Steamboat Creek is the ultimate refuge

Posted in Mail Tribune on Apr 3, 2017 at 12:01 AM

By Rusty Lininger

I’ve been a recent convert to fly fishing. I learned to tie and cast flies while stationed in Germany, after two tours as an infrantryman in Iraq. Out on the river, I could turn off the horrors of war for a while. Returning to my native Oregon last year, my wife and I started a nonprofit to take other veterans fishing on the North Umpqua River. Fishing is now very core to what we do. But it’s only part of a greater exercise in renewal.

Often heading up the North Umpqua on my own, I’ll drive past the “tourist” pull outs. Skipping the famous runs with well-worn paths leading down to them, I turn left up Steamboat Creek.

No fishing allowed up this way. But it isn’t always the fish I’m after anyways. When there’s still snow on the road, I’m glad. Less chance of meeting someone.

There are no words that can explain the understanding I have with this creek. It has no care who I am or how many patches my hat has. There is no judgement, nor does it even know the word. It has never taken anything, but always gives without asking for a return. Here, instead of being offered a cozy couch and asked, “How does that make you feel?” I’m allowed my choice of cold, hard (and often wet) rocks and silence. I accept.

There are times when I’ll sit there, aware of everything around me except the time. Time is unknown to the creek.

If there were a church of this beauty and magnitude, it would surely draw an annual pilgrimage. (Already, the river downstream brings anglers from around the world.) If Steamboat Creek were a religious relic, it would be protected at all costs for the enlightenment of mankind.

And, if we were to celebrate the living, patron saints of this place, we would surely canonize Steamboat’s greatest stewards — Frank and Jeanne Moore.

When I met Frank and Jeannie a few years ago, I knew then and there my purpose in life. Frank answered the call of duty and was decorated for his service in World War II. As guides and conservationists on the North Umpqua, they have both steadfastly looked after the health of this place. Together, they have lived a life of service to their country and this land. A land that I call home. A land that forged who I am today. The least I could do is join them in helping preserve what forms the fabric of our country.

In Germany, where I lived for almost 15 years, their once abundant and complex ecosystem is gone forever. When you see remnant patches of nature, they are often surrounded by fences keeping people out. If you press your ear against an ancient oak and listen, you may hear the mourning of the last wild bear killed almost 200 years ago.

We have a duty to enshrine the great places we have left here at home. We need to honor the Moores. And we need to protect an American legacy that many of us fought to protect. We need those places that provide refuge for all of us.

We have a chance to do that now by creating the Frank and Jeanne Moore Sanctuary on Steamboat Creek, the famous tributary of the North Umpqua. The legislation, recently introduced by Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, and Rep. Peter DeFazio, and now moving through Congress, protects nearly 100,000 acres around Steamboat Creek. It identifies the area as one of the most important places for salmon and steelhead in the Pacific Northwest, with over 50 river and stream miles of high-quality habitat for summer and winter steelhead, Chinook salmon, Coho salmon, rainbow trout and other native species.

This bill would also honor the Moores. And it would ensure that Steamboat Creek forever remains a place of refuge for all of us.

I hope you’ll join me in this ongoing effort to protect it.

To learn more about the Frank and Jeanne Moore sanctuary legislation, go to http://ow.ly/oKXf309zwsU

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