The River House celebrates 50 years of teaching outdoor skills

17 08 2016

July 24, 2016

Fifty years ago, the city of Eugene’s River House Outdoor Center was officially established — and now, the city is celebrating.

The two-story farmhouse, nicknamed the River House, originally served as a shelter to store outdoor equipment such as canoes, kayaks, mountain climbing gear and camping supplies. Eventually, the house was transformed into an operational office and space to organize and run mostly local outdoor programs.

But the expansive Outdoor Program associated with the historic house now provides the surrounding community with much more.

“The goal of the Outdoor Program has always been to teach people the skills they need so they can confidently go out and enjoy nature,” said Roger Bailey, the Outdoor Program coordinator at the River House. “But oftentimes it teaches people more than that, like tolerating adversity and putting your best foot forward even when it’s hard.”

On Saturday, hundreds of people gathered at Maurie Jacobs Park, near the River House on Adams Street at the edge of the Willamette River, to celebrate the 50-year milestone.

Like any true outdoor celebration, people could be seen bicycling up and down the river path, paddleboarding near the banks of the river and dancing to the bluesy tunes coming from a small stage.

Cedar Sparrow, 12, said he was most excited to eat some cake and play by the river.

“I’m just going to volunteer as much as I can and hopefully get some cake!” Sparrow said.

Sparrow, who was wearing a yellow River House volunteer shirt, said he likes to do a lot of outdoor activities, including tree climbing and rafting down the McKenzie River.


Stand up paddle boarders paddle the Willamette river near some geese at the River House Outdoor Program 50th anniversary celebration in Eugene on Saturday, July 23rd, 2016. (Adam Eberhardt/The Register-Guard)

Robert Brack was one of several River House employees helping put on Saturday’s event. He and other volunteers were making bracelets out of retired rock climbing ropes by cutting them into small pieces and cauterizing the edges together.

People of all ages picked out the color of rope they wanted to take home as outdoorsy bracelets.

Brack was joined by his wife, Kristen Brack, and their three children, who were helping man the bracelet booth.

“The inclusivity of the organization is one of the best parts about the River House,” Kristen Brack said. “They have something for kids and all the way up to seniors, and they have great adaptive programs as well. They make it so that everyone can have an outdoor experience in Eugene.”

The River House provides guided lessons in nearly every outdoor activity imaginable — including but not limited to tree climbing, bike riding, wilderness survival skills, whitewater rafting, sailing and skiing. The program also offers several free and low-cost instructional classes as well as day camps and drop-in sessions, with options for people of all ages.

Bailey, 56, has worked at the River House for the past 30 years. He says the reason the program has been successful is because of the passion of its staff.

“The people who work here, when they’re enjoying their free time, they’re doing what they do in their job,” he said. “They bring a rich experience to Eugene.”

The city-run program has five full-time employees and 84 part-time employees who specialize in different outdoor specialties.

“Not everyone who works here makes a living,” Bailey said. “They’re just doing it because they’re passionate about it and they love doing it.”

Mel Jackson, an advocate for wild spaces, established the River House in 1966. The program was then expanded, thanks to sponsorships from the city’s Parks and Recreation Department as well as The Register-Guard in the 1970s.

“He was of the belief that if people go out, they’re more likely to want to advocate for it and preserve it,” Bailey said.

The first outdoor classes included backpacking basics, wilderness survival skills, mountaineering and cooking in the outdoors.

“The most expensive workshop that year was camp cooking,” he said. “It was $2 per person.”

Follow Alisha on Twitter @alisharoemeling. Email .



What: The Outdoor Program at the River House offers a wide range of activities such as snowboarding, skiing, kayaking, rafting, sailing, hiking, rock climbing, tree climbing and more to help all Eugene and Springfield-are a residents take advantage of all outdoor experiences.

Where: 301 N. Adams St.

Hours: 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday

Contact: 541-682-5329

Full article can be found at:

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Dave Mirra and the effects of CTE

24 05 2016

If you were under 30 through the late 90’s and 2000’s; more than likely you’ve heard his name even if you never saw his amazing and fearless BMX moves.  Dave Mirra’s skills were unmatched and he seemed to be invisible on a bike.  I never rode BMX, but an athlete that can hone such a mastery of their craft always brings inspiration.


Sadly; Mirra committed suicide on February 4th leaving behind his wife and two kids.  Mirra’s condition has now been diagnosed as CTE, the diagnosis that is normally in the news about football players and the depression it can lead to.  Mirra is possibly the first outdoor/adventure/action athlete to be diagnosed with the condition that is caused by multiple head impacts.

The following is from ESPN the Magazine.  By: Alyssa Roenigk

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House on the River

23 05 2016

 Eugene’s River House celebrates 50 years

Eugene's River House

Eugene’s River House

Ah, Eugene, “a great city for the arts and outdoors,” especially if you have the right gear, training and financial means to actually get down and dirty in the area’s natural wonders.

