From the Mouth of the River

Angelica Meade sticks a cartwheel on a SUP board on the South Fork of the Salmon River.

By Creek Hanauer, TRT Guest Columnist

Summer’s coming to a warm, smoky close and school starts this week. We started August in the hot 90s then suffered through two weeks of 100-plus, so now we think of the mid 90s like it’s a cooling trend. Makes ‘river-time’ take on its summer definition. Saw lots of old friends this year; the Jennings clan encamped at Nordhiemer for a couple of weeks and checked out every swimming hole on the river while they were at it. Knownothing Hole was awash with friends and family all month. As a man of a certain age, I really love the grandkids transition to river otters.

Got a chance last week to boat Ikes Falls with Dr. Merlin and world explorer Rush Sturges. I was pretty nervous for them, such tiny little boats and the doctor hasn’t had much time for the activity and poor Rush, coming back from Africa and the White Nile and a first descent of the Inga Rapids on the Congo River…I was worried Ikes might be a bit too technical for him. They both styled it—whew.

You can watch the trailer for Rush’s newest unbelievable, truly breath-taking expedition documentary, Congo: The Grand Inga Project at

Life is good, if smoky. On what might normally be a nice windless day the sunrise is a bit too orange. The fires along the Klamath River started by that criminally negligent low-boy driver are out, but the roadside is scarred in spots from Ti Bar up river to Presido Bar. From around Blue Nose up river past Dillon Creek the roadside is one long strip of blackened defoliation. At the river put-in just above the campground there’s nothing between the road berm and the river-side willows. It was just blackberries and poison oak, but basic black sucks.

Two days ago Forest Supervisor Patricia Grantham reported the Goff Fire that threatens Seiad Valley and Happy Camp was over 5200 acres and had briefly jumped the Pacific Coast Trail ridge to the east and was only 15 percent contained. There are 1,300 more wildfires this year than last, and the fire season is yet young.

Fireworks and 911

I’ve been in contact with Siskiyou County Sheriff John Lopey about the 911 call that Tina Bennett, Fire Captain for the Salmon River Volunteer Fire and Rescue placed early in August to report flatlanders in the Hoteling Campground shooting off fireworks that burst above the dry timber and understory across the river below Godfrey Ranch. My email:


Tina Bennett, Capt of the Salmon River Volunteer Fire and Rescue Co, remembers calling 911 between 7:30 PM and 9 PM the night of August 4th. We’re a little surprised you can’t find out this information from the 911 records. The dispatcher informed her that no one was available to respond and they would inform somebody the next day. We will be quite interested in the results of your investigation of the matter.

The Sheriff’s reply was basically a non reply. He said that he found no evidence of the call to 911. Period. End of story apparently, even though the day after Tina’s call a Humboldt County Deputy Sheriff responded to the campground about the complaint and Toby Herold, the Forest Service Duty Officer that night, called Fire Chief, Jim Bennett the next day to apologize for not responding until he was given the information from the 911 call that morning.

For the seventy-year-old grandparents with an alleged 215 violation the Sheriff’s department responds at dawn with insanely armed, flack-vested, jacked-up young, para-military forces and immediately hand-cuff the elderly residents; but apparently if there’s a real incident that threatens the health and well being of our remote communities, we get bureaucratic rush-arounds, to put it somewhat politely.
Ahh the hell with polite, this kind of attitude and selective law enforcement by Siskiyou County sucks and has since the Sheriff’s Department raided Black Bear Ranch in 1968 and busted the Ranch’s whole tomato crop destroying a vital community food source in the coming  winter months.

The crime then? Not the Sheriff’s simple minded destruction of people’s means of survival; no, just a case of, ‘They’re hippies!’ Didn’t even get an apology, then or now.

Even the last deputy who took the time to try to understand the whole river community was in on this most recent deplorable raid.

As an addendum 911was again called a week or so later reporting fireworks coming from the same camp in Hoteling. So what constitutes enough of a threat back here in timber country, now that the timber’s gone, to rate a realistic response?
It blows my mind to find cigarette butts on the side of the road, obviously flipped from passing cars or to see someone driving thru Forks with the cigarette lit and the window down in late August.

One of my bike rides took me up the incredibly smooth sections of asphalt on the upper South Fork that was laid in late June; to say goodbye, cause just around the corner was the dread chip-sealing operation. The South Fork Road is pretty much shut down most of the day as they chip-seal the surface of the road down river from Cecilville, but should be done by Tuesday according to road boss Chuck Nichols. They’re stopping at Godfrey Road, oops sorry the O’Farrill Gulch Road. Maybe that means that Godfrey will get that phone/fiber-optic?

