First Timers Guide to the Wild Rogue River

by Michael Hughes

The Rogue River is a southern Oregon gem, and classic multi-day river trip. The Rogue attracts many new boaters each year because of its Class II-III rapids, great weather, camps, and side hikes. There is so much to do while floating the Wild and Scenic Rogue River. Hiking opportunities are endless. Here are a handful of hints, helpful land marks, and things not to miss to get ready for your first Rogue adventure.

Paddle Boat on the Rogue

Paddle Boat on the Rogue | Photo by Nate Wilson

Grave Creek Bridge

This is a popular put-in location for many boaters with a permit to float the Wild and Scenic Rogue River. The boat ramp gets really busy with not a lot of room for unloading gear. There are a handful of boat ramps upstream that see a little less traffic. If you float under the bridge don't forget to check out the nests the swallows have made. Grave Creek is also the start to the Rogue River Trail. The trail weaves along the river, giving great access to hiking while on a river trip.

Grave Creek Bridge

Grave Creek Bridge

Rainey Falls

Just over mile down stream from Grave Creek, you will hear the river roaring as it falls over Rainey Falls. Most groups pull over the river left, and walk down a bit to scout the rapid. There are three lines through this one, right over the main falls, down the "mid chute," and the fish ladder. Not many people choose the main falls, but some go for it.

Rainey Falls on the Rogue River

Rainey Falls on the Rogue River | Photo by Nate Wilson

The "mid chute" it a tight slop right in the middle of the rapid. It takes skill and precision to get your boat through the rocky entrance but it is the preferred line for big heavy gear boats once the water gets to 3,000 cos a nd below. It may seem too narrow but when the water is in the 1,400 range an 18 foot raft will still squeeze right through. The most popular line is the fish ladder along the right bank. Enter straight and do you best to keep things moving forward.

Mid Chute at Rainey Falls

Mid Chute at Rainey Falls | Photo by Nate Wilson

The fish ladder is the most popular option for getting boats through Rainey Falls. This tight little chute is made up of a couple small drops along river right. Come in straight with a little momentum. Your oars become a little useless and you bounce down each little drop. There is also good access to the shore if you are interested in lining your boat down.

Ducky Coming Down the Fish Ladder

Ducky Coming Down the Fish Ladder

Tyee Rapid

Tyee, the Chinook word for chief, Rapid is a great marker of the end of day 1 or beginning of day 2. There are great camps upstream and down stream of this fun rapid. Tyee Camp is huge and perfect for really big groups. It is also a great spot to star gaze as the sky is wide here. The Rogue is far enough away from light pollution and is a great place to try out astrophotography, check out Lonely Speck for tricks and tips on getting awesome night time shots. Tyee is a good marker for the beginning of a stretch of fun rapids that end at Lower Black Bar Falls.

Looking back up on Typee Rapid

Looking back up on Typee Rapid | Photo by Nate Wilson

Horseshoe Bend

A great camp 1, for a 3-day trip, also a great lunch stop on day 2 or a 4 day trip. This is a huge camp, so if you choose to stop here be ready to share with others. There is an adventurous hike up the ridge just across from the camp on river left.

Horseshoe Bend

Horseshoe Bend | Photo by Nate Wilson

"The most violet water on the river." Famed Rogue River boating pioneer Glen Wooldridge describing Horseshoe bend just after the peak of a 1955 flood.

Kelsey Canyon

Named after commander John Kelsey this beautiful canyon is a great place to camp. Kelsey Creek comes in on river right and is a excellent place to explore. If camped at Kelsey Left swim across the river, hike up to the creek on the trail, and follow the creek back to the river. You can than enjoy a relaxing float back to camp.

