From the NewsArk archives

Articles from past editions of the McKenzie River Reflections newspaper


Arsonists ignite campground toilets

From the April 12, 2000 edition of McKenzie River Reflections

Burned toiletMCKENZIE BRIDGE: Last Saturday an arsonist burned a toilet in the McKenzie Bridge Campground, just west of that upriver community. The double-vault building was completely destroyed, leaving only a few charred posts, steel doors and the metal roofing still standing.
Replacing the toilet will cost an estimated $20,000, according to Dave Graham, developed sites manager for the McKenzie Ranger District “This type of act impacts everyone,” Graham said. “We will now have to focus our efforts on replacing this one toilet so something else isn’t going to get done. Everyone loses.”
The fire is currently under investigation. People with any information about the fire or suspicious activity that may have been associated with it, are encouraged to contact the McKenzie Ranger District at 822-7215.

Image above: Not much remains of a USFS toilet at the east end of the McKenzie Bridge Campground.


This article is part of a series from the NewsArk, a project to preserve the history of the McKenzie River area. It involves the creation of a digitized collection of back issues of McKenzie River Reflections as well as the preservation of historical documents, photos and diaries. Contributions to help support the NewsArk can be sent to: McKenzie River Publishing, POB 172, Blue River, OR 97413.


Blackhawk to beef up rescues

From the May 9, 2001 edition of McKenzie River Reflections

Blackhawk helicopterWALTERVILLE: A black helicopter made repeated runs over the McKenzie River last Saturday, drawing a crowd to find out what was going on west of Hendricks Wayside Park. What they saw was a training exercise involving crews from McKenzie Fire & Rescue and the Army National Guard’s 1042 unit.
During the exercise the Blackhawk chopper was called in to assist ground crews staged near a simulated victim on a log jam. First two medics were lowered from the air. After a stretcher was rigged, the helicopter hoisted a dummy aboard and flew to Sacred Heart Hospital in Eugene. Returning, the ship landed so volunteers could practice loading a second “victim” aboard.
John Phelps was part of the Guard team based at McNary Airfield in Salem and no stranger to the McKenzie. He’s recently moved back to the area and is a firefighter with Springfield Fire & Safety. Next week he’ll become a McKenzie Fire & Rescue volunteer as well.
That sort of connection is the sort of thing Phelps said his commander is looking for and part of the rationale behind Saturday’s training session. With the Air National Guard pulling their squadron out of Portland the Army National Guard is moving to fill in the gaps.
Its likely people will see the Blackhawk flying more missions in the future - both for training and under actual Medivac conditions. In addition, another helicopter has been fitted with a 1,000 gallon water tank for fighting fires. That aircraft was also equipped with a thousand gallon per minute pump, meaning it can swoop down over a waterway and scoop up a full load in sixty seconds.


McKenzie River Reflections

Corps to blast 38-year-old concrete plug

From the February 6, 2002 edition of McKenzie River Reflections

Cougar Dam tunnelBLUE RIVER: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will remove the last of a 35.5-foot-long concrete plug during the week of February 4 from a diversion tunnel through Cougar Dam. The work is part of the multiple-phase temperature control construction at the dam, which is on the South Fork of the McKenzie River.
When Cougar Dam was being built in the 1960s, the diversion tunnel was used to divert river water away from the construction area, giving crews a dry area in which to work. Upon the dam’s completion in 1963, however, the tunnel was plugged with about 550 cubic yards of concrete and has not been used since.
The plug removal - also called a lake tap - is designed as a well-choreographed exercise in controlled blasting techniques. More than two-thirds of the plug has already been removed in previous blasts. The final blast, however, is expected to be the most critical since it will be the one that actually clears the tunnel.         The work is being performed under a contract with ASI RCC, Inc., of Buena Vista, Colorado. In the summer of 2001, ASI began work on a $9.8 million contract to install regulating gates inside the diversion tunnel, reline it to maintain its structural integrity, and then remove the plug.
When the blast removes the plug, water currently being stored behind the dam will again be diverted through the tunnel for about 45 minutes to flush sediment from the tunnel. The re-opened tunnel will be used to manage flows on the South Fork of the McKenzie River during the three-year construction of the tower, according to Corps public affairs specialist Heidi Helwig.     “On about March 1, the Corps will continuously divert water through the tunnel until reservoir levels are about 157 feet below normal winter operating levels,” Helwig said. “This will allow workers to begin construction on the water intake tower, which will include attaching a new weir system to the face of the existing tower. As a result of the drawdown, all boat ramps on Cougar Reservoir will be closed during the three years of construction.”
The new weir system is designed to allow dam operators to draw water from differing depths in the reservoir, while mixing it to the optimum water temperature for release below the dam. The changes will improve river conditions for salmon and resident fish in the McKenzie River, matching natural conditions needed by the fish.         
To minimize impacts to fish during construction, the Corps, in coordination with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW), will maintain a residual pool above the dam. It also will collect adult bull trout-listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act below the dam and transport them to release sites above the reservoir. In addition, the Corps has been working closely with ODFW, the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Geological Survey to monitor water quality and fish health throughout construction.
Following completion of the Cougar Dam upgrades, the Corps is scheduled to add another water temperature control structures to Blue River Dam. The work at both locations was authorized as part of the Corps’ Willamette Temperature Control Project.