And here’s what time does to all men/women/gardens (see photo at above, left). These are the terraces that Paul Sintay constructed on his claim in the east side of the SoFo gorge back in the 1950s.
Paul was and early inspiration to the garden builders at Black Bear Ranch in the late 60s. Like Katharine George and a few others, Paul was delighted to share his hard won knowledge with folks who wanted to work hard to make their own way in the world.

From Jacqueline Fox, who lived with Paul back in the 70s, I hear that Dan Green is in extremely poor health. I remember trying to keep up with Dan and his ever present bottle at a Friday Night Movie at the Old School in Forks back in the day and winding up pretty damn sick, with a pretty damn long-time hangover. Man, that man could drink. Last time I saw him he was stocking up on liquids in Cecilville for a visit to Hoss, that little cabin at Windy Gap—paying for it now it seems. We are a short sighted lot. Lots of river thoughts his way.

Thanks to the volunteers of the Salmon River Restoration Council for their work to create fish passage at the mouth of the vital waters of Knownothing Creek.

The July Fish Dive figures are in for the Spring Run and it’s pretty good:
1104 Adult Salmon
187 Jacks
164 Adult Steelies
230 Half pounders

Algaecides in the sky-blue-waters of Copco and Irongate Lakes. trying to control the major outbreaks of toxic blue-green algae. Wonder if there’s some bitching about property values on this issue. And I love it when a corporation tells you not to worry about the chemicals that they’re going to use to battle the toxin. Judging by how we were sold the safety of 245T and 24D back after the 77 Hog Fire, that’s usually a good time to start, worrying and questioning.

There’s an oak tree on the cliff above the Klamath River about a half mile above Prisido Bar on river right that has a limb, about thirty-feet above the river, that overhangs the slow deep water of the river below.We call it the Eagle Tree, because over the decades we as often as not would find a Bald Eagle sitting calmly on the limb casting a yellow eye over the long slow stretch of water. This year we’ve been seeing an immature bald in place, calmly watching as we glide by admiringly underneath.

A couple of weeks ago as I approached the tree I was excited to see the immature eagle in residence in the old oak. The admiring thing lasted but an instant when I was startled alert by a mamma duck flapping and squawking out of the Bear Grass along the shore doing its ‘look-at-me-I’ve-got-a-broken-wing’ dance across the river heading diagonally across my bow, pretty much directly below the eagle’s perch. Obviously she was trying to divert my attention from her brood hidden along the right bank, but doing so ignored the ‘Big Picture’ exposing her to the eagle-eyed bird watching both of us from above. I felt like calling out, “Hey, cool it! I’m not threat, but that eagle up there is!”

Flapping and waddling crazily, the mama duck zigzagged across the open water mid-river. I’m thinking, “mama you’re in trouble.” The immature bald remained on the branch, is just watching, seemed almost bored. And then all hell broke loose.

Out of nowhere on intersecting vectors, two adult bald eagles came screaming, white on black, out of the sky to strike at the duck one hard upon the other. The balds instinctively did their sudden swoop and wing-over, spin, short wild beat of huge wings; just inches over the water, just inches apart; one after the other swipe one extended claw at the duck, both just missing.

In the same flurry of motion, both eagles renewed the attack and again dove at the mama duck who was now hauling ass, beating furious wing, toward the safety of the willows on river left.

The rallying eagles now seriously got in each other’s way as they dove at the duck in unison, thus giving the poor duck just enough space to make it safely into the overhung river left bank.
I have no idea how they missed each other much less the duck.

It was a quiet day, so it took quite a bit of work for the big birds to get themselves comfortably airborne again and one of them broke its spiral to swoop up to the oak branch where the immature bird had sat, only turning its head disinterestedly to observe the drama. Both those birds sat there impassively ignoring each other and me, about four feet apart on the branch as I floated silently under their perch.

Back in early July we found a beautiful Andrew Goldsworthy-esque ( sculpture at the mouth of Rock Creek. Not just some pile of rocks; stacking being the rage on the flat rock beach of Rock Creek, but a beautiful, three-foot hive structure on a mid-creek boulder. Just a mysteriously as it appeared it disappeared. No trace, no mess of stones, just gone. Sad, sorta, but fitting.

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