We ran a Middle Fork trip September 2, 2007 to September 6. This was two days after the river reopened from Indian Creek down to the confluence. For some time prior, the MF had been open from the Flying B to the confluence but entirely closed the week before our trip was to launch.
I had heard many rumors about what the fires had done to various camps throughout the river corridor so I was excited to take as many photos as possible. I think you will all be pleasantly surprised to hear that most of the fire activity that we could see from the river was mainly under brush, grass, low-intensity burn. There were some spots where trees had crowned but these spots were few and far between.
Immediately below Little Loon and Cameron Creek a low intensity burn follows the river right bank almost entirely down to Loon Creek. I believe that most of this burn was called the “Red Bluff Fire,” although I’m not positive. The cabin at Cougar Creek was fine. The fire was more intense at the actual “red bluff”, Culver Creek, and the section between White Creek and Shelf. Shelf itself did not appear burned and the large ponderosa on the upper end was unscathed (it was rumored to have come down). White Creek camp did see quite a bit of fire. The log pile that had previously existed 200 yards above the camp was pretty much “toast” and bushes at the downstream end were scorched. The trees in camp appeared fine but up the hill and upstream there were a lot of trees burned. Cow and Loon were fine. Whitey and Rock Island looked good but the emergency camp (sometimes referred to as “pebble beach”) on river left below Rock Island was absolutely toasted.
Below Hospital Bar on river left we saw quite a bit of fire activity. Lots of trees down, some in the river. At Cub Creek a low water run is typically on river left but won’t be possible until higher water flushes some trees out that fell into that channel. Lower Grouse is burned but it looks like just the bushes are toast and not any of the trees. At Tappan 2 there was a log stretching across the exit channel on river right below “fish and game” rock. We had to remove this log to get our sweep and other boats through. The log was moved from the channel and we tried to perch it on the left bank to keep it out of Tappan 3 but higher water will certainly push it downstream as well as a countless number of other trees. Camas was just barely burned and the large tree was fine. From Camas down we saw very little smoke (barring the very last mile on the MF and the MS corridor).
The fishing was spectacular, the fires did not seem as bad as initially reported, and we had the river all to ourselves. It was a spectacular trip and just a great experience to float through the new fire areas and see what has changed.