Image above: A 50-ton steel bulkhead was removed from Cougar Dam’s diversion tunnel last year. Since that time, crews excavated and re-lined the old tunnel while installing two new sets of gates to control water flowing out of the reservoir. This week, the last seven feet of a 35 foot long concrete plug was to be blasted out by explosives.

County ready for Tavern cleanup

From the February 14, 2001 edition of McKenzie River Reflections

Blue River Tavern fireBLUE RIVER: A charred pile of debris and plastic “Caution” tape apparently aren’t what Lane County had in mind for cleanup efforts following last December’s fiery destruction of the Blue River Tavern. By not erecting a fence and promptly hauling away the remains, tavern owner Peter Metoxen is now at odds with the county’s nuisance ordinances.
As of Monday, the county finalized an abatement order authorizing crews from the Public Works Dept. to clean up the site and bill the property owner for their work. Not counting weekends and holidays, the order includes a ten day waiting period. That means county workers could be on-site as early as February 27.
John Cole, Land Management Division manager for the county, said even without those potential cleanup costs financial liabilities related to the fire have been mounting. Daily fines of $1,000 have been levied since Metoxen was notified of his failure to comply back in January. The total for those fines now exceeds $20,000.
If that wasn’t bad enough, Metoxen has been billed $900 a day for problems on another property he owns, the Rock-A-Bye cabins on the McKenzie Highway west of Elk Creek. Cole said the civil penalties associated with the placement of a mobile home on that property were up to $11,700 as of Friday. “What will happen with this is if the fine is not paid after 60 days, the county will file a lien against the property,” Cole said. That opens the possibility of county legal action similar to a foreclosure in that the county counsel could either force the sale of the property or take over ownership by the county.
It’s also possible the Rock-A-Bye fine could be assessed daily during the 60 day waiting period, adding another $54,000 in penalties.
Cole said this sort of situation is not following the usual course of events. Overall, he noted, the threat of fines often is the nudge that forces action. Every year only about three or four properties reach the point of county foreclosure. “To be honest, we don’t get to this stage often,” Cole said. “The abatement component is relatively new in our ordinance. This is the first time we’re exercising it. I hope it works.”

Image above: Without fencing, county officials fear debris left from a December fire at the Blue River Tavern poses a public safety hazard.

This article is part of a series from the NewsArk, a project to preserve the history of the McKenzie River area. It involves the creation of a digitized collection of back issues of McKenzie River Reflections as well as the preservation of historical documents, photos and diaries. Contributions to help support the NewsArk can be sent to: McKenzie River Publishing, POB 172, Blue River, OR 97413.

Crews to Drain Cougar * Pair escapes injury when pickup speared

From the February 7, 2001 edition of McKenzie River Reflections

Crews ready to drain Cougar

Cougar cooling tower


BLUE RIVER: Divers using mixed-gas technology in their scuba tanks have been working at depths of up to 200 feet while preparing Cougar Dam for planned upgrades. Underwater work has centered on removing a bulkhead at the upper end of the dam’s diversion tunnel and installing a trash rack to keep debris out when the reservoir is drained. In December, crews will remove a concrete plug that has closed the tunnel for nearly forty years. In 2002, the lake will be drained to allow workers to begin installing temperature control outlets. The new structures will allow dam operators in the future to aid fish habitat by regulating how warm or cold water is when it is released from the reservoir.



