Chetco River -
The Chetco River (Tolowa: chit taa-ghii~-li~’) is a 56-mile-long (90 km) stream located in the southwestern portion of the U.S. state of Oregon. It drains approximately 352 square miles (912 km2) of Curry County. Flowing through a rugged and isolated coastal region, it descends rapidly from about 3,200 feet (980 m) to sea level at the Pacific Ocean. Except for the lowermost 5 miles (8 km), the river is located entirely within the Rogue River – Siskiyou National Forest. The river rises in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness, northwest of Chetco Peak at the junction of the Oregon Coast Range and the Klamath Mountains. It flows generally north, west, and then southwest, before emptying into the ocean between Brookings and Harbor, approximately 6 miles (10 km) north of the California state line.
Native Americans have lived in the Chetco River's watershed for the last one to three thousand years. Several explorers, including Sir Francis Drake, George Vancouver, and Jedediah Smith, visited the region between the 16th and 19th centuries, and found the Chetco people inhabiting the area. European American settlers arrived soon after gold and other precious metals were discovered in the 1840s and 1850s. The town of Brookings was founded in the early 20th century, and incorporated in 1951. The watershed remains largely undeveloped, protected by the Rogue River – Siskiyou National Forest and the Kalmiopsis Wilderness. The upper 45 miles (72 km) of the river have been designated Wild and Scenic since 1988.
Fourteen thousand residents of the cities of Brookings and Harbor rely on the Chetco for drinking water. In 2008, a proposal was made to dredge 24 miles (39 km) of the Wild and Scenic portion of the river for gold and minerals, permitted by the General Mining Act of 1872. Oregon's governor and several members of Congress have opposed the idea, asking the United States Department of Agriculture to withdraw the Chetco River from the 1872 act.
Supporting a large population of salmon and trout, the Chetco's water is of very high quality. The watershed is home to many other species, including several that are endemic to the Siskiyou Mountains area. The northernmost grove of Redwoods—the tallest trees on Earth—grow in the southern region of the Chetco's drainage basin. In total, the river is home to over 200 species of animals, and 97 percent of the watershed is forested.
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