Rivers jammed with debris - and danger

Rivers jammed with debris - and danger »Play Video
A sunny day on the Willamette River

EUGENE, Ore. - Paul Vitus pilots the boat clear of the tangled mess of roots and branches in the Willamette River as John Miller spots an innertube trapped against the logjam.

"Which way to you go?" asks Miller, who coordinates search and rescue for the Lane County Sheriff's Office. "There's all kinds of debris right here in front of us. I see stuff in the debris."

Miller and Vitus, a marine deputy, advise boaters to get out and walk around dangerous stretches of river.

Many people don't: Last year, 40 percent of Lane County's search and rescue missions were water rescues.

Recent rain and wind sent more trees and roots into the McKenzie and Willamette rivers. Miller worries more people will get in trouble on the water as the weather warms up.

Conditions can change day to day on the river. Of known hazards, Lane County and the State Marine Board warn of river obstructions near the Clearwater Boat Launch on the Willamette and two places on the McKenzie, near Eagle Rock and Fish Ladder Rapids, near Paradise Campground.