Pair escape injury when log bunk spears their pickup

CEDAR FLAT: A Vida girl escaped injury last Monday when her pickup was speared by debris from a log truck. The impact drove a log bunk (the frame which positions logs on a trailer) through the engine compartment and dashboard of Rachel Wierichs’ 1968 Ford 250.
According to Oregon State Police reports the wreck occurred at approximately 11 am on January 29. A ’92 Kenworth semi-truck was eastbound when one of the log bunks broke free and fell into the westbound lane. The log bunk collided with Wierichs’ truck and caused the hood to fly up, blocking her view. The pickup crashed into a drainage ditch on the eastbound side of the road.
A witness who was following behind told police he saw the log bunk fall off the back of the truck, bounce on the ground and then impale the pickup, which careened across the eastbound lane and crashed. The semi driver, Danny Freeman, 35, of Elmira, told police he stopped on the side of the road as soon as possible. Wierichs and her passenger, Jenna Harbick, were able to climb out of the truck on their own.
Wierichs, 17, said there was no time to react. When the hood of her vehicle flew up she was unable to see, steer, or brake effectively and crashed. Wierichs sustained some scrapes and bruises as well as a bump on her head.
Harbick also indicated that it happened very quickly and there was little time to react as the object crossed over into their lane. She also sustained minor scrapes and bruises.
Freeman said the log bunk was secured with two large pins at its base and a black cable. Police found the cable on the side of the road near a mailbox in the 8900 block of the McKenzie Highway.
Approximately 20 gallons of gasoline spilled into the drainage ditch and on the roadway. The Oregon Dept. of Transportation was notified and responded to assist with the cleanup.

This article is part of a series from the NewsArk, a project to preserve the history of the McKenzie River area. It involves the creation of a digitized collection of back issues of McKenzie River Reflections as well as the preservation of historical documents, photos and diaries. Contributions to help support the NewsArk can be sent to: McKenzie River Publishing, POB 172, Blue River, OR 97413.

Dead cows dot the highway

From the March 14, 2001 edition of McKenzie River Reflections

As a state highway crew worker, Brad Bigelow has cleaned up his share of road kill. Over the years there’s been quite a smorgasbord - from elk to deer, raccoons to dogs, cats to squirrels and even opossums. Last Saturday morning he got his first call to pick up a dead cow. Shortly after, he was notified to pick up another, then another.
According to the Oregon State Police, in all, four cows fell out the back of a westbound semi along a 30 mile stretch of Hwy. 126. Only one survived. When the truck was stopped the cows still inside must have been pretty panicked because liquid manure poured out across both lanes of the roadway.
Officials first heard something was amiss when a motorist called in at 9:43 a.m. to report a dead cow was in the middle of the roadway near the junction with Hwy. 242. “I didn’t think anybody had any cows up there,” recalled maintenance supervisor Tom Boylan. “Maybe it was a cow elk,” he thought.
It wasn’t. Within a half hour another 500 to 600 pound brown beef cow had fallen out and died in the construction zone near milepost 34. Soon another had bounced out and landed near the eastbound guardrail at the Goodpasture covered bridge in Vida. The vehicle was finally stopped in front of the Old McKenzie Fish Hatchery when a fourth cow tumbled out.
State Trooper Chris Ashenfelter said the problem was traced to a design malfunction. When a weld broke it allowed a back door on one of the semi’s double trailers to swing open. The animals that were killed died on impact, Ashenfelter said. The injured cow had only minor abrasions and scrapes. The driver of the Morton Farms truck, en route from eastern Oregon to the coast, did not break any laws and no citations were issued, he added.
After the blue semi stopped by Leaburg Lake another motorist called in to report what he thought was a hazardous material spill draining into the waterway. Police described the leakage as an “animal by-product.”
The complaint that it was running into the lake wasn’t true Boylan said. Anything that drains toward the water is captured by a catch basin and re-routed through a culvert under the roadway to a capture pond on the north side. “If we had a major spill with a gas or fuel truck we’ll be able to handle it and get it cleaned up before it ever enters the water,” Boylan said. “It would take a tremendous volume to overload it. Whatever came out the back of that cattle truck was not sufficient.”
Since the incident, Bigelow said several people have asked him if he’d ever dealt with a dead cow before. “No,” he’s answered. “That was the first, the second and the third.”

