’s all part of a two-day “Cherish the Chetco” event sponsored by the South Coast Watersheds and promoting stewardship of the National Wild and Scenic Chetco River.
The event kicks off at 7 p.m. Friday at the Chetco Community Public Library in Brookings with an evening of speakers, slides, films and exhibits.
Notably, river author and photographer Tim Palmer will discuss the National Wild & Scenic Rivers legislation. Palmer is an award-winning author of 22 books about rivers, conservation and adventure travel. He’s paddled more than 400 waterways, and will address some of the nation’s wild and scenic – including those on the south coast of the area.
According to the National Park Service, the U.S. has 3,400 waterways – only a quarter of 1 percent – designated as Wild & Scenic Rivers. Oregon has 58 such waterways – representing 1,916.7 miles of designated rivers – almost 2 percent of the state’s rivers.
“Our suite of rivers on the coast of southern Oregon is one of the finest in America,” Palmer said from his home in Port Orford. “There is no other concentration as fine as ours: The Smith, the Illinois, the Rogue, the Chetco, the Elk – there is no other combination like it. It’s a remarkable place.”
Palmer, who grew up on the riverways of western Pennsylvania – and learned how mankind affects the water – will outline the history of the National Wild & Scenic Rivers, how local rivers became protected under its auspices and the challenges the community faces in taking care of its rivers.
The Rogue River was one of eight first rivers designated as Wild and Scenic Rivers in the 1968 legislation protecting waterways.
“It’s a bit of an underrated river,” Palmer said of the Chetco. “Everyone knows about the Rogue. The Chetco’s wilder, there are no dams, the upper part is wilderness, There are 250,000 people on the Rogue. The Chetco comes out of wilderness. It’s an extraordinary part of a landscape and it’s ours. We need to recognize that, and do what we can to take care of it.”
Chetco adventurer Slade Sapora, a longtime Brookings resident, will show slides of a recent backcountry kayak trip on the upper river. Sapora studied biology at Portland State University and his career has taken him to many places – including Alaska and Thailand – but he still considers the Siskiyou Mountains home.
Last summer, he trekked deep into the mountains and then paddled through the rugged canyons of the Chetco River to the Pacific Ocean. He will share slides from this adventure, giving viewers a chance to experience the Chetco River in its wildest reaches.
Films will also include underwater footage of Chetco Chinook by videographer Thomas Dunklin and an exhibit of paintings by local artists.
Morning stewardship projects will start the day Saturday at 8:30 a.m. Volunteers can help remove ivy to protect a forest that shades the river and offers cool areas in which fish langor, or help with a riverfront trash cleanup by boat. Additionally, volunteers can assist with water temperature monitoring and fish survey projects led by the U.S. Forest Service and the staff of South Coast Watersheds.
The Azalea Middle School Birding Club will lead a bird-watching walk on the River View Trail in Loeb State Park starting at 8 a.m. Saturday.
And in the afternoon, a River Fair from 1 to 5 p.m. at the Redwood Bar, at which attendees are invited to try out different boats, discover the “salmon tent,” snorkel, learn various fishing techniques, watch plein-air artists at work, make art and learn about river creatures, harmful invaders and water safety.
“We’re glad for the opportunity to work together with the Forest Service to sponsor what is shaping up to be a great community event,” said Harry Hoogesteger of South Coast Watersheds. “Cherish the Chetco. The name says it all.”
“We need to celebrate that, recognize it,” Palmer said. “At an early age, I got the message that what we had left is worthwhile and really deserves to be protected.”