written by Megan Oliver | photos by Talia Galvin
I really wanted to plant a garden again. My husband, Tom, and I were living in Camp Sherman on the Metolius River in Central Oregon where we owned and ran the Kokanee Cafe for twelve years. The resort business thrived but, by 2002 we were pretty tired and decided to sell.
Twice we were evacuated from our Camp Sherman home during the monstrous B&B Complex Fire of 2003. It was time to move. As much as I love the Metolius Basin, I was ready to retire somewhere with a lush climate where I could grow tomatoes, vegetables, fruit and flowers.
As a sixth-generation Oregonian, I have strong ties to many parts of the state, but the Molalla River area is a special place for Tom and me. I was baptized in the river, we were married beside it and Tom’s family had, for many years, owned a cabin here. We came full circle when we bought a six-acre 1920s log home beside the Molalla River, between Molalla and Silverton.
We settled in quickly on our little farm, renovating our home and the cottage guesthouse that we use as a vacation rental. I soon began enjoying daily swims in the river on hot days. Tom is a lifelong fly-fisherman and is now director of wild steelhead funding for the Native Fish Society.
With headwaters in the Table Rock Wilderness of the Cascades, the Molalla tumbles down the mountains, providing superior wild fish habitat. It also plays host to myriad recreational opportunities, and is the drinking water for the cities of Molalla and Canby as it winds through fertile farmlands and joins the Willamette River.
When we heard of plans to start a gravel mine several miles downriver, this spurred us to action, and we rallied with other locals to fight the mine. Fortunately, the gravel mine never came to be. It did galvanize a group of people interested in implementing safeguards.
Soon after the gravel mine scare, the issue of the city of Molalla’s waste water not being treated to adequate standards before it is re-released again into the river came to our attention. A small group of concerned citizens got together and got the issue on the ballot. We lost the ballot measure, but again galvanized more local residents to protect the river and its ecosystem.
Molalla is a bedroom community of Portland, and at times it is challenging to get people involved. Even so, more than sixty individuals and organizations came together in 2008 to form the Molalla River Alliance. Fish biologist Steve Trask said he has never seen such an influx of community involvement as we have here.
The most exciting recent development is that the Molalla River is being considered as a federal Wild and Scenic River and as a State Scenic Waterway. Both designations would include natural resource protection. I sincerely hope that as people discover our river and namesake town they give it the respect and protection it so richly deserves.