The NewsArk is a project to preserve McKenzie River history by digitizing back issues of this newspaper. You can help support it - by sending a contribution to NewsArk, c/o McKenzie River Publishing, POB 172, Blue River, OR 97413,

Fish trapping underway

From the May 15, 2002 edition of McKenzie River Reflections

Fish trapping underway

Fish craneWALTERVILLE: Fish herders expect to finish up their work next week, allowing other workers to start in on some costly improvements to the Walterville power canal. The Eugene Water & Electric Board’s fish recovery program began on May 1st.
Utility public relations manager Marty Douglas said as many as 1,000 fish have been netted in a day. Captured species have included Chinook salmon, skulpin, cutthroat trout, white fish, summer steelhead and bull trout. Most have been trucked back to the river for release. The cutthroat, thought to be native to the canal system, are being held in  a storage tank at the Leaburg Trout Hatchery through the summer. They’ll later be brought back to the manmade channel.
Upgrades to the aging hydroelectric project will include the installation of a fish screen at the canal’s inlet. Plans for the powerhouse include replacement of both turbines and one generator as well as rewinding the other generator. The Walterville salmon rack (which blocks upstream travel toward the turbines) is slated for replacement with a new “velocity barrier” design.
The new fish screen will require raising the incoming flow from one and a half to three feet. In order to accomplish that three small dam-like structures, called “chevrons,” will be built in the mainstream channel of the McKenzie River just downstream from the canal inlet. The chevrons would taper down in a “V” shape with their high sides on each bank. Each chevron would be “notched” in the middle to create a 35 foot wide passage for boaters to use.
Fish blocked by the screen will have to be returned to the river. EWEB plans to route them back through a 54 inch diameter tube, which will be buried down the middle of Partridge Lane. The pipe would be about a quarter mile long.
Other changes at the Walterville inlet would affect boaters as well. The existing landing sometimes traps boaters inside the canal. A new ramp is planned out on the main river, just upstream. It will include parking spots for four to five vehicles.

Image above: Workers used a boom truck to hoist fish netted out of the Walterville power canal last Thursday.

Utility drills for clean water

EUGENE: Drilling began last week on the first well that will be part of the Eugene Water & Electric Board’s effort to develop a backup supply of water.
The McKenzie River is the only source of water for more than 160,000 Eugene-area residents and businesses. A 1998 Water Supply Plan recognized that the McKenzie supply was at risk in the event of chemical spill or other emergency upriver from EWEB’s intake plant, according to utility spokesman Lance Robertson. “Unusually high summertime demand also could strain the McKenzie River treatment plant’s ability to provide enough water to serve customers. EWEB’s Board of Commissioners approved moving forward with wellfield development in December 2000.”
Two production wells and four monitoring wells will be drilled this year near the confluence of the Willamette and McKenzie rivers. The wells, in the Coburg Road and Crescent Drive area, are among seven production well sites EWEB eventually may develop in the area between now and 2005, when the wellfield’s first phase will be completed.
Robertson said EWEB anticipates the groundwater under the wellfield initially will provide about 15 million gallons of water during an emergency or other situations when the utility’s McKenzie River source is limited. The cost of the project is estimated at between $8 million and $11 million, and will be financed by bonds.

The NewsArk is a project to preserve McKenzie River history by digitizing back issues of this newspaper. Help support it - send your contribution to McKenzie River Publishing, POB 172, Blue River, OR 97413.


Inside the Lucky Boy powerhouse










Photo Courtesy Curtis Irish


McKenzie River Reflections



Remembering Seymour’s Chateau

From the May 5, 2000 edition of McKenzie River Reflections

Seymour's ChateauBy Margaret Estenson

While building our home in Vida in the spring and summer of 1944, we lived next door to Seymour’s Chateau on Leaburg Lake. There were three houses just west of the Chateau. Martha Goodrich had the house next door. The Goodrichs had some connection with running the First National Bank on the corner of Broadway and Willamette Streets in Eugene. She had a caretaker’s house that sat back in the trees and brush. We lived here. There was a third house right along the highway on the curve. These two houses were destroyed long ago, but the Goodrich house was burned as a fire department practice burn not too many years ago.
The Chateau was along the highway, and the driveway to the old fish hatchery. It was run by Mrs. Sherman, who was a Seymour, of Seymour’s Restaurant on the corner of 10th and Willamette. It is now the Cabaret.
Her husband was in a wheelchair and did what he could at the Chateau.
The Chateau’s specialty was fried chicken with biscuits and honey served in a basket. Yummy!
They had a boat dock on the lake in front of the Chateau and rented row boats to Eugeaneans out to enjoy a day on the Lake. EWEB Park was not there at this time.
There was a grocery store where Ike’s Pizza now stands. They had cabins to rent and a boat dock for renting row boats beside the store.
The summer I lived on the lake next to the Chateau I would occasionally use one of Sherman’s boats to row up to the store for bread and groceries. What fun! How great were those years when one had much energy and muscles!

