Stretch of Rogue River reopened to rafters

GRANTS PASS, Ore. (AP) — Whitewater outfitters scrambled Monday to get back in business after the U.S. Bureau of Land Management reopened the popular wild sectiogrern of the Rogue River, which has been closed for nearly two weeks amid heavy smoke from wildfires.

Rain over the weekend cleared the skies enough for BLM to lift the closure that rafting outfitters and lodges say has cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars. The hiking trail from Grave Creek to Rogue River Ranch remained closed, as did Bear Camp Road, the main route used to shuttle rafters’ vehicles.

“That’s good news,” Pete Wallstrom of Momentum River Expeditions in Ashland told The Grants Pass Daily Courier. “The Rogue is the Eiffel Tower of Southern Oregon. When it’s closed, nobody comes here for anything.”

There was no big influx of rafters at the Grave Creek boat ramp on Monday morning, said Lori Bodi, the BLM ranger at Rand, where the agency hands out permits for floating the popular 34-mile stretch of the Rogue River, one of Oregon’s top whitewater destinations. There were no private boaters putting on, and one family trip using a commercial permit.

Wallstrom said his trips scheduled for this week remained cancelled, to give guests time to change their plans, but trips for next week were filled.

Affordable Shuttles owner Sharon McCall said she lost revenue from the 12-day closure, but her business would survive and she was ready to go back to work. The closure of the Bear Camp Road shuttle route meant she would have to take rafters’ vehicles to the Foster Bar takeout by the longer coast route, which doubled the fee to $200.

“I’m not crying,” she said. “It’s all nature.”

BLM had said it closed the river out of fears the smoke would keep helicopters from making a rescue attempt if a rafter got into trouble,

The agency said firefighters were still working on the Big Windy complex of fires, which were 15 percent contained after burning through 23 square miles.

Though rafters were allowed to put on the river, some areas where the fire was active remained closed to camping and stopping, except to scout rapids.

Meanwhile, firefighters on Sunday were dispatched to 10 new fires on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest that were sparked by lightning from Saturday’s thunderstorms.

The largest was 4 acres, burning near Bolan Lake 15 miles southeast of Cave Junction. The other nine fires were all smaller than an acre.

At the Labrador Fire 10 miles west of Selma, evacuation precautions were eased for the Oak Flat community, where residents were advised to be ready to leave. The evacuation advisory was lifted for the area between Kerby Flatg and McCaleb Ranch.

The Douglas Complex west of Glendale was listed at 48 percent contained after burning through nearly 70 square miles.

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Information from: Daily Courier, http://www.thedailycourier.com

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

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