The first Chetco River Check-Up attracted about 30 volunteers Thursday to collect temperature data from the main stem and most tributaries.
As expected, the main stem of the river is running at a feverish 70-75 degrees. The tributaries are much cooler, with temperatures in the high 50s to mid-60s.
The north fork of the Chetco was the exception with a 70.1 degree reading at the bridge where it enters the main stem.
Why the concern with the Chetcos health? Cindy Ricks, the watershed monitor tabulating the data, said the state Department of Environmental Quality automatically considers rivers more than 64 degrees to be water-quality limited.
Readings higher than that are usually caused by human development and activities. The Chetco, however, comes out of the rocky, sun-baked Kalmiopsis Wilderness at tropical temperatures.
Thursday produced readings on the upper river of 74.6 degrees at the low-water ford and 74.2 degrees just above where the south fork comes in. Below the second bridge, that dipped to 72.8.
Ricks said everyone has always known the Chetco is a hot river. She said an assessment is needed to see if anything can be done to cool down the main stem or tributaries. That could include planting more trees for shade.
The tributaries already provide cooler water for the Chetco. On Thursday at 2 p.m., the south fork was measured at 67 degrees where it comes into the main stem. Elk Creek was 60.9 degrees.
Farther down-river, Emily Creek was recorded at 64 degrees. Opposite from where Emily enters, the main stem was down to 72.5 degrees.
Kate Davies and her daughter Michelle, visiting from Auburn, Wash., recorded temperatures at Loeb State Park of 72 degrees at 3 p.m. at a depth of one and two feet. That dropped to 71 at three and four feet.
Jack Creek had readings in the 60-62 degree range at various points. Ricks said the warmest part is not along the golf course, but at the pool near the fish trap.
She said there was a lot more water in Jack Creek this year than last year at the same time.
Hamilton Creek, which flows into Jack, was cooler still at 60.3 degrees.
Ferry Creek was 60 degrees and Mill Creek 58.9. Bill and Marie Hansen recorded readings of 62-64 degrees on the main stem below Mill Creek.
Joe Hall creek recorded 57 degrees, which surprised some people because it ran through a recent clear-cut. Ricks said alders had been left to shade the creek.
After the last readings were taken at 3 p.m., the volunteers assembled at Freeman Rock for a picnic featuring chicken barbecued by Tom and Judy Hammel.
Ricks downloaded recordings from several kinds of thermometers into a laptop computer. Temperatures were then posted on a map enlarged and mounted by Bill Buchanan.
The river checkup was coordinated by Gerry Livingston, who also helped write a grant to fund the project.
She said the volunteers were a good variety of folks who just care about the river and want to do what they can.
Several people who own land on the river volunteered, as did Livingstons husband and children.