Image above: Photo Courtesy Lane County Historical Society. Homemade food, family atmosphere and location, location, location, made Seymour’s Food and Fountain a must-stop spot for McKenzie Valley visitors in the 30s and 40s. It featured a center counter surrounded by steel stools in the soda fountain, with tables circling the room. Closed and boarded up in 1960, it burned to the ground on Christmas Day, 1961.

This article is part of a series from the NewsArk, a project to preserve the history of the McKenzie River area. It involves the creation of a digitized collection of back issues of McKenzie River Reflections as well as the preservation of historical documents, photos and diaries. Contributions to help support the NewsArk can be sent to: McKenzie River Publishing, POB 172, Blue River, OR 97413.

State to decide fate of Horse Creek bridge

From the June 5, 2002 edition of McKenzie River Reflections

Horse Creek BridgeRAINBOW: A multi-agency effort to provide a safe crossing for 45 families is expected to get under way next Spring. The work is focused on the “bridge that nobody wanted,” which spans Horse Creek along Delta Road.
Who actually owned the structure has been debated for decades. The bridge is not currently maintained or owned by Lane County. Requests from residents in the area spurred the Board of Commissioners to pass an order agreeing to take it into the county’s road system once the bridge is brought to current standards. The cost will be nearly a half million dollars.
Under the federal Highway Bridge Replacement and Rehabilitation Program, grant funds will provide 80 percent of the $435,000 estimated project cost. In order to show local commitment, area residents who use the bridge had to agree to come up with ten percent of the costs in cash. The other ten percent is being provided by the Oregon Dept. of Transportation.
Putting together a management plan involving a number of agencies “was a little complicated,” admits Mike Russell, the county’s capital improvement coordinator. “Since federal money is being used for the project, ODOT will be the contracting agency. This means that the bridge will be brought up to standards under a state contract.”
ODOT is using OBEC Consulting Engineers to design and manage the project with Lane County acting as the “lead agency,” with design review and engineering decision authority. The US Forest Service is also involved because the land that surrounds the bridge is National Forest land. The Forest Service is contributing some of the local match, along with environmental consulting services and developing the Environmental Assessment document.
Still to be determined is whether the bridge will be rebuilt or replaced. Supporters of rebuilding the span note the structure’s “bow truss” design is historically significant. “It’s the only one in Lane County and one of only three in the state,” Russell said. “We feel the existing bridge is the best fit for the environment and the setting that it’s in.”
Regardless of the type of construction, a temporary detour bridge will be constructed while work is being done. Located adjacent to the existing bridge on the south side, the 20 foot wide detour will accommodate two way traffic.
A review of the design and impact statement is expected to be completed by July. Russell said construction could begin in March or April, with completion slated for October of 2003.

Image above: Traffic will be re-routed over a temporary span while upgrades to the Horse Creek Bridge are underway next summer.


McKenzie River Reflections

Vandals smash in church doors

From the May 16, 2001 edition of McKenzie River Reflections

Vandalism in churchBLUE RIVER: Destruction, not theft, was on the mind of whoever broke into the Assembly of God Church last Thursday night. Rocks were used to smash two windows. A vehicle was driven up the front ramp, rammed through both front doors and run along an interior hallway.
Once inside the building more damage was done. Office machines, including a computer, telephone and calculator were cut away from their cords and dumped in the trash. The altar was destroyed, a cross torn down and furniture thrown about inside.
The only things missing were an American flag and a small microphone used by the organist.
Pastor O.V. Kennedy and a neighbor both heard some noises around 10:30 pm. When lights went on a vehicle sped away. About four hours later another vehicle was heard racing around in the area.
The following day a team of investigators from the Oregon State Police Crime Lab in Springfield spent close to six hours combing through the building searching for evidence that could identify a suspect. Senior Trooper Tom Hulett asked that anyone who might have observed a vehicle or any other activity in the area that night contact him at 726-2536.
Also Thursday night, both the Finn Rock Store and Mom’s Pie’s restaurant were broken into, possibly around 9:30 pm. Anyone with information on those break-ins should call the Lane County Sheriff’s Office at 682-3980.

Image above: The altar was ripped apart, the cross torn from the wall and furniture thrown about inside the church.

The NewsArk is a project to preserve McKenzie River history by digitizing back issues of this newspaper. Help support it - send your contribution to McKenzie River Publishing, POB 172, Blue River, OR 97413.