Duckies in Kelsey Canyon

Duckies in Kelsey Canyon | Photo by Nate Wilson

Rogue River Ranch

A classic stop for many boaters. The large grassy field is perfect for soccer, frisbee, or just laying in the sunshine. There is quite a bit of space available at the beach for the Ranch as well as down stream right next to Mule Creek. The old homestead has been turned into a museum, with photos and relics from early settlers. Now the ranch is a summer home for some lucky caretakers that give their time to The Bureau of Land Management to keep the grounds looking nice and greeting boaters and hikers as they pass. They also keep a marvelous veggie garden. I like to think of this as the gateway to the most difficult part of the Rogue, Mule Creek Canyon and Blossom Bar. Just downstream from the Rogue River Ranch lies the Wild Rogue Wilderness Boundary. Sharp ridges, steep terrain, cascading mountain creeks, and near vertical cliffs characterize this 35,620-acre wilderness.

Rogue River Ranch

Rogue River Ranch | Photo by Nate Wilson

Mule Creek Canyon

This narrow canyon is a favorite of many people. The swirling, fast moving water can be a bit hard to manage but gives you a great opportunity to work on oar management. Your goal should be to keep your boat straight, and moving forward. If you are with a group of other boaters it can be nice to spread out a little bit as I have seen big heavy boats come to a complete stop after hitting a weird swirly eddy line. There aren't many places to eddy out once you have entered the canyon, so a little extra space between boats can be nice. Also don't forget to look up and enjoy the great scenery as you float through this awesome canyon.

Mule Creek Canyon

Mule Creek Canyon | Photo by Matt Leidecker

Blossom Bar

A very well known rapid, that has been the bane of many boaters existence, is one of the longer rapids on the river and will put your rowing skills to the test. Pull over on river right to scout. A short walk will give you a view of the entire rapid and will let you know if anyone or anything is stuck in "the move." When the water starts to dip below 3,000 cfs boats can easily perch, wrap, and even flip on the dangerous rocks called the picket fence. At flows around 4,000 cfs there is a line down the right side of the rapid, be aware that the water moves pretty quick and there are still rocks to avoid. The Rogue River Trail is also close by and makes it easy for people to walk around this rapid.

Blossom Bar

Blossom Bar | Photo by Nate Wilson

Paradise Lodge

A short float down from Blossom Bar is the iconic Paradise Lodge. My favorite part is walking up to the deck and seeing the high-water markers along the way. Hard to believe that the 1964 flood reached the bottom of the deck. Paradise also has ice, cold beer, and ice cream, just incase you need to stock up for the remainder of your trip. This area of the river is also a common place to pull over for lunch after Blossom bar.

Paradise Lodge

Paradise Lodge

Tacoma Camps

The Tacoma area of the river is really popular in the summer for camps. There are a couple river camps, as well as some backpacking camps. These camps are highly desirable and often occupied during the busy summer months. From the camps you can hike along the trail, Tate Creek is a great place to explore, and keep you eyes open for wildlife on the other side of the river.

Upper Tacoma Camp

Upper Tacoma Camp | Photo by Nate Wilson

Flora Dell

This calm, flat stretch, is a perfect place to get out the stand-up paddle board, relax, maybe even start a water fight. There are two great water falls to check out, Falls Creek on river left, and Flora Dell Falls on river right.

Music Session through Flora Dell

Music Session through Flora Dell | Photo by Nate Wilson

Foster Bar Take-out

As you round the last corner you will see people fishing, swimming, and enjoying the river from the boat ramp. Foster Bar can be crowded, so do your best to keep all of you stuff in a neat and tidy pile. There is no shade to speak of so plan lunch before take-out so you don't have to bake in the sun while getting lunch ready.

After a handful of days rafting, hiking, star gazing, and enjoying the company of your new river family you should be ready for another trip. The Rogue offers so many side creeks to explore, hidden camps, and awesome jumping rocks there will be something new to explore each visit.

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Author

Michael Hughes

Michael grew up in a small Minnesota town. He spent his days outside in the woods and riding a bike. The only thing that has changed is his location. Oregon is now home and he is still outside, riding a bike, and paddling where ever the water is.

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