Rogue River Thoughts
The Wild and Scenic Rogue River
My first trip on the Wild and Scenic Rogue River was hiking the trail in May of 2006. I didn’t know what to expect. I had a few good guidebooks, some naturalist skills, a back pack, and off we went. Me as the naturalist, a crew of professional rafting guides, and 17 guests (we no longer take groups that big!).
Since then, I’ve hiked and/or rafted this section of the river at least a dozen times. This comes as a surprise to some – I’ve come across many Oregonians who say, “Oh. I’ve done the Rogue,” as if in one trip rafting down the river they sufficiently experienced all it has to offer.
This post is to share some of what I’ve learned and I why I keep coming back.
1. The river and the sights along the way are never the same way twice.
Little things: some trips I’ve seen a bear every day; other trips I’ve seen just one cub. I never know how many or even if we”ll see: osprey, eagles, river otters, herons, turtles, rattle snakes, and more. Fires have swept through parts of the canyon blackening some areas, which the following year are sprouting new growth.
Even the art moves around. The gentleman guarding the tack room of the Rogue River Ranch wasn’t there in 2014.
2. I’m never the same way either.
Every year I personally feel a bit wiser, a bit less frantic, a bit more calm about guiding the group. Every year, I take a photo of this manzanita, thinking it’s the same. But of course, it too has gotten older. I wonder how long it’d take for me to spot differences in its appearance between 2006 and 2014.
Against all of this change, the river itself, the canyon walls, the rocks from millions of years ago form a solid foundation upon which the fleeting visitors, living world always shifts.
3. If you go, some advice: Plan for all kinds of weather.
Some of the hottest, clearest skies have been in early may; the coldest and rainiest days have been in June.
I’ll never forget the year it rained. Every day. All Day. The sky was dark, the weather so damp, I took only a few photos.
I and the other guides now remember fondly the miserable hikers who had to leave the shelter of the ranch to walk nearly 10 miles in the driving rain. That day is typically the most spectacular of all of the days on the Rogue. Famous canyons, Blossom Bar, Paradise Ranch. Not that year. I think we nearly ran the trail. Plan for everything. As you go downstream, the likelihood of rain increases. If you’ve had clear skies all day since Grave Creek, maybe you’ll have some morning drizzles at Tyee. If it was raining at the put in, it may be really raining in 5 days.
4. Don’t rush it.
Too often, groups RUSH through the trip. The river – the trail – IS the trip. It’s not about the destination. Even though the camp sites, the lodges are lovely, pause. And enjoy the journey. You’ll have hours in the evening. Take the extra minutes during the day to enjoy the moment.
5. Listen to the river.
As much as I enjoy a roof over my head, the hot shower, and the comfort of the lodges, I think I may prefer tenting. The lodges are way up above the river and staying there, it’s hard to feel connected to the water. If you do stay in the lodges, be sure to schedule time early in the morning or during sunset to listen to the water, the rocks moving around below, the waves on the shore. I think each river may have its own unique sound.
6. Do your research.
The Rogue has so much to offer: geology, plants, native Americans, white settlement, animals, natural resources management. The more you know before you go, the more the trip will mean to you. Every time I’m on the river, I feel like I’ve learned more than the previous time.
I’ve found that the guests who enjoy the trip the most have done some research on one or more of the topics. They are actively looking for landmarks, animals, stories to bring to life what they’ve read about in books.