Oregon's Famed North Umpqua River

Posted by Nick Amato on

It was from this photograph (left) of former Governor Tom McCall, taken on the famed North Umpqua River, that the statue standing in Salem's Riverfront City Park (right) was modeled. Does the fish in the statue look bigger or is it just me.


Although the The Creel: North Umpqua River Edition is dedicated to the late Dan Callaghan and features many of his revealing black/white film portraits and stunning color "riverscapes"—even a few telling words of a remarkable man/element relationship—the story is incomplete. It becomes more so, however, when repeating here some of his comments to McKenzie Fly Fisher members during his April
16, 1984, slide presentation in Eugene.

Dan then was a healthy and frequent visitor to what he called his home river. And though he had only been " ... seriously involved in photography for the last five years ... ", his image interpretations were regularly appearing in numerous national publications and books by established outdoor authors. It was just a beginning, really, and it all stemmed from feelings expressed thusly those many decades ago:

"I have fished a lot of rivers, but the one I love the most is the North Umpqua and the way its gated green waters come down hard and full out of the Cascades. I like to see the way the water curls around the ledge rock. I love to see the fires of autumn in the leaves that fall upon them."

Callaghan made special effort to see the North Umpqua in not just the changing seasons. He made sure he caught the river and its moods in the margins of day and night.

"One October morning, having fished since before real daylight, I turned to look back on a long walk out of the river. The streaks of sunlight able to get through morning mists took my breath away. Another early morning, my camera on tripod, at the ready, the light came on the water in a purple sheen when there was still a small sliver of moon left in the sky."

Like all keen North Umpqua steelheaders, Dan liked to meet the dawn on favored water before others, yet he was quick to share the advantage of first come, first served.

"The last time I shared the Station Hole with Col. Jim Hayden, aging Steamboater patriarch, it was his heart rather than his legs that carried him out there. I always thought there'd be another time to get some pictures of Jim out there but the moment never came ... the fragile opportunity was gone."

The shutters of Dan's several cameras "winked" countless more times before all opportunities were gone, leaving yet other priceless impressions of Callaghan's North Umpqua.  

—Bob Wethern 



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