Dave Shively: See and saw | SteamboatToday.com

Dave Shively: See and saw

Dave Shively

There’s just something cool about boating with a chainsaw.

Tim Allen tool grunts aside, the feeling of self-reliant control of your given waterway is surprisingly powerful.

And I don’t even own a chainsaw.

I’ve borrowed one though, wrapped the teeth in cardboard, double-bagged it with cinched Heftys and thrown it in a rigged dry-bag. This was years ago, for an early-season logging mission – a necessity for kayakers and rafters hoping to navigate constricted sections that Mother Nature reconfigures each year before a drainage’s runoff.

Jason Blevins brought light to this anonymous caste of “Paul Bunyan boaters” who clear creeks before runoff in a story teased on the front of the May 8 Denver Post.

An unseen log is a boaters’ worst nightmare, creating a sieve-like “strainer” that allows water – but not the squirming body – to pass.

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Two years ago, when the logging “operations” for the outfitter I was guiding for became more streamlined than the garbage bag era, tree removal became more visceral and real. I wasn’t allowed to touch the Husqvarna, which had its own molded dry-box that we rigged for the season’s first trip down the Upper Animas to find a giant column of ponderosa pine caught between the shore and the mid-current concrete bridge abutment at the entrance to the final Class V rapid of the 26-mile stretch.

“Shively, don’t let go,” was a simple enough instruction as I was lowered downstream on an anchored raft and told to hold Mr. Husqvarna by the life jacket as he leaned over the front of the raft to saw. “If this thing goes, we hit the deck.”

The concern wasn’t the creaking log clothes-lining us into the rapid as much as ducking in a front raft compartment with my chainsaw-wielding counterpart. The force of the river eventually won – seconds after cutting a notch, the log snapped and washed downstream onto shore.

This week, the Yampa was at that optimal level – where you tighten your life jacket and hope to not puke on your spray deck after being handled by Charlie’s Hole. You may have noticed all the wood on shore. Sure makes you wonder what’s still stuck upriver for the creek boaters.

Routt National Forest recreation manager Kent Foster said there’s “kind of a fine line” regulating such super-selective wood removal in national forest boundaries.

In the ’60s and ’70s, Foster said, the forest service’s thinking was that cleared-out creeks and free flows meant healthy waters. Now, the ecological understanding is wood in the water plays an important role in back stabilization and fish habitat.

But at the same time, Foster understands the safety concerns of a heavily-used stretch.

Like any land manager or property owner, the forest service wants the first right of refusal, but hopes to stay in the loop to provide the unseen minions of floating loggers removal approval – such as the way the two groups came together last year to get Fish Creek cleared for a safe first run of the Memorial Day Pro Invitational.

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