My first experience on the Wild and Scenic section of the Rogue River was three years ago, for a birthday float with good friends Ty and Katie. The Rogue is generally known as one of the most dangerous rivers in Oregon and it seems that every year one or two boaters lose their boats and sometimes their lives in one of the river's tumultuous rapids. Ty guides on the Rogue with Rogue Canyon Outfitters, and while we made it through the float safely, I swore I'd never row my own boat through those treacherous waters.
Fast forward through three years of peer pressure, a bit more experience on the oars, and time for memories of how unnerving that initial experience was to fade, and my unwillingness to take my boat down the Rogue had nearly evaporated. So late last month, we launched at Grave's Creek for three days on one of Oregon's most iconic rivers.
There's something special about all rivers, but the Rogue has a certain edge to it that I haven't experienced many other places. Her waters are somehow both majestic and nefarious, sorta like Greek Sirens or Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct. Maybe it's the depth of the canyon, or the time of year post-permit season when we float it, but the water seems darker, blacker than most, like it might turn you into some villainous creature ala Spiderman and Venom if you were to dip a toe or a finger in. It's wise to remember how quickly her beauty can turn to violence if you're not careful.
Day two of the float brought us to Mule Creek Canyon, home to Coffee Pot (class III) and Blossom Bar (class IV) rapids , and three years worth of butt-puckering nightmares for yours truly. I'd dreaded this part of the float since we agreed to this whole idea, but like most things in life, reality wasn't nearly as bad as imagination. We made it through with little more than a fresh scratch or two in the aluminum and a few thoroughly soaked sleeping bags thanks to a good coastal rainstorm on night #2.
It's almost like the Rogue was created as a drift boat obstacle course, the way the canyon is just barely wide enough in most spots for a 16 footer to fit through. Much of that is due to the extensive dynamiting that occurred on the river in the 1940s and 50s by legends like Glen Wooldridge to make Blossom Bar and other spots passable without portage. A month removed from our float and I already can't wait to get back down there to test the sureness of my oar strokes (and my sphincter) on those ominous and intriguing waters.
While fishing was pretty low on our list of priorities, we managed a few half-pounders to hand before the weather turned to slop and we spent the remainder of the float in survival mode. All in all, a good time on an amazing river with great friends and an experience that I hope becomes a tradition in the years ahead.