By Bill Sanderson
The algae and sediment bloom last week was caused by a malfunction at the Detroit Dam complex. Because the headgates did not work properly, they had to be shut down and water released from different levels within the two reservoirs. That situation has been dealt with, and the North Santiam River is back to normal summer volume with a couple of notable exceptions.
River volume dropped from about 1,100 cubic feet per second two weeks ago down to about 775 cfs the last few days, and those measurements are at Packsaddle. There is not much difference in flow between Packsaddle and Mehama this month because the tributaries including Little North Fork and Rock Creek) are very low and there are few water permits for using the river water for home business, or agricultural use. Mehama flow now is around 2.6 feet deep at the bridge.
With the smaller volume of water, many gravel bars are quite shallow. Heavy boats or rafts can get stuck easily if they choose the wrong route around some of the obstructions. When the river level was around 900 cfs, I could take a raft that weighed 1,900 pounds with people and gear and bounce over only a few shallow places. We would not get stuck, and were able to scrape bottom a couple of times and go on our way. However, at the present flow of 775,we are getting solidly stuck with boats weighing only 1,200 pounds. We also observe small rafts also getting stuck with much lighter loads.
Serious fishing boatpeople should get together and do some volunteer work to clear some of the big rocks out of the navigational channels. Boats could bounce over the problem places that now stop boats. Perhaps there is a group that would like to volunteer to help with the problems. One of the most serious problems is at the bottom of Mill City Bar, the boulder patch below the Falls. There are two channels there and they both have obstructions. A dozen other places also have shallow places that should he improved. Turnage Creek Bar and Bilyeau Bar are two of them.
The large tree that is sticking out in the river above Mill City Falls comes out from the South bank, and it has been cut. The next high water will move it away, and boats may pass by safely now if they are careful.
Linn County Parks is the agency that is responsible for the maintenance of the Mehama/Lyons Bridge boat ramp. The end of it has broken off, and axles might be broken if it is not fixed. Linn County is trying to get a permit to use precast cement blocks to provide the best angle down to low water levels. Thanks to Brian Carrol for working through the difficult permits required and for getting good ideas and input.
The North Santiam River has always been something of a paradise,and we note now that we have a few parrots talking to us a couple of miles above Mehama and Lyons. They are living about a mile downstream from North Santiam State Park near the former home of Tater, the river watchdog. We need a couple of banana trees and monkeys to add to the ambience near River Loop Road.
Some salmon arc still in prime shape, and some are fading. Turkey buzzards are now hanging around places where dead salmon might be found.
Vine maple is turning pink, and the Fall season is just around the corner. The maples and cottonwoods have yet to start the contrast of brilliant gold and yellow, and that should start to happen shortly.
More than half a dozen varieties of baby ducks and geese were swimming around last week. The mallards, wood ducks, golden eyes, and teal outnumbered the mergansers! Certainly we have coyotes hidden in the bushes waiting for their prey.
Osprey and little green heron and kingflshers seemed to outnumber eagles and hawks and great blue heron last week. Perhaps the time of day during the trips had something to do with the types of game that were visible.
Steelhead are still swimming around many of the usual places, and it is a thrill to connect with them. We should take more pictures of them to preserve the memories.
Bill Sanderson is a freelance writer. He can be email@example.com