The Rogue River voyages are the oldest and most famous river trips in the Northwest. As early as the 1920’s, Hollywood stars and presidents paid local guides to journey with them through the canyon for fishing, sightseeing, and whitewater thrills. The Rogue quickly developed a legendary reputation as one of the West’s greatest adventures. In this era, Glen Woolridge became one of the original river guides. Much of the river’s illustrious boating history is recounted in his book, A River To Run.
Before the 1900’s, the Rogue was home to the Takelma and Tutuni tribes. These nomadic people moved from the coast to this mountain river to harvest the abundant population of salmon and steelhead. Early exploration by French trappers brought conflict, and the French began calling the tribes “coquins” or rogues. The river became known as “La Riviere aux Coquins” which was later shortened to the Rogue River.
White settlement in the Rogue valley boomed after the discovery of gold in the canyon. The Lower Rogue, where our trip takes place, remained wild and untamed. The lure of precious metal did bring newcomers. Most were hermit miners who worked along the many side creeks. Some were packers or pioneer families who made a living offering services for the miners. The gold rush put pressure on local resources and by the late 1800’s the Takelma and Tutuni were gone.
All along, the Rogue wilderness has been home to a variety of wildlife. Deer, black bear, river otters are often seen on the river banks or swimming in a rapid. The Rogue has been famous for its strong salmon runs and an observer can still spot salmon leaping the main drop at Rainie Falls or cooling off at the mouth of a side creek.
Osprey and bald eagles have firmly reestablished permanent homes in the canyon; each with different fishing techniques. The osprey dive head first into the river and submerge much of their body before flying away with a fish in their beaks or claws, while eagles fly inches above the water and use their talons as sharp hooks to scoop and snare the fish that swim just below the surface.
Much of the Rogue’s mysterious charm resides in its lush verdant surroundings. The dense forest is one of the oldest and most diverse in the country. The canyon is essentially blanketed in green. Huge pine and fir trees mix with dramatic madrones, maple, mock orange and myriad wildflowers. The lower canyon has dozens of side creeks with fern-lined grottos and some of the most spectacular swimming holes anywhere. Side canyon streams provide stellar hikes and habitats such as Tate Creek and Floral Dell featuring breathtaking waterfalls that cascade down verdant mini-canyons.
The narrow confines of the lower Rogue canyons create some of the best whitewater in the West! Fun friendly rapids are interspersed with large calm pools through a maze of river boulders. Some rapids are consecutive like Tyee, Wildcat, and Slim Pickins rapids that lead to Black Bar Falls. The adrenaline mile before Mule Creek Canyon leads to the infamous Blossom Bar. The river is a camp rafting paradise and a great introduction to the outdoors for all skills levels.