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Could Gold Hill Become A National Whitewater Destination?

OPB | Nov. 11, 2013 12:30 p.m. | Updated: Nov. 11, 2013 2:30 p.m.

One of the class IV rapids on the middle stretch of the Rogue River

One of the class IV rapids on the middle stretch of the Rogue River

Gold Hill Whitewater Center

Ten years ago, Steve Kiesling bought 17 acres on the Rogue River. The land itself was not much to look at: it had been torn up by mining and was covered in blackberry bushes. But Kiesling wasn’t really interested in the land. He had plans for the water running through it.

Kiesling is a lifelong kayaker and canoer. He was scheduled to go to the 1980 Olympics that the U.S. ended up boycotting — and he has hopes for his stretch of the Rogue River to become a state-of-the-art water park. An economic study by the Department of Agriculture seems to support his plan. It found that the area around his property on the Rogue could produce $6 million to $7 million annually if it was developed for kayaking and recreation.

With financial help from the city of Gold Hill, Kiesling was able to map the river with sonar, which will help him figure out where rocks could be taken out or added to create an ideal park. The project will still have to be approved by a number of federal and state agencies, including the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

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