Rafting the Rogue River in Oregon
The Rogue River is one of the original eight rivers designated as "Wild and Scenic" by Congress in 1968 for its amazing beauty and wilderness. The Rogue below Grave Creek is described by many as "floating through a zoo" due to the plentiful bald eagles, osprey, deer, bear, chinook salmon, steelhead, and wildflowers. The river has many fun Class II and III rapids with long pools in between. This is the best river in the world for families to enjoy and is a delight in an inflatable kayak.
Trips that float the Rogue River below Grave Creek require a permit issued by the Bureau of Land Management. Permits are issued on a lottery system, but can also be issued on the spot if you're lucky and a cancellation occurs. Visit the Rogue River Permit web site for more details.
Many trips begin their Rogue River trip at the Grave Creek river access. Groups looking for a longer trip will put-in at Alameda Bar four miles upriver of Grave Creek. The Grave Creek put-in has an Oregon style concrete boat ramp and plush restroom.
Just below Grave Creek are the class III rapids Grave Creek Rapid and Grave Creek Falls which make a great warm-up. Past Grave Creek Falls is a mile and a half of slow moving water. The largest (and most dangerous) rapid of the trip, Rainie Falls, comes at the end of a long pool. A distinct horizon line warns rafters of this large Class V rapid.
Rainie Falls is an unforgettable rapid. The main drop on the left is a six foot falls into a frowning hole and long boil line. The main drop is rafted occasionally, but is well known for flipping boats and sending people for a long and scary swim. There are two alternate options to the main drop. Most seasoned river guides will take their boats down the "mid chute" just right of the main drop. This is a Class IV maneuver through a narrow chute and a large drop. Most boaters will bump their way down the class III "fish ladder" on the far right side.
Rafting groups will typically spend their first night on the river below Rainie Falls near Whiskey Creek and Rum Creek. There is also a good campsite on the right just below Tyee Rapid, but it is very popular among commercial outfitters and usually claimed early in the morning. There are few campsites in the six miles between Tyee Rapid and Horseshoe Bar.
Below the difficult Class III Tyee Rapid are the fun class III rapids Wildcat, Slim Pickens, Upper Black Bar, Lower Black Bar, and Horseshoe. There is a wonderful lodge at Black Bar that is the only lodge option in the upper half of the canyon. There is good at Battle Bar and Missouri Bar. A cabin that was previously occupied by the author Zane Grey is on the right just past Battle Bar.
The next place of note is Mule Creek and the Rogue River Ranch. This is a hard place to miss due to the well used sandy beaches and numerous people. There are several good campsites here that are typically occupied as many groups lay-over here. There is a wonderful museum and horseshoe pit that is maintained by the BLM at the ranch. An emergency four-wheel drive road leaves the canyon at Rogue River Ranch.
Soon after Mule Creek is the beautiful Mule Creek Canyon and its vertical rock walls on both sides. The canyon is about half a mile long and is quite intimidating due to the rock walls which create strange currents. There is not much room to maneuver in the canyon, so strong skills are necessary in order to avoid slamming into the walls.
At the entrance of the canyon is the Class III rapid Jaws which requires solid boat handling skills. A swim at Jaws would not be fun due to the rock walls, currents, and boils in the canyon below. The other rapid of note is Coffee Pot, a turbulent class III rapid in the heart of Mule Creek Canyon. Most trips pull over in an eddy on the right just past Coffee Pot to admire the cascading waterfalls of Stair Creek.
Soon after Mule Creek Canyon is Blossom Bar Rapid which is the biggest drop of the trip. This Class IV drop has several different lines at different water levels and is known for wrapping boats on the right side in the notorious "Picket Fence." Confident Class IV boaters will enjoy the challenge of this rapid. Most groups will choose to scout this rapid by walking down the right side and looking down on the rapid from the cliffs.
After passing Blossom Bar the river changes character. Immediately following Blossom Bar is the Class III rapid Devil's Staircase. There are manymore good Class III rapids ahead, along with several amazing lodges. You'll see the occasional jet boat during the summer months.
The Rogue River canyon opens up and you soon pass by Paradise Lodge on the right which is a great place to stop for some ice cream, beer, or toilet paper at a "Rogue River" price. Some rafting groups will stay at the lodge instead of camping to enjoy the wonderful ambiance of the lodge. Just down river of Paradise Lodge is Half Moon Bar Lodge which is more secluded and quite a bit nicer. There is a five hole golf course on the airstrip as well as many other amenities.
Past Half Moon Bar there are wonderful campsites at Solitude and Tacoma. Clay Hill Lodge, Peyton Place Lodge, and Illahe Lodge are scattered along the river and an option for boaters. One of the better side hikes of a Rogue River trip is up Tate Creek which you will pass during this last section of the trip. Take-out is at Foster Bar which has a scat machine, garbage dump, and concrete ramp.
Check out Whitewater Guidebook's Rogue Rive description for more information and phtoos.
Most groups will drive to Galice and hire a shuttle driver to drop them off at either Grave Creek or Alameda Bar. The shuttle driver will then drive their car to the take-out at Foster Bar. The shuttle can take anywhere between two and five hours depending on which road is open so this is a good option.
Historically, most rafters have used Galice Resort or Whitewater Cowboys to run their shuttles. You can call them at (541) 476-3818 to reserve a driver.
There are three ways to drive between put-in and take-out if you choose to drive your own shuttle. Once the snow melts, most groups will travel via Bear Camp Road which is the quickest route. When Bear Camp Road closes or before the snow melts there is an alternate route via Eden Valley. The longest option is to drive along the coast via Crescent City and Highway 199. The shuttle drivers are all very aware of the best route at a given time.
To reach Grave Creek (put-in): Get yourself on Interstate 5 and drive to Oregon. You'll drive through Ashland, Medford, and finally Grants Pass. Take Exit 61 and head west towards Merlin. You'll pass through Merlin and Galice and the road will change names from Merlin Galice Road to Merlin Road and you'll finally be on Galice Road. A few miles past Galice you'll drive by Rand which is where you can pick up your river permit. Just past Rand is Alameda Bar which is an excellent alternate option for put-in. Most groups will continue down Galice Road and put-in just below the bridge at Grave Creek.
To reach Foster Bar (take-out): Most groups will use a shuttle driver, but if you're strapped for cash and want to drive your own shuttle, ask the nice people at Rand for a shuttle map and current road advice when you pick up your permit.
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Disclaimer: River descriptions and classifications may change due to natural events that may create new hazards or flows. C-W-R advises that any paddler that uses this site be additionally informed by seeking out local news and updates for changes on this river.