By Mary Owen
Bob Brummer of Stayton loves to hike the Hole in the Wall and Goat Peak areas of the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness.
Bill Sanderson of Mill City loves to fish along the Santiam River, which, he said, has some of the best runs of steelhead in the Willamette Valley. Craig Wright of Beavercreek loves white water rafting down the North Santiam River, and has been running rivers for more than three decades.
What do these men have in common?
They all love the beauty and splendor of the Santiam Canyon, which they pass along to others via tours they offer.
Brummer, who grew up on the south side of Chicago, traveled widely as a teen in most of Western Europe, Cuba and Central America, but he dearly loves this area of Oregon, known for its magnificent greenery and wildlife.
“Some of my favorite hiking spots are Hart Cove Train on the coast and the Chambers Lakes area between South and Middle Sister in the Three Sisters Wilderness,” he said of places nearby Santiam where he has hiked.
From his early days in the U.S. Navy to his retirement after 30 years at Stayton High School, Brummer has always hiked. It’s a passion he continues to follow all year long when taking breaks from his many community activities, including serving local government, the YMCA, the Santiam Heritage Foundation and Friends of the Library.
“When not hiking or snowshoeing, I ‘scratch build’ period model ships and boats,” said Brummer, a member of the Oregon Nautical Society and Model Shipwrights and the Nautical Research Guild.
“Over the past few years, I have been a contributing writer for the Natural Research Journal, including one on Oregon drift boats,” he said.
Brummer said the best times to hike are in spring and early summer following the melting snow.
“Plenty of water and wildflowers in high and lonesome places with warm sun and cool air,” he said. “Some people like the low and green places of cool water, stone and moss.”
The pitfalls are “bugs, forgetting your lunch, getting run off a ridge by a thunderstorm.”
Just for fun, he takes people along and tells great tales about the history, wildlife and other details about the trails and area.
“People can meet me at the Garner House and buy me a cup of coffee,” he said. “I will bring maps and photographs, and together we can plan a hike that best fits their wants and abilities.”
Gardner House proprietor James Loftus is thrilled to have Brummer arrange hikes from his establishment.
“Dan really knows a lot about this area,” Loftus said.
Mayor Gerry Aboud agrees with Loftus, calling Brummer “a great tour guide.”
“He is knowledgeable about local history, knows the types of conditions to expect on various trails during various seasons, and weather conditions,” said Aboud, who has hiked with Brummer in the past. “I want to go with him again because it’s an opportunity to talk with someone that has long roots in Stayton and is concerned about the quality of life here.”
Fishing the Santiam
Bill Sanderson’s first river trips were on the Russian and McKenzie rivers. Then in 1964, right after college, he discovered the old whitewater run on the North Santiam.
“I read in the newspapers two years later that an old college friend was elected president of the North Santiam River Guides Association,” Sanderson said. “So I called him and went to a meeting to see what his group was all about.”
Sanderson quickly appreciated the desirability of boats that could keep occupants warm and dry and changed from the “rowdy old whitewater trips” to the quieter trips with guests and friends.
“In time, we learned how to have even more fun in the whitewater without all the splashing and giggling,” he said. “Now we have serious fun with photography, angling, camp cooking and precise maneuvering through the many rapids.”
Sanderson started writing a weekly article about current conditions and forecasts as well as points of interest along the 50 miles of river he navigates. And those who participate in a downriver trip are treated to a bit of history of the local settlers and river people, many of whom still live there.
“Wildlife is abundant along the shores of the North Santiam and perhaps one reason is the large food supply of wild mushrooms under the mixed deciduous trees,” Sanderson said. “Deer and elk love the morel and chanterelle mushrooms and also the other varieties here. Coyotes are not uncommon and there is a large number of waterfowl.”
When most of his trips were for fishing for steelhead, Sanderson took about 400 people each year down the Santiam in his driftboat. That number has declined along with the numbers of steelhead in the river, he said.
Four to six people can sit comfortably in the raft and Sanderson has access to additional rafts and boatmen. He can book trips for four to 24 guests, weather allowing, for about 200 days per year.
“The entire navigable 60-mile section may be divided into shorter drifts,” he said. “Local restaurants, box lunches or riverbank meals are possible.”
Day trips usually travel 5 to 15 miles, depending on conditions, and two- or three-day trips with campout or cabin lodging can be arranged. Snacks and soft beverages are provided on all trips. Safety equipment and fishing gear is always ready. Advance booking is advised, and for some trips, necessary.
For fees and other information, call Sanderson at 503-897-3301.
Craig Wright has been running river trips for 30 years, and operates through Oregon River Experiences out of Beavercreek.
“Over the course of a season, we typically take between 100 and 150 people down the North Santiam River,” Wright said. “The North Santiam is a bit of an undiscovered gem and so demand is light for these trips.”
Springtime is best for maximum excitement, Wright said. “But the weather can be cool,” he added.
“Summer is good for families and anyone looking for a relaxing float with just a few thrills.”
But if he could choose one time to raft the river, Wright said it would be early fall, after Labor Day.
“The river level is a bit higher at that time than it is in the summer and fall colors add to the beauty of the trip,” he said.
Flowing from its source high in the Cascades near Mt. Jefferson, the North Santiam runs swift and cool through the scenic forested canyon. During spring snowmelt, the North Santiam sports many class III and IV rapids, including Spencer’s Hole, Carnivore and Mill City Falls. Summer reduces to a class II run, which rises in September and October to class III.
“We see a number of houses on our float, but forests still dominate the landscape,” offers the company’s Web site description. “Animals species you may see on your trip include chipmunks and ground squirrels, deer, grouse and occasionally mink and otter.”
Much of the local geology is hidden beneath the deep soils, but in places along the way the bedrock is in view, revealing old volcanic rocks that predate the majestic volcanic peaks visible to the east.”
Oregon River Experiences runs half-day and full-day rafting trips for individuals, families and groups, with or without lunch.
“We also offer inflatable kayaking trips on this river by special request,” Wright said.
Half-day trips costs $55 for adults and $45 for children; full-day trips, including lunch, are $84 and
$74, respectively. Group discounts are available. Advance reservations are required.
Full-day and half-day morning trips start at 9:30 a.m. and half-day afternoon trips start at 1 p.m. All start from North Santiam State Park, off highway 22 near Mehama.
For more information on whitewater rafting trips, contact Oregon River Experiences at 1-800-827-1358 or 503-632-6836 or visit www.oregonriver.com.