River Watchers Description
Riverwatchers week started in 2015 with the purpose of fostering an appreciation and understanding of healthy rivers for our community by encouraging an ethic of stewardship that incorporates the conservation of fish and healthy rivers. Through hands on activities and science, including fly-fishing, art, fly-tying, exploring Backoven Creek, dissecting fish, and floating the Deschutes River. Students will increase their knowledge of river ecosystems and gain a deeper ownership for fish and wildlife, and the watershed in their area. In partnership with the Maupin Summer SLAM program, Mia Sheppard, a local fly-fishing guide and outfitter will lead the group through daily activities and coordinate community volunteers to give kids a quality learning environment and experience.
Why Summer SLAM and River Week
Maupin is part of the South Wasco School District and Maupin Grade School that overlooks the Deschutes River. The Deschutes River is a Mecca for recreation including, hunting, fishing and boating. In 2014, the median household income of Maupin residents was $37,917 and 13.2 percent of resident live in poverty. One significant issue Maupin school faces, is that they predominantly serve students from low-income families. Because many families do not reinforce educational learning in the summer months, the students lose reading and math skills over the long summer vacation and families don’t have the financial means to enjoy recreational activities close to home.
When Mia and Marty moved to Maupin in 2015, they enrolled their daughter Tegan in school. They immediately discover that a number of Tegan’s class mates had never played, swam, or floated the Deschutes River, in their backyard. They then started to discover locals have a tremendous fear of the river and the fear has been passed down from generation to generation. The perception is; the river is too dangerous and kids are told “they can’t play by the river.” This was heartbreaking to hear and discover that most Tegan’s class mates feared the Deschutes River and didn’t know about the fish, or the watershed that brings economic value to the community and makes Maupin, the gateway to the Deschutes River.
Highlights of 2016
2016 marks the second “River Week” at the Summer Slam Program. This year’s program was a huge success. With 27 eager students, this was more than double from 2015, for many of the kids; this was the only week of the 8 weeks of camp, they attended. On day one, we gathered at Maupin City Park on Bakeoven Creek, a spawning tributary for steelhead and identified Conservation Opportunity Area. Volunteers were; ODFW biologist and local parent, Jeremy Calvert, local resident Dale Madden, and fly shop owner, Joel Lafollette. Kids collected and identified macro invertebrates in Bakeoven Creek and talked about the importance and link to fish and water quality. They also dissected trout and learned about the life cycle and learned about the importance of clean water and how the earth naturally filters our water. At the end, we picked up trash along Bakeoven and talked about the principles of “Leave No Trace.” This day was packed with information and exploration, and the students gained a greater understanding of the watershed in their backyard.
The second day, students learned to tie flies with community volunteers, Marty Sheppard, Chase, and Joe Ringo. The students were extremely proud of their creative buggers, and each got to take home their fly. They also learned to cast a fly-rod and practiced accuracy and painted river art.
The third day we went to Sandy Beach, a local beach about 6 miles downriver from Maupin. For about 10 kids, it was their first visit to the Deschutes River and some kids didn’t know how to swim and still got in the water with their life jacket.
The kids enjoyed swimming and playing at the beach and took turns learning to fish at the boat ramp down river from the swimming hole. There were 5 volunteers – Joe Ringo, Marty Sheppard, Chase Jackson, Phil Black, and Nenette Cole helping kids fly fish, and appreciate the concept of “not catching fish.”
The fourth day we rafted from Maupin City Park to Blue Hole with local companies, All Star Rafting and Little Creek Outfitters. This day 18 kids joined us, the numbers were lower than the rest of the week because kids during the week expressed fear of rafting and water and didn’t know how to swim (this is the barrier that we are working to break through. ) One student, Justin, who attended the camp last year and was terrified and would not float last year, this time, joined us, and even jumped out of the boat and floated down the river. At the end he said, “I want to do this next year!” Before launching, Silas of All Star Rafting gave a safety talk and talked about boat safety. Some students took turns rowing. Many of the students had not been actually on the water, and were thrilled to have their first rafting experience. It was a wonderful conclusion, to an incredible week.