From Fish to Farm

An intern has parked his bike outside of the office of Sandy Bar Ranch in Orleans. Besides cabin rentals, the owners offer workshops in botany, birding, mushrooms, building with alternative materials, mandolin, and more. / Photo by Malcolm Terence.

Sandy Bar Ranch, a Place to Grow

By Malcolm Terence, Two Rivers Tribune Contributing Writer

In the 20 years since the present owners bought the Sandy Bar Ranch in Orleans, sport fishing has dwindled so much that the work for 22 local recreational fishing guides has shrunk to two or three still in business.

Like businesses everywhere, they reinvented themselves. At Sandy Bar they created a River version of a university. It’s like a regular university but minus the lifetime burden of student loans and the lifetime aversion to dorm food like Top Ramen.

Mark Dupont and Blythe Reis don’t call their business a university but they offer classes throughout the year in subjects ranging from mandolin to mushrooms and from alternative construction to organic farming.

They still rent the cabins to vacationers and fishermen but they are always planning the next workshop.

They bought the resort in 1992 from Laverne Glaze, who kept a residence next door. Glaze said her grandmother told her stories of coming to Sandy Bar as a young girl.

In her grandmother’s time, it was a Karuk village just a mile upriver from the Orleans Bridge, although all that was left when Glaze and her husband bought it was the trace of a sweat lodge and a family cemetery. She recalled that her son made metal name plaques for the grave sites when he was in high school to help people remember the names of the people buried there.

Mark Dupont, one of the owners of Sandy Bar Resort, looks over the dozens of varieties of local mushrooms after a recent workshop. The place stayed busy with its fishing clientele years ago but as fishing has dwindled, Dupont and his wife Blythe Reis have rented their cabins to vacationers and have presented a wide range of educational workshops—an Orleans-style university. / Photo by Malcolm Terence.

The former Glaze home has since been converted into the Sandy Bar office. She remembered that the foundation was locust tree lumber, a wood so durable and hard that it was impossible to drive a nail into it.

And the fishing was good then, she said, so good that they had the same clientele from year to year with fishermen making reservations a year in advance. “It was nothing but go down to the river and get your limit every day,” she said.

Her husband Ed Glaze was a recreational guide who worked with both a drift boat and a jet boat.

When the present owners took over, they inherited clients who had already come for years for the fishing season and some still do. One of them is Eugene Amedola, who first came to Sandy Bar in 1963 just after the Glazes bought it, and who came again this fall.

“Not that much has changed,” Amedola said. “People are more into environmental stuff and Orleans seems a little depressed.”

He recalled long ago having a beer at the Ishi Pishi club, then a saloon with a feisty reputation that was reinforced by the bullet holes in the ceiling. His friend ordered a beer and the bartender brought him a can. When the friend asked for a glass, the bartender asked what for, turned and left them.

Amedola, now retired in the Modesto area, used to come up with friends, but he’s outlived them. He’s now a catch-and-release fisherman, but he is dedicated to his annual stay at Sandy Bar. This fall, he saw an eagle swoop down and capture a fish. “It was beautiful,” he said.

As fishing clientele dwindled, Sandy Bar began to get more summer vacationers and families from as far as the Bay Area and Portland became regular visitors.

But the real core of Sandy Bar as a campus is its huge garden and orchard. The resort operators were well equipped for this task when they arrived in Orleans. Dupont had been an inspector for organic certification in Japan and across Latin America, assessing plantations of coffee and cacao. Reis also helped run an organic food store in San Francisco.

They converted a two-acre pasture into the food oasis with over 100 varieties of fruit and nut trees and long rows of vegetables and herbs. “Besides that we raise goats and chickens,” Reis said, then paused and added, “And bears.”
Every year Sandy Bar enrolls two to four interns for the March through November season and they work 30 hours a week for room, board and a stipend.

These interns learn gardening and homesteading skills including annual and perennial gardening, orchard management, plant propagation, animal husbandry, food preservation, and cottage industries such as beeswax candles, salves, dried flowers, and cheese-making.

The intern program overlaps Sandy Bar’s annual permaculture workshop, which is presented as a series of monthly weekend sessions in Orleans and also at sites in the Eureka/Arcata area. The term permaculture refers to a design for communities that stresses health and sustainability.

Specifically, the topics include zone and sector analysis, observation as the basis for design, keyline design of swales and ponds, organic gardening and farming, orchard management, plant propagation, animal husbandry, soil management, ethnobotany, pest management, natural building techniques, community process, watershed restoration, fire and fuels management and more.

There are also shorter educational events covering botany, bird identification, mandolin and natural building. Scattered around the grounds are examples of different alternative building styles including a pizza oven built with cobb construction, a mixture of straw and clay but also using commercial brick. Nearby is an experimental solar dehydrator still being fine-tuned. Dupont harbors hope that it will someday actually dry fruit.

Other building techniques have included strawbale, straw and clay slip, timber frame and cordwood with mortar. The annual mushroom workshop has helped identify hundreds of species that appear in the Orleans area. This year the students skipped the annual mushroom walk because of a new Forest Service requirement that collectors buy expensive permits.

Many of the workshops are offered free to local residents who will not need meals or accommodations and one recent demonstration in juicing fruit was offered to visiting students from Orleans Elementary. Details are available at

At the same time that they have re-invented Sandy Bar for an era with fewer fish, Dupont and Reis have not given up on restoring fish populations. Both are directors at Mid Klamath Watershed Council a non-profit organization that has an active fisheries program. This includes building ponds at Seiad Creek and enhancing stream mouths for fish passage up and down the basin.

Dupont and Reis also have not shied from the discussion about dam removal. At the Department of Interior’s recent hearings in Orleans, Dupont testified about the damage to his business over the years and said, “The Klamath River is our best chance of restoring a salmon fishery on the West Coast… but the water enters California in a degraded state.”

He strongly supported dam removal and looks forward to a future when the Orleans area can once again support 22 recreational fishing guides.


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December 21st, 2011

1 to “From Fish to Farm”

  1. Fred Mangels says:

    He strongly supported dam removal and looks forward to a future when the Orleans area can once again support 22 recreational fishing guides.

    So this last big run on the Klamath wasn’t good enough for him?

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