button_outdoor_finalWhat do 85,000 people in the world have in common every year? Apparently a love for the thrilling ride aboard one of the Hellgate Jetboat Excursions in Grants Pass. Running from May to September, these powerful boats ply the waters up and down the Rogue River.

I boarded one of these boats a few weeks ago… it’s one of my favorite Southern Oregon things to do, and every time I get to this area of Oregon, I always book a trip.

Starting in the heart of downtown Grants Pass, we wound our way down an easy ramp to the water’s edge, where we boarded for our exciting ride. The water was moving at a pretty good clip, so I knew that navigating this current would require a lot of power. No worries! With a low rumble, the boat started and the engines roared to life. Ooooh, the power! I smiled and clamping my hat on, we were off.

The sun shined down and the fresh cool air of the river swept over us as we swooped our way down the river. The guide/driver expertly navigated the river, pointing out historic and natural features of our ride with aplomb and an almost encyclopedic knowledge. He also playfully carved some arcs on the river, with a few resulting waves splashing down on the delighted kids who had plunked themselves up in the front of the boat to get in the middle of the action.

Residents living along the river closer to town waved to us as we passed, and still others gave us smiles as they were fishing along the banks or on drift boats along the way. Our guide respectfully slowed down to not ‘wake’ those boats or the swimmers near some of the parks scattered along the shoreline.

Rumbling on, we slowed down so the driver could point out wildlife including some osprey hovering overhead. The scenery continued to get even more spectacular, especially when we entered the narrow chasm known as Hellgate Canyon. Toothy rock walls surrounded us and I could feel the energy of the river rise as it was channeled through such a narrow space. As it was pointed out, this particular section of the river was featured in the movie “River Wild” was filmed with Kevin Bacon, as was parts of “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” The light filtering into the canyon never fails to take my breath away, and is iconic in my mind to the beauty of Southern Oregon.

The thrum of the engines, wind in our hair and the warm sunshine was exhilarating. But the best was yet to come. Dinnertime took place at the OK Corral, which is owned by the jetboat company. Passengers disembark onto a dock and can either walk up the short hill or take a ride on a tractor wagon that shuttles everyone up to the corral. I decided to stretch my legs and was up at the lodge within a couple of minutes. There, a delightful spread of home cooking tempted our palates. Surprisingly, despite the fact that we hadn’t exactly been exerting ourselves on this ride, I was ravenous and enjoyed the barbeque favorites on the menu.

But one of the special treats of this place was discovered when I got up and spied a group of deer fearlessly walking up to one side of the outdoor seating area. Apparently, they knew it was dinner time too, and weren’t disappointed when some of the kids started tossing crumbs out. It was great seeing these graceful creatures up close.

But dinner was over, and the sun was starting to get low, so it was time to go. We piled back onto the boat, and the pilot driver wended his way up the river back towards town. Even within the span of a few hours, the light had again changed and the river looked entirely different, and there were new animals and things to see on the way back. This just proves that the ever-changing landscape is something to experience and revere, and this jetboat ride was just the perfect way to get to experience a sliver of it for myself.

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