One factor for enjoying the outdoors is having access in the first place. The Eugene Rec Outdoor Program provides just that for Eugeneans, and the organization’s 50th anniversary is right around the corner.

Originally established by clean-water advocate Mel Jackson and the city of Eugene in the late 1960s, the outdoor program later was expanded by the Eugene Parks and Rec department. The group eventually acquired the nickname River House, seeing as the building is smack dab on the river. Canoeing, rock-climbing, white-water rafting and other activities have been added to the program’s activity list over time, and accessibility for the courses is a consistent factor for the River House team.

“We have a goal of making our program inclusive and accessible to anyone wanting to participate,” says program supervisor Roger Bailey, who’s been with River House for nearly 30 years. Bailey says he’s seen the positive community influence that accessible outdoor programs offer. “That is our mission,” Bailey says, “to help people grow and to help make this community a better place to live.”

For Bailey, this means approaching courses with “cultural respect, accountability, honesty and integrity.” He says more energy is going towards focusing on financial accessibility, and a youth sailing course provided by the outdoor program was recently able to share scholarships for low-income children.

“Every walk of life comes here to take our programs,” Bailey explains. River House programs provide people with, as he puts it, skills that need to be learned outside of school or work. Whether you’re feeling like honing your outdoorsy side in town or want to put some spur-of-the-moment REI purchase to the test out in the forest, the program has activities for all levels, and few exceed a $40 price tag — not to mention the handful of courses that are free to the public.

The River House’s 50th-anniversary celebration will be 4 to 7 pm Saturday, July 23, at 301 N. Adams Street, with food, circus arts, cake, kayaks and paddle boards provided at the event; more info at

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Lovely Penny Arcade

11 04 2016

Just as it seemed music videos were dead, along comes OK Go and their brilliance in film making.  This new video from Jane Bordeaux for the song Ma’agalim is nothing like the OK Go films, but still has a certain Rube Goldberg quality to it.  It is beautifully created and matched well with the music.  I have no clue what this song is about but Trust it’s Lovely.

What does this have to do with an outdoor blog?  Nothing, and I hope it makes you smile.

Ma’agalim – Jane Bordeaux from Uri Lotan on Vimeo.

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Central Oregon Avalanches Happen

4 02 2016


From the Central Oregon Avalanche Association:

Avalanches DO happen in Central Oregon.  Skiers and snowboarders are at risk whenever they enter the backcountry, and with more and more people in the BC, the risks are not just limited to just you and your group.  We suppose it wasn’t long before something like the following incident would occur, and we are bringing it to our community’s attention because we believe that there are important lessons to be learned and talked about.
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Gear Love pt.1

2 02 2016


Throughout a life of outdoor jobs and personal play, we get the opportunity to truly test gear in the realm it is claimed to be designed for.  Sometimes it’s obvious the gear was created more for a profit rather than to increase an outdoor experience; we take note and continue the search for something better.  This can be a circle that brings us back to the original beginnings of a category before “advanced” technology, fads, profits, and marketing got involved with the pursuit.  When gear was designed for its sole purpose of doing a job.  Merely a tool for a problem.

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The Pale Blue Dot; you can’t get more outside than this!

22 01 2016

I have officially crossed over.  Astronomy is no longer an interest of mine, rather it has become a hobby.  (For me the line is drawn once I start spending money on something…)

Being outside under the starts has always fascinated me.  The beauty of the night sky draws you in and as you keep your eyes open and fixed, more is revealed.  In efforts to grow our understanding, physicists and astronomers have been researching and exploring our place in the universe for centuries. And most will tell you, astronomy is a humbling science.

One such exploration is the Voyager 1 Space probe launched in 1977.  Moving through the solar system at approx. 325 million miles per year, Voyager 1 has become the farthest probe ever sent into space.  (And it is still communicating data as it moves beyond our solar system!)

Before Voyager 1 inactivated its image capturing instruments, many astronomers (like Carl Sagan) persuaded NASA to reorient the probe so it looked back on the solar system as it continued its flight away from the sun.  This allowed the probe to capture and return a series of images of our solar system that became known as “The Family Portrait.”

In this maneuver Voyager 1 was able to take 3 pictures of the Earth over 3.7 Billion miles away.


This photograph became known as “The Pale Blue Dot.”  and shows the tiny, pixel-sized view of the Earth in a ray of sun reflected in the camera’s lens.

Carl Sagan wrote a popular reflection of what this image means to him, and what it may also be important to you.  I invite you to listen to Carl’s thoughts here.

You can also read the excerpt from his book The Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space below.

“From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of any particular interest. But for us, it’s different. Consider again that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and triumph they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner. How frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity – in all this vastness – there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known, so far, to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment, the Earth is where we make our stand. It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”  – Carl Sagan

written by: robert brack; challenge course manager



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