By Dick Mason

Observer Staff Writer

Unlike an old black and white film, Beaver Creek Reservoir is still as striking as ever. It is located southwest of La Grande in the Beaver Creek Watershed. The watershed features a mixed conifer forest and picturesque views of the Blue Mountains. The reservoir's banks are well maintained and there are places for picnicking.

On Saturday, the reservoir will make its official debut when a Free Fishing Day program is put on there. There will fishing demonstrations, a fishing derby, free food, t-shirts and more.

The celebration will be the Northeast Oregon centerpiece of Free Fishing Day, a day in which people can fish for free throughout the state.

andamp;quot;We want to use this opportunity to showcase the reservoir. Many people have never seen it because it has been closed for so long to fishing,'' said Mark Gomez, a technician for the U.S. Forest Service's La Grande Ranger District.

The Forest Service, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, and City of La Grande are putting on the event. Wal-Mart and Four Seasons Fly Shoppe are helping sponsor the event.

Beaver Creek Reservoir had been closed to fishing since 1915 because it was La Grande's primary water source. Since 1991, though, the city has been getting all of its water from wells. The reservoir has been maintained as a backup water source, said Lee Mannor, water superintendent for the City of La Grande.

Reaching Beaver Creek Reservoir is not particularly easy. The reservoir is about 28 miles southwest of La Grande, 21 miles of which is gravel and dirt road.

Normally, people have to walk the final 2 miles to the reservoir. On Saturday, the 270 spur of Forest Service Road 4305 will be open to vehicles. If conditions are wet, a free shuttle service will be operating to transport anglers the final 2 miles in order to protect the road.

Free Fishing Day activities will run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The day will include:

? t-shirts for the first 100 anglers;

? free hot dog barbecue and soft drinks;

? lessons on lake fly-fishing techniques from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.;

? a casting contest for kids;

? a presentation on the history of the watershed;

? and a fishing derby.

Anglers will not need a license to fish on Free Fishing Day.

The bulk of the fish in the reservoir are believed to be brook and rainbow trout. The exact composition is not known. Although there are no known records indicating that Beaver Creek Reservoir had been open to fishing since 1915, it was stocked with rainbow trout in 1928 and brook trout in 1932, according to the ODFW.

Information on angling rules at Beaver Creek Reservoir can be found on page 65 of the 2002 Oregon Sport Fishing Regulations booklet. The reservoir is listed as La Grande Reservoir in the booklet.

Anglers at the reservoir are allowed to use only artificial flies and lures. No bait will be allowed.

Anglers using water craft should use only small boats, float tubes and small canoes. There is not a boat launching site.

State Marine Board regulations apply at the reservoir, Gomez said. This means that everyone on the water must wear a life jacket.

People should not bring camp trailers with the intent of spending the night. The gate on the road will be locked at 4 p.m.

Beaver Creek Reservoir is on U.S. Forest Service land. The City of La Grande has a conditional use permit for the reservoir, which has 200,000 gallons of water and is 40 feet at its deepest point.

To reach the reservoir, drive 7 miles east from La Grande on Interstate 84 to the Ladd Creek Exit, which is 2 miles east of the Reynolds Rest Area. Then drive 5 miles to Forest Service Road 4305. Next, drive 14 miles on Forest Service Road 4305 to Beaver Creek, then turn left on spur 270 of Forest Service Road 4305 and drive 2 miles to the reservoir.

Signs will be posted along the route.