It’s the end of a chilly afternoon on a three-day trip down the Rogue River in southwest Oregon. We’ve just run Blossom Bar, the hardest drop on the river; our exhilaration is mixed with hunger and weariness. We trudge up the fern-draped riverbank and find deviled eggs and hot tea by a crackling fireplace. Paradox is part of the Rogue’s charm. Its coastal climate has endowed the river with lavish flora and fauna that seem to contrast with the rugged mountain terrain. The rapids are challenging and interesting, but largely “improved” by dynamite. To this eccentric blend add warm clearwater, world-class steelhead fishing, and idyllic camping.
Finally, as if this weren’t enough, the Rogue offers something else: lodge-to-lodge paddling. A handful of rustic lodges were grandfathered in when the 34-mile stretch from Grave Creek to Foster Bar was designated a Wild and Scenic River in 1968. We could forget the nightly hunt for the perfect campsite and just concentrate on a quiet run down a beautiful river.
The next day, we approached the mouth of the notorious Mule Creek Canyon, a stark cleft where the current slams back and forth between canyon walls. The crux is a constriction so narrow that dories can get stuck sideways and so boily that it’s called the Coffee Pot. As I strained to see ahead, something honey-colored caught my eye. For one brief, transcendent moment, I watched a mountain lion lapping from the river, a sighting that tops my long list of wildlife from the trip.
That night the rain poured down in aren’t-you-really-glad-not-to-be-camping torrents. Settled into our room at Paradise Lodge, I contemplated the mountain lion, the fine whitewater, the ragged cliffs, the deviled eggs, and our wet booties by the cozy stone fireplace and thought, no wonder the Rogue has captivated so many paddlers. Including me.
The Rogue requires Class III skills. Several outfitters offer guided hardshell kayak trips and instruction, including Adventure Kayaking-call (530) 295-0830 or visit www.adventurekayaking.com; and Sundance Kayak School-call (541) 479-8508