A very special thanks to Wade Scofield of Scofield Cutting and Logging and Steve Schaefers the current president of McKenzie River Guides Association for a fantastic job of cutting the large tree out of the main channel of Martin’s Rapids.
It was amazing to watch these pros at work during this three hour job. The first step was for Steve to get the boat in behind the tree and back up the river to a tie off point on the log. That alone was working the river well above the capabilities of most rowers. Once tied off to the log, Steve and Wade attached Z-lines so they could maneuver the drift boat about their small eddy with a secure tie down and leverage to fight against changing current. Once these two big jobs were done Wade methodically notched, and trimmed his way into position to make major crosscuts that allowed pieces of the log to float clear of the rapids and land in safer shallow water down stream.
When the fist large chunck of log was cut free it rolled under the drift boat and then free floated through the rapid. The root wad end of the tree dropped a couple of feet into the river opening the channel allowing a new stream of rushing water to grab their drift boat and run it hard against the two z-line points. The boat quickly turned broadside to the current and threatened to break free. While Steve held on as best he could against 400 pounds of boat and gear being pushed by a Class III rapid Wade had to get off of the log and back into the high side of the boat where both men pulling on the line were able to turn the boat against the current and back into a now much smaller eddy of slow water. Thumbs up! Washing out would mean having to come back down the rapid and tying up again.
Soon Steve has lined the boat in behind the big rock and into water safe from monster log soon to be set free. Wade notches the tree so the final cut can be done from a much safer position than standing on the same log you are cutting. I don’t see this kind of thing every day. I’m thinking to myself that there is no safe place for him to make the final cut of those last few inches that free the log and the rest of the tree stump. It’s hard to guess where two huge pieces of tree being pushed by thousands of foot/pounds of water are going to go. I was puzzled by this last bit, but I’m not that bright so I’m thinking that these guys have this figured out and all I have to do is watch. But when Wade decides to LAY DOWN on top of the big rock to do the final cut I’m thinking maybe he’s not that bright either. It’s obviously not safe up there, but it’s the best he has.
Laying down, Wade reaches out as far as he can with one hand holding onto a twenty or so pound running saw with at least a four foot bar. It melts through what is left of the cut and the log drops free, The root wad end of the stump is now heaver than the remaining long tree stump and it’s setting on a rock under the water. As the heavy root wad teeter-totters into the water it lifts the end of the long stump, the running saw, and Wade up into the air. Just before it goes too far it slows and stops moving. Wade is now on top of the rock on his knees reaching high into sky in order to not drop the saw. Then it teeter-totters the other way. Down comes the stump slamming into the big rock about three feet from the top and just in front of Wade’s (not-so-safe) safe place. All is well, the job is done, and no one gets hurt.
The pros wrap it up and float out of the rapid happy that a big job was done. I follow them through with my heart in my throat, my pants wet, and no drain plug in my boat. Back at the landing, while I’m not so convincingly trying to tell the others that my pants are wet because I left the drain plug out of my boat Wade and Stephen are acting like they do this every day. That might be because they do. Well, not a 150ft tree in a class III rapid, but these two are on the river or in the woods as a full time profession. This was a big job… but just another job. Maybe a lot of their jobs are just a little on the edge but I think that it is important for us to know that with just the smallest miscalculation or a bit of bad luck one or both of these men could have been badly hurt.
Martin’s Rapids , the most popular white water rapid on the McKenzie River is now free of a life threatening obstruction that was wedged in the main channel and just in time for the 4th of July weekend. This year in three days of the holiday weekend approximately seventy boats with nearly three hundred and fifty rafters and anglers safely splashed their way through, the same as they have for years. Thank you Wade and Stephen for making that possible.