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Last week, I made a wonderful trip back to the Rogue River in Oregon, the place I learned to kayak and also former home to the Sundance River Center, where I taught kayaking for many years. The Rogue is one of America’s gems. If you have not been down through the wild and scenic section of the Rogue, it is something you must do!! The Rogue is truly amazing. A trip down the river provides lots of fun and playful rapids in a real wilderness setting. You are pretty much guaranteed to see black bear, osprey, bald eagles, salmon, otter, minks, turtles, newts, and a variety of snakes on every trip plus a lot of other critters. On this trip, I saw more black Bears than I have on any previous single trip. We had six separate bear sightings – luckily none of them were in our camp!

This was the first time I went down the river and was not guiding so I had a lot of time to soak up my favorite places and play spots. The weather was perfect, close to 90F and cloudless everyday, and nice and cool at night – good for sleeping. And you had the opportunity to sleep out under the stars every night. Margie and Hayden Glatte, who I used to teach with at Sundance, and two very good friends of mine who do not kayak but wanted to paddle came down on rafts with their families. All ages had the opportunity to try different things on the river, which made it fun for all.

Besides lots of good rapids and beautiful scenery, the river trip provides wonderful opportunities for little hikes and exploring some of the river’s rich history. Famous fly fisherman and writer Zane Grey had a cabin on the river’s edge that you can visit today. His tiny bed and writing desk give a whole new meaning to rustic. Interestingly, back in 1936 when the river got too crowded for Grey, he left the canyon and moved on to wilder places – hard to imagine, as there is little traffic even in a busy summer. It’s also possible to visit the Rogue River Ranch, which was owned and run by one family, the Billings’s, for many years until the forest service took it over. The original buildings are kept in tact including a barn, tabernacle, and house that is home to wonderful old photos and text from a huge cast of characters who lived there and past through.

Almost every rapid on the river has been dynamited. This happened during the gold mining days so that miners would have easier access to the inner canyons of the Rogue. There were also notorious clashes between settlers and Native Americans such as when General Tichenor was defeated by the Rogue Indians who rolled rocks down onto him and his men from a bluff high above the river. There is a hiking trail that accompanies the river the entire length of the wild and scenic section but no road.
Since this is a permitted river, you can only go through the wild and scenic section if you have a private permit or through a commercial outfitter much like the Grand Canyon. Although Sundance River Center does not exist anymore, companies such as Rogue Wilderness Adventurers will go out of their way to help you do whatever kind of trip you want. For a number of years, they helped us bring our inner city kid kayakers down the Rogue. They do a super job.
The Rogue is also well known for its fishing. There are runