Minam rafters clean up campsites

May 18, 2012 12:59 pm


Two-day float trip cleans up 40-mile corridor before Memorial Day 

A party of 12 rafters organized by Grant and Lottie Richie launched onto the Wallowa River May 5 at Minam on a two-day float trip to clean up 90 campsites along a 40-mile corridor of the Wallowa and Grande Ronde rivers. 

The Richies have been the new owners of the Minam Store and the Minam Raft Rentals and Shuttle Service since February 2011. Their store offers a variety of rafting supplies and equipment, and they have an inventory of 17 rafts that can be rented. They also just added guiding to their list of services.

“Mostly my husband does the guiding,” said Lottie. “If I do go along, I’m the camp cook. We work with Barker River Expedition out of Lenore, Idaho.”

The Richies love the outdoors and want to keep it cleaned up and in its natural state so that it can be enjoyed by everyone. Last year an effort was made by the Bureau of Land Management and the State of Oregon to clean up the campsites because “the majority of the land is a mix of BLM and Forest Service with some private ground in between,” explained Grant. This year, the Richies decided to help out too.

“We (rafters) are a big part of using the river,” said Lottie, “so it won’t hurt us to go do something to make it nice for everyone.”

The cleanup work party included the Richies and extended family members as well as some volunteers from the Whitman College men’s tennis team, Lottie said.

Scouting out the scope of the work ahead of them, Grant and his two dogs floated up the first 15 miles of the 40-stretch of river the weekend of April 21-22 to start cleaning things up.

“On my solo trip, I chopped up two 10-foot long airplane fuel tanks that had been in the river for years,” he said. “The BLM had tried to get them out sometime in the past but were unable to get them to move. I took an axe and was able to hack a hole into them and then remove much of the dirt and sand that was weighing them down. Between removing the dirt and sand and chopping them into three sections each, I was able to get them out of the river. I had seen them laying besides the river for years, so they were on my priority list.”

 A MOMENT OF CAMARADERIE: After a long day of cleaning camps and a dutch oven dinner, volunteers enjoy a lively talk around a  properly used fire pan. GRANT RICHIE photo
A MOMENT OF CAMARADERIE: After a long day of cleaning camps and a dutch oven dinner, volunteers enjoy a lively talk around a properly used fire pan. GRANT RICHIE photo

The Richies said that in a year’s time campsites can easily become littered and altered with primitive attempts at building furniture and creating conveniences of different sorts. A common problem involves leaving ashes and stone campfires behind.

“Campfire rings are prohibited,” said Lottie. “Fire pans or boxes should be used instead of rock ring campfire pits. Campers are supposed to pack out their ashes and pick up loose trash. We break up any rock rings we find and throw the rocks in the river. We don’t want the rocks found again.”

Rock ring camp fires are among the most common mess left behind by rafters at campsites.

“Fire rings were present in some of the campsites and these became a depository for nonburnable garbage with aluminum foil, cans and glass being the primary objects we pulled out of the ashes,” said Grant. “The BLM let us borrow their fire pan and garbage wok. They have different sized grills to go in the bottom so we could shovel the ash in and then shake it down through the grills.”

The work party was also prepared to dismantle any construction at the campsites.

“We were prepared to take out any nails in the trees that people put there to hang up lines,” said Lottie, “and take apart any camp wood furniture or seats that people made out of logs. We want to make the campsites more natural.”

Besides these things, the other problem involves litter in the river itself.

“There is lots of garbage that appears in the back eddies and shorelines,” said Grant, “like plastic bottles, pieces of plywood, a baby seat from a car, some child's bicycle seat with a spider on it, lots of styrofoam, miscellaneous shoes, flip-flops, pieces of torn tarp, broken buckets and whatever else makes it into the river from
the highways and towns upstream.”

Though fishing is very popular on the rivers, this sport produces litter too.

“The most abundant item might have been the bobbers from steelhead fishermen,” said Grant. “There is an unbelievable number of bobbers that go floating down the river each year.”

To help contain all this litter, the Richies received some help from the BLM. 

“The BLM provided us with sifters for the ashes, garbage bags and a trailer to haul out the garbage later. We brought the crow bars, hammers and rakes,” said Lottie.

Other provisions like the food, two shuttle vehicles for hauling and five of the larger rafts were donated by Minam Raft Rentals and Shuttle Service. 

Lottie was the camp cook on this trip and offered the work party some good meals.

“We had oatmeal, fruit and coffee for breakfast and brown bag lunches,” said Lottie. 

The work party got to their takeout before dark on Sunday and after getting back to Minam, Lottie's parents, Dr. Doug and Nannette Winkelman, had prepared a barbecue dinner that was waiting for them.

“There were only two small patches of campsites that we didn't get covered,” said Grant, “and I plan to cover them before Memorial Day weekend so all the campsites have been gone through at least once.” 

The Richies said they didn't do this for the attention, but they did it as a conservation effort for the benefit of everyone who has been on the river or wants a new adventure.

The Minam Store is presently open two to four days each week and on weekends, but toward the end of May the store will be open seven days a week. Store hours are yet to be determined, said Lottie.

Maps of the river campsites, may be purchased at the Minam Store. For more information about Minam Raft Rentals see their website at www.minamraftrentals.com or call 541-437-1111 or 541-910-3956.