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Christmas Storm Stocks Umpqua River with Small-Mouth Bass


Small-mouth bass are not native to the Umpqua River that flows through Douglas County, Ore. The unusual story of how they were introduced begins with the Christmas flood of 1964.

After a freeze followed a heavy snow, temperatures suddenly increased by 30 to 40 degrees, melting the snow and leaving the soil frozen and impermeable. A storm moved in and dropped 38 inches of rain where the average rainfall in December is 12 inches. These weather extremes all happened around Christmas time.

Rivers and streams overflowed. The entire Umpqua watershed suffered: 19 people died, towns were devastated, highways and county bridges damaged or destroyed, millions of board feet of lumber were carried away from mills, and 4,000 head of livestock were killed, all at a huge monetary cost.

At Douglas County’s coastal town of Reedsport, fish troughs at the hatchery flooded, allowing hundreds of thousands of small-mouth bass to be introduced into the Umpqua River.

The offspring of the Christmas small-bass have become the most abundant and popular recreational game fish in the Umpqua River.

Sources:  Lucia, Ellis. 1965, Wild Water: The Story of the Far West’s Great Christmas Week Floods. Portland, Ore.: 1965. Print;  Dresbeck, Rachel. Oregon Disasters: True Stories of Tragedies and Survival. Guilford, Conn.: 2006. Print; 1964 Christmas Flood." Oregon.gov. Web. 24 Nov. 2014. http://www.oregon.gov/ODOT/CS/BSS/Pages/historycenter.aspx#1964_Christmas_Flood; Wikipedia.

Emily Blakely has published poetry and prose, and frequently displayed framed works at the Umpqua Valley Arts Center as well as restaurants and libraries in the area. Researching local history has become one of her favorite pastimes.