Exploring The Chetco River

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Sunday, Aug 6, 2017

My intention was to fish the Chetco River for a few hours and just see what kind of trout were there. My plan was to take the South Side Chetco River Road and fish across from where I had hiked The Oregon Redwood Trail. I packed lunch, snacks, water and the GPS. Who needed the GPS? I was following roads and not going far, but I have learned to always take it. Seven miles up the road I stopped at a cattle guard. this was obviously someone’s beautiful farm. I couldn’t read the old, faded sign, so I got out to take a closer look. Yep , this was the road, along with five others. Driving through, I could see this was about where I planned to fish, but I couldn’t walk across his pasture.

I drove through and the road started going up, and up and got smaller and smaller. By the time I got to the top, I knew it was wrong. There were other turns, but they looked like they went to other houses. I turned around, went back down the road, back to Rt. 101, crossed the river and took the North Road Chetco River. I stopped where the hike was and studied the river that previously had looked lower and more slow. I needed to fish from the other side, but didn’t think I could get across. A couple was swimming on the shallower, far side, laughing and having a big time.

Looking at the car GPS, the road crosses the river a few miles ahead, so I drove on. It was a one-lane bridge, and I stopped to take a picture. Two trucks raced by with motorcycles in the back. Driving up the other side, I was surprised by big campers coming down. Soon I saw a campground, which was on the gravel of of the river. OK, now I should be clear. Nope, cars and trucks whizzed by. More campers and one large RV came by. The road was narrow, and I had to stop and squeeze over to make room. It’s Sunday! Everyone was out for a kayak trip, camping or riding their bikes in the Sikiyou National Forest.

There were designated areas to get to the river, but all were crowded with people whooping it up on their weekend. Between those areas, you could not get to the river. Usually it was too steep, but sometimes too far. I drove on, and on, crossing the river on one lane, high bridges three more times. I tried to only look straight ahead when crossing them. At the last one, I stopped and took a picture. This looked like the beginning of a river I would like to fish. It is beautifully clear and not racing down a mountain. If I could just get in a few hundred yards ahead. Going across the bridge, the road began a long, steep climb up the side of a mountain. I was going about 10 miles an hour, because of the ruts, sharp curves and because I didn’t want to go over the side of the mountain. Going around a sharp turn, suddenly there was a motorcycle coming down the mountain pretty fast on my side of the road. All I could do was stop. He started sliding and couldn’t manage to get across the road to pass me, so he laid the bike down, sliding to a stop 15 feet in front of me.

“Are you OK?” I asked. He wasn’t sure as he quietly shook himself off and checked himself out. He nodded he was OK. Then he picked the bike up and checked it out. He looked like a pro, with all the right gear, a bike suit, helmet with a closed shield, boots and gloves. Had he not been so well equipped, he would have been really scraped up. It was also a very nice bike with knobby off-road tires. A nice-looking young man in his early 20’s, he said he came from Grant’s Pass and camped last night. Grant’s Pass! Really! He was going down to 101, up to Gold Beach, then back up and across the mountains to Grant’s Pass. Wow, that’s a trip! He said mine was the first car he had seen, which is why he was carelessly on the wrong side of the road. He also said he had not seen the river yet. I wished him well, and he was off.

I turned around went back down to the bridge, stopping at a parking area just before the bridge. There had to be a trail down to the river, but I couldn’t find it. It was getting a little late to launch a fishing trip now anyway, so I drove back out. Going back to Brookings to gas up, I saw the sign for Chetco Point, so I went there. It’s a beautiful spot with great views of Brookings Harbor, the beach and rock islands. Steve had talked about fishing the bay, and I could see small boats fishing in the bay. It’s pretty calm, but rocking a bit more than I like.

Back at camp, I studied the GPS maps to see where that young man had gone and where he was going. I was impressed. The National Forest has roads going everywhere. Mostly they are logging roads, so they can go somewhere, or nowhere at all. You need to be on alert on every turn and have some good maps with you. I have great respect for what this guy was doing. Pretty cool. Just to have to gear to camp, eat and drink in the middle of the forest. Obviously he had plotted it all out.

Then I studied how to get to the Chetco River. At the bridge where I left the river, there are no other roads to the river. It goes into the Kalmiopsis Wilderness Area. It travels for many miles free of roads and traffic, undisturbed. There is a trail that crosses it, continuing along the crest of mountains, like the Appalachian Trail. I would need better maps, but I would love to go there. I brought the gear. How long would you stay? Five days? Then I wondered how someone traveled it years ago to map it. How hard is it to get around in there? Finally I decided it would be stupid to go alone at my age, but Dear Lord, that would be a place to go! I have much more respect for the Chetco River after following it for a day. Then I get to the library, where I can get WIFI, and study the Kalmiopsis Wilderness. There are many pictures of people kayaking through it, camping along the banks. Now, that’s the way to do it!

  1 comment for “Exploring The Chetco River

  1. August 7, 2017 at 1:11 pm

    You’ll end up doing it!

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