The Rogue River

by Zachary Collier

The Rogue River is one of the great river trips of North America. The U.S. Congress included the Rogue as one of the original eight "charter" rivers to receive protection under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act in 1968. A trip down the Rogue River is memorable for its fun Class II and III rapids, lush green scenery, warm water, and abundant wildlife.

Camping across from Kelsey Creek on the Rogue River

Camping across from Kelsey Creek on the Rogue River

Rogue River Permits are required year-round to raft the Wild section below Grave Creek. You can also book a trip with a professional commercial outfitter.

Most groups meet at the Galice Resort, a general store, restaurant, and place to stay located on the banks of the Rogue River. You can get last minute items, arrange car shuttles, and have breakfast before shoving off. From Galice, it's about 5 miles West to the Smullin Visitor Center (commonly known as Rand) where your trip leader will pick up the river permit and associated paperwork.

From Rand you'll drive further West on Galice Road until you cross the Grave Creek bridge and the most popular put-in for the Wild section of the Rogue River. Remember to be respectful of the other boaters and don't crowd the ramp at Grave Creek. Just below the launch site are the first few rapids of the trip: Upper Grave Creek Falls and Lower Grave Creek Falls.

Kayaking Lower Grave Creek Falls

Kayaking Lower Grave Creek Falls

Next, you'll travel through a peaceful section of the river that leads up to the famous Rainey Falls, a great spot to watch for leaping salmon or steelhead.

Rainey Falls

Rainey Falls

At mile 1.8, you should pull over on river left to scout Rainey Falls.There are three very distinct routes at flows up to about 5,000 cfs. The main falls is an abrupt 8 foot drop into a nasty hole that is run by a select few daredevils. Most people run the "fish ladder" which is a channel on the far right bank just big enough for rafts. There is a more challenging, but cleaner "mid chute" that most experienced boaters choose. At flows above 5,000 cfs other options open up and you should scout to pick your line.

Rafting Through the Mid-Chute at Rainey Falls

Rafting Through the Mid-Chute at Rainey Falls

Soon after Rainey Falls there are many great camps and a few good rapids including Tyee and Wildcat. After Wildcat, the camps thin out, so if you pass it be prepared to cover more ground before nightfall. This section of the Rogue until Black Bar has wonderful Class II and III rapids including Slim Pickens. Big Windy Creek is a great place to stop to swim in a beautiful creek and take in the beauty of the Rogue River.

Lunch at Big Windy Creek

Lunch at Big Windy Creek

At mile 8.5, you'll reach the Class III Upper Black Bar Falls and Lower Black Bar Falls. Black Bar Lodge, the first wilderness lodge along the Rogue River, is located just below these rapids on river left. There are a few campgrounds just past the lodge including Horseshoe Bend, which is a popular spot for its size and panoramic views.

Horseshoe Bend on the Rogue River

Horseshoe Bend on the Rogue River

Soon after Horseshoe Bend, you'll reach the stunning Kelsey Canyon. This is a narrow, rocky canyon and you should keep your eyes open for Kelsey Creek which enters the river in a dramatic fashion on river right. Just past Kelsey Creek you'll find many small camps and some larger camps including Battle Bar and Missouri.

At mile 19.5, you'll reach the Rogue River Ranch and Mule Creek. This is a very popular lunch spot and campsite so please be ready to make friends and be respectful of other groups. There is a museum here (known as the Rogue River Ranch) that is worth visiting and it's always fun to go for a swim in Mule Creek.

Camping at the Mouth of Mule Creek

Camping at the Mouth of Mule Creek

Soon after Mule Creek the whitewater picks up as you enter Mule Creek Canyon, a mile long channel with narrow walls and swirling cauldrons of water. The entrance (known as Jaws) has a few big rocks on the right that you must go left of, and then maneuver back right to avoid the wall and a decent sized hole.

Kayaking Mule Creek Canyon on the Rogue River

Kayaking Mule Creek Canyon on the Rogue River

The canyon is nearly impossible to describe in words, so I won't even bother trying but you should have Class III skills to make it through and make sure your PFD is cinched tight. A swim here can be long and unpleasant, as there isn't much room to maneuver large rafts in order to pick up swimmers. The crux of Mule Creek Canyon is known as Coffee Pot, a narrow spot in the canyon with a powerful, boily rapid.

The Coffee Pot in Mule Creek Canyon

The Coffee Pot in Mule Creek Canyon

The rapids end soon after Coffee Pot when you reach Stair Creek Falls, which cascades into the river on the left. This is a great place to stop, celebrate life, and take a few photos. More excitement is not far away.

Stair Creek

Stair Creek

At mile 22.7 you'll reach Blossom Bar, a ferocious Class IV rapid. You should pull over on the right side and walk down to scout.

The Calm Water Before Blossom Bar

The Calm Water Before Blossom Bar

Most people run the left side by making a tricky ferry into a narrow chute. The consequences of a mistake are big here as you can end up in a jumble of rocks known as the Picket Fence where there are plenty of places to wrap. The rocks are dangerous and undercut, this is definitely not a place to take a swim. After the tricky move, there are more rocks to avoid including the famous Volkswagen Rock.

Making the Maneuver Through the Entrance of Blossom Bar Rapid

Making the Maneuver Through the Entrance of Blossom Bar Rapid

There is a nice big eddy on the left after Blossom Bar where you can recover and celebrate before running Devil's Stair, a challenging Class III rapid. Below here you'll start seeing jet boats that come from Gold Beach for tours of the Rogue River.

At mile 23.5 you'll pass the famous Paradise Lodge. This is probably the most popular lodge on the Rogue River and open to rafters for a comfortable night at a lodge instead of camping. Visit the Paradise Lodge website for more information about reservations. The recently closed Half Moon Bar Lodge is just past Paradise Lodge on river left. Below here is the beautiful and peaceful Huggins Canyon.

Enjoying the Serenity of Huggins Canyon on the Rogue River

Enjoying the Serenity of Huggins Canyon on the Rogue River

The next few miles have some fun rapids as well as many camps and small lodges typically used for the last night of river trips. Solitude and Tacoma Camps are among the most popular large sites, but there are many wonderful smaller campsites in this section of the Rogue.

Lower Solitude is a Popular Camp for the Last Night

Lower Solitude is a Popular Camp for the Last Night

At mile 30.5 you'll see Flora Dell Creek on river right, a popular stop for lunch on the last day because of a beautiful waterfall a quick hike from the river. This section of the river is also commonly known as the Flora Dell Flats because it's a long section of flat water through a beautiful canyon.

Flora Dell Creek

Flora Dell Creek

At mile 35 you'll reach the end of your Rogue River trip at Foster Bar. The ramp here can get quite crowded so please work quickly, take a small space, and work well with others. There are dumpsters you can use to throw your trash away and a Scat Machine for cleaning river toilets. Please be respectful of the Scat Machine by only putting human waste and toilet paper in your river toilet.

Logistics: From Foster Bar you'll head back to Galice via Bear Camp Road if it has been cleared of snow. If not, you'll need to drive to Gold Beach and then south along the Oregon Coast to Highway 199. Shuttle services can be arranged with Galice Resort or Affordable Shuttles.

Author

Zachary Collier

Zach is the owner of Northwest Rafting Company and has led groups throughout the U.S. as well as Siberia, Bhutan, Nepal, Honduras, and Chile. His passion for wilderness shines through how he runs both his trips and his company. He's as confident on the oars as he is on the chess board, while he delivers a truly memorable experience in the most amazing places on the planet.

Connect with Zach:  Google+  Facebook  Twitter  Instagram

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