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  • Ednold

I'm a Believer 8/1/23


Recently, I was driving around the countryside not too far from home. It was Memorial Day, and we’d picked up my dad to make the short trip to the church so we could place a few flowers on the graves of distant ancestors. I was guiding the car along one particularly unwavering stretch of road when dad, in the front passenger seat, says, apropos of nothing, “If you turn right there, you’ll come to an interesting spot. There’s no other place like it in the world, at least according to Mr. Ripley”.


Dad is no spring chicken, and he doesn’t hear well, but he’s still pretty sharp and is not known to just blabber incoherently, so I wasn’t sure at first what to make of his comment. I’d grown up just down the road and as far as I knew there was no place around there that didn’t look pretty much like every other place around there. There are hills, pastures, the occasional stream, and mountains in the distance. That could be said for everything for miles in every direction, so I wasn’t sure what, or who, he might be referring to. “Back in the day”, he went on, “Ripley’s Believe It or Not did a little blurb about a river back there. I don’t remember what river, but it’s the only place in the world where a river empties into a creek.”

I guess dad had been aging faster than we’d all thought, because this little story was obviously a product of his active imagination. I am still kind of a spring chicken, myself, at least in my own mind, but I’ve been around long enough that I certainly would have heard about this before now if there was any truth to it, and I think I’d have remembered if Ripley would have ever mentioned it. You see, I’m very familiar with Mr. Ripley’s work.

As a teenager, my grandmother received a copy of Ripley’s first book as a gift, and that book was always in my grandparents' house when I was a kid. Over several years I spent hours looking through it, fascinated by all the strange facts, especially the ones accompanied by Ripley’s hand-drawn illustrations. The book was from 1931, way before the internet, so even though it was called Believe It or Not, you couldn’t really not believe any of it: It was in a book. It must be true, and that made the freaky stuff even freakier.


That book was a favorite of everyone in the family, and when my grandmother got older she had it rebound and passed it on to my dad, so I can still pick it up once in a while, thumb through it, and see some of my personal favorites. There’s the Forked-Tongued Fraulein of Frankfurt, who had two tongues but couldn’t speak. Talk about perfect-wife material! She might also be in the Guiness book for having the most marriage proposals ever. Then there was the guy who was a gally slave for a hundred years and a day. Ripley never included many details, leaving you to wonder: Why did he stop? Did he finally die or did they let him retire? How old was he when he started? I don’t know, but he must have been seriously ripped by the time he was done.

There was the explanation of how fast a story travels, using a midnight murder to illustrate how fast numbers add up when you keep doubling them. The interesting thing is, it still holds true almost a hundred years later, when the world’s population is twice what it was back then; it just takes an extra 12 minutes, according to Ripley’s formula. But it’s true in any circumstance, so I’ve never understood why he chose a grisly murder to make his point. Maybe he just had an awesome sketch of a murdered man with a knife stuck in his heart, just laying around the studio waiting for the right story to use it with.


There was the Italian boy who could see at night, but not during the day. I always wondered if anyone had suggested he open his eyes. The famous Clement child, of Tourcoing, France, didn’t have that problem. She could see just fine – OUT OF THE SINGLE EYEBALL IN THE MIDDLE OF HER FACE!. Judging by her picture, she was actually kind of cute, and appeared to be quite a happy young girl. “She was perfectly normal in every other way, and lived to the age of fifteen”, Ripley tells us. Well, I guess; if you consider that haircut “normal”. I doubt the story of the river flowing into a creek will ever capture any child’s imagination the way these other things did mine, but it does have the advantages of still being in existence and being nearby, so you can actually see it for yourself which, of course, the Ednolds had to do.

We took advantage of the cloudless weather on a lazy midsummer morning to go investigate my dad’s claim. But before we left home I had to see if this, even if it was real, was worthy of Believe It or Not status, and I found that my dictionary defines a creek as “a stream, brook, or minor tributary of a river”. A river, on the other hand, is “a natural stream of water of usually considerable volume”. So, yes, it would seem that any river flowing into a creek would go against all known laws of nature, and of Merriam-Webster. Being able to see it with our own eyes would be well worth the effort, and as we loaded up The Bucket and hopped in, I was really hoping this thing would be real.


We made our way back to northern Linn County playing along with Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me, and were beginning to lose the signal just as we got on that road dad had pointed out to us several weeks earlier, then followed the signs to Larwood Bridge. Larwood, we found, is an intersection at the base of the Cascade foothills, due east of Crabtree, a few miles north of Lacomb and a few miles south of Jordan. You know you’re there when you see the Larwood Bridge, a covered bridge built in 1939 and named for William Larwood, who settled here in 1888 and built a store, a blacksmith shop, and a post office at the confluence of the Roaring River and Crabtree Creek.

Roaring River

We began our investigation by taking a jaunt a few hundred yards to the east, where Roaring River County Park occupies the space between the river and Fish Hatchery Drive. We left The Bucket in the parking lot and went to see what the Roaring River looked like. It wasn’t visible, but we could hear it as soon as we were out of the car. A short walk along the well-maintained path, following the sound of the water as it grew louder, and soon we were standing on the banks of the Roaring River.

The confluence

The water was as clear as can be, with the riverbed easily visible a foot or so below the surface. There are small rapids in that part of the river, at least at this time of year, and I guess I can see how someone listening nearby would have thought it was roaring, in a kind of laryngitic, quietly subdued sort of way. But Subduedly Roaring River would have sounded silly, so I think they got it right. Was it “a natural stream of water of usually considerable volume”? As river’s go, there’s no doubt it’s pretty puny, and in some spots I could have easily waded the 15 or 20 feet to the other side without getting my knees wet, but that “usually” in the definition left some wiggle room, so it would be hard to make a case that the Roaring River is not, in fact, a river.


Satisfied with that part of our task, we backtracked to the little park right next to the covered bridge: Larwood Park. It’s a tiny park with a tiny parking lot on the side of the road. We walked across the small footbridge, under which the Roaring River was still roaring in its quietly subdued way, and onto the little peninsula that separates the river from Crabtree Creek. It took some scrambling over large river rocks, exposed at this time of year but probably not a few months ago, and we came to what we’d been looking for. We saw it there, just as Robert Ripley had said we would: The Roaring River was emptying its contents into the creek!

Roaring River shortly before it enters the creek

To say I had never seen anything like it would be a lie. I’ve seen hundreds of things like it. And if the creek and the river traded names it would just be another place where another creek enters another river. But it’s not. I suspect the people who named both of them were more interested in the alliteration of the names than the dictionary definition and had no idea they were unwittingly creating a unique geographical anomaly. But who knows? Maybe they purposely did it to get a little publicity and draw people to their beautiful little park, and if that's the case, I'm glad they did.

Crabtree Creek >>>> <<<< Roaring River

Our trip to Larwood was a great way to spend a summer morning, and I can’t think of another place with two parks so nice so close to each other. And it was good to know that dad hadn’t just dreamed up the story of the odd confluence; the Crabtree really is a freak of a creek. I, for one, believe it.

Crabtree Creek just upstream from the confluence

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gilromastew
gilromastew
02 ago 2023

The lengths you will go to just to prove your old man isn't losing ALL his marbles. I'll bet he appreciates the confirmation. Goodjob.

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