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As It Was: Son of Zane Grey Films Wild Boating on North Umpqua River

In the summer of 1932, America's already famous author and sportsman, Zane Grey, made his first camp along the North Umpqua River in Douglas County, Ore.  His guide on the river was Joe DeBernardi, a resident of the little community downstream known as Glide.  Among the party accompanying him were his son, Romer Grey, and Romer's motion picture cameramen.
While in camp, Romer and his crew built several wooden boats. Romer convinced DeBernardi to pilot them downstream from Steamboat to Rock Creek while his camera crew filmed the whitewater passage "to provide thrills for … motion picture audiences."

Surging water slammed the boats against rocks, tossing those aboard into the icy waters to fight for their lives.  DeBernardi narrowly escaped drowning and received a puncture to his side from an oarlock, but managed to hang on to the overturned craft until it reached calmer water.

Romer told reporters that the Umpqua provided him with “more thrills and exciting experiences than any other water … ever attempted."  The Grey party repeated the thrilling adventure only one more time.

Later, the boats only ferried fishermen and guests across the river.

Source: Hoy, Mark. "History of the North Umpqua River." Steamboaters: Protecting Oregon's North Umpqua River, Steamboaters, Inc., 28 Dec. 1921, www.steamboaters.org/about-mission.html. Accessed 26 Nov. 2017.

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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.