Appeal tribune. (Silverton, Or.) 1999-current, June 24, 2020, Page 5, Image 5

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    Appeal Tribune
| WEDNESDAY, JUNE 24, 2020 | 1B
Bright sunshine, lots of fish
Rafting is one of the ways to camp and boat down the John Day River. ZACH URNESS/STATESMAN JOURNAL
New access brings iconic John Day River fishing trips within reach
Zach Urness
Salem Statesman Journal
On the list of Oregon’s greatest river trips, the
John Day has always ranked high.
The second-longest undammed river in the
United States snakes through deep, isolated
canyons in Eastern Oregon on a trip that fea-
tures beautiful camping, great fishing and mel-
low rapids.
Problem is, the river is so isolated there are
few places to access it — especially the most
iconic section.
Historically, a 70-mile river trip between
Clarno and Cottonwood Bridge was required to
experience the John Day’s most stunning can-
yons, typically on a five- or six- day adventure
that felt out of reach for people with small chil-
dren or a lack of vacation days.
But this beautiful stretch got a little more ac-
cessible this season after the Bureau of Land
Management purchased 11,000 acres from a lo-
cal ranching family and opened up Thirtymile
Creek Boat Access point.
The purchase means it’s possible to float the
river in three days, down 44 river miles, rather
than five days. And anyone worried the new ac-
cess will lead to overuse need not fear, because a
limited-entry permit system also came online
this season, preserving the solitude in one of
Oregon’s special places.
All of the changes — the new access and per-
mit system — inspired me to head east last week
with my 5-year-old daughter, Lucy, and old fish-
ing pal Jim, into the realm of desert canyons,
shady campsites and very hungry smallmouth
(The COVID-19 pandemic briefly shut down
the John Day, before it reopened in late May. The
local counties entered Phase II reopening in
probably the easiest among Oregon’s iconic riv-
ers, whitewater-wise. The Thirtymile to Cotton-
wood stretch includes fun Class I rapids that
keep you moving, but by rafting standards, it’s
pretty easy.
I brought our 16-foot raft, frame and oars —
the standard whitewater river setup. But other
folks do this section in everything from canoes
to stand-up paddleboards.
If you pick a canoe or paddleboard, however,
do know that it’s not flat water. On our trip, we
saw multiple groups of over-turned canoes, in-
cluding one group that lost their camping gear,
cell phones and, yes, car keys.
Before you go: Getting a permit, knowing
river levels,
poop removal and shuttles
Picking the right boat
Even though the new boat access makes for a
shorter trip, that doesn’t mean this is an easy ad-
venture to pull off.
From permits to shuttles to moveable toilet
systems, there are a number of steps to com-
plete before you even get on the river.
The first is a simple question: what type of
boat will you float?
The nice thing about the John Day is that it’s
There are a number of things to take care of
before heading east.
First and most important, you’ll need one of a
limited number of permits to float the famous
sections of the John Day from May 1 to July 15.
Late May and June are the most popular, due
See RIVER, Page 2B
Fishing gene skips a generation
Henry Miller
Guest columnist
My dad wasn’t much of an angler.
But his father, Henry Miller, for
whom I’m named, had a passion for the
sport and got me addicted at about age 5
and during succeeding summer visits to
the grandparents’ home in St. Louis.
The gene for fishing fanaticism ap-
parently skips a generation.
Most of my siblings also seem to have
it to some degree.
One of the highlights of the year for
my grandfather was an annual week-
long vacation from his job as an engi-
neer to fish for trout at Bennett Springs,
As an aside, if you want to see that
fabled, Xanadu of my childhood imagi-
nation, do an online search for “Bennett
Springs State Park.”
A World Cup final has fewer fans,
judging by the photos.
Apparently the word has gotten out
about the trout fishing since my forma-
tive years.
Anyway, my grandfather taught me
to fish using a cane pole, a bobber and a
worm on a hook at a park pond in St.
Most of the fish that we caught were
inconsequentially small bluegill and
But on one occasion a bass that my
5-year-old self thought was as long as
my leg came up and grabbed the panfish
on the line, tussled for about 10 seconds,
then broke off.
Like Ahab and the white leviathan,
I’ve been obsessed about the pursuit
ever since.
As I said, my dad wasn’t into fishing.
But he was accommodating about
providing us with opportunities.
As duty chauffeur, dad would either
drop us off, or would stay, sit and read a
book while those of us old enough to be
trusted near the water, brother, Jim, and
sister, Michelle, and later, younger
brother, Steve, would fish.
Fishing being an art like all others in
which the production is directly related
to the effort, we scored with varying de-
grees of success, but always with sup-
port from both mom and dad.
Which, looking back, provided a
valuable lesson about parenting.
Offer opportunities.
Support the successes, bemoan the
failures, but don’t let either of them de-
fine the relationship.
Guide, don’t push or pull too hard.
My father celebrated his 96th birth-
day on May 10.
He didn’t know it.
Dad doesn’t recognize any of us in the
pictures on the wall of his room at the
care home in Santa Barbara, Calif.
I send him about four or five 4-by-6
post cards a week that I make on the ink
jet printer, then pen a short message on
the back with a Sharpie, the only pen
that doesn’t smudge on the photo paper.
Most of the pictures are family pho-
Over time, he’s lost the ability to
identify the people. The only person
that he recognizes now is himself.
Because of the no-visitors coronavi-
rus restrictions, a staff member at the
home emails Michelle, the designated
contact who lives closest, to let us know
Henry Miller and his father, Bill Miller,
at Bill’s 85th birthday.
how appreciative he is for the thoughts.
When I last saw him about a year ago,
he didn’t know who I was, but from the
wall of pinned-up postcards, he asked
“aren’t you the fisherman?”
See MILLER, Page 2B