Okay, so you’ve heard of the Rogue River. You’ve seen the news footage of the recent dam removals, you’ve heard about the jet boats that zip up from Gold Beach, you’ve probably even eaten the cheese and drank the beer that are named for this famous Oregon icon. But have you actually BEEN there? If not, I suggest you open a new tab (go ahead, I can wait) and start planning your trip down to Southern Oregon.

Why such enthusiasm you wonder? Well, I grew up in Kansas where whitewater rivers and dense forests are only in faraway, distant lands; somewhere over the rainbow perhaps. So when I was a kid, we had to visit our local amusement park in order to experience any sort of thrill ride. When I was about 10, I can remember standing in a seemingly never-ending line for a ride called “Fury of the Nile”. It was a particularly hot day, and I couldn’t wait to get some splash-relief from the rapids. The line snaked around and you could see and hear the blue-tinted water raging below. When we finally boarded the large, circular “boat” and were lowered into the “river” my enthusiasm was palpable. However, as the raft bounced to-and-fro down a heavily-bumpered causeway that seemed designed to miss each “rapid”, my frustration mounted. I emerged barely damp, extremely dismayed and moved on to the roller coasters just for the breeze they could offer.

It would take 20 years for me to discover what rafting real whitewater was like, and despite realizing the inferiority of my simulated childhood experience, I was grinning ear to ear as I journeyed down the Rogue River. My trip took 4 days to travel through the Rogue’s wild and scenic section: no roads and only a few lodges meant that I may as well have been in the Land of Oz. The towering Douglas firs certainly rivaled the Emerald City, and there were even a couple of bears (no lions or tigers though). The osprey, bald eagles, egrets and herons soaring overhead seemed much less menacing than the wicked witches and flying monkeys.

I’m happy to report that I got wet, drenched really, multiple times each day. The Rogue’s water is surprisingly warm for what I had come to expect from the Northwest’s rivers. I even jumped overboard and swam along the rafts one afternoon through a long, deep section known as the Battle Bar flats. We camped riverside each evening with millions of stars sparkling overhead. The guides prepared delicious meals morning, noon and night. Drifting off to sleep and knowing that I got to do the whole thing over again the next day (free of long lines!) was one of the best parts of the trip.

I think the thing many people (myself included) get wrong about a rafting trip is that they are only for thrill-seekers looking for an adrenaline rush or hard-core outdoorsmen. For me, it is about the experience of immersing yourself in nature for a few days, and the perspective you gain when you’re transported out of your everyday life and into another world. The rapids can be as exciting as you want them to be, depending on which type of boat you choose to ride in (big oar boat, paddle boat or an inflatable kayak), and if your guide opts for the “wet-line” or “dry-line”. Paddling through the Rogue’s stunning corridor makes you feel like you’re on a true journey of discovery. Dorothy learned that there’s no place like home on her journey. I realized how lucky I am to call Oregon home now, and to remember that the Rogue River is just down the yellow-brick road, otherwise known as the I-5.

Janda Rhea moved to Portland in 2001 from Lawrence, Kansas. After a childhood spent sans rivers, oceans and mountains she was thrilled to find her new home, where nature abounds and conservation rules. She currently resides in Hood River and has worked for ECHO River Trips, a leading outfitter on the Rogue, since 2007.

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  1. Joy Henkle says…

    The Rogue River is really one of the best whitewater, family-friendly rivers in the Nation! Echo runs excellent camp trips on the river and we are known for our Rogue River lodge-to-lodge trips…

    Written on January 21st, 2011 / Flag this Comment
  2. Jason Love says…

    Another fantastic company to consider hiring to guide your family adventure down the Rogue is Turtle River Rafting. Family-owned and more than 20 years experience guiding absolutely top-notch, safe, fun, custom-tailored trips on the Rogue.

    Written on January 21st, 2011 / Flag this Comment
  3. Erik says…

    Great post! The Rogue River is a gem and one of only 2 “Wild and Scenic” wilderness rivers in the country where a person can run an entire trip floating lodge to lodge. It was also the first place in the world where guided white water inflatable kayaking trips were offered. Paddling yourself down this pristine river leaves you with a fantastic sense of accomplishment at the end which you just don’t get from riding on a raft.

    Written on January 21st, 2011 / Flag this Comment
  4. Yitka Winn says…

    From a fellow Kansan-turned-Northwesterner…great story! I, too, have fond memories of the good ol’ Fury of the Nile (and Viking Voyageur!) at Worlds of Fun, but am certainly enjoying now living near water of greater, and non-manufactured, magnitude :)
    Thanks for the read! Hope to make it to Oregon at some point to try out the waters of the Rogue River.

    Written on January 24th, 2011 / Flag this Comment
  5. Billie Wingfield says…

    I absolutely love the Rogue River. We make the trip once a year (even more when we can) and have an amazing time. My parents began taking me when I was about 8 years old! And this summer I will be able to take my 12 and 9 year old for their first time down the river. The feeling and culture around Galice and the Rogue river will forever be etched into my fondest memories. Thanks for your post!

    Written on April 2nd, 2011 / Flag this Comment
  6. Sharon Crawford says…

    As a lucky 3rd generation Oregonian and a native of Southern Oregon I am proud to say that my Grandfather was a miner at Galice and after the mines closed turned to river guiding out of Grants Pass. He built his own boats and gave some of the best trips around. He was an enviornmentalist before they were in. He truly loved the Rogue. Before his passing in 1973, he put together a manuscript about the mines and guiding on the Rogue. We have just recently found that manuscript and are in the process of trying to get it published. It gave me a whole new prespective of the “Galice country” and the people that lived there.

    Written on April 6th, 2011 / Flag this Comment
  7. Gill says…

    The Rogue is truly number one for all to enjoy.Remember Martha Stewart kayaking the Rogue.John Wayne filmed one of his better movies on the Rogue at Hell Gate and some other movies were filmed on the Rogue.Their is one more river in Southern Oregon people should visit as it flows into the Rogue River and thats the Illinois River wild and scenic it surely is.It is a must see and do river.I fish for steel head on it and just can,t see enough of Oregons best kept secret. The illinois River and the Illinois Valley.

    Written on September 7th, 2011 / Flag this Comment
  8. Monique says…

    I have been to Gold Beach, many times. I would love to retire in Oregon one day, I can’t think of anyplace lovelier to be! My Dad
    lives in Medford.

    Written on September 15th, 2011 / Flag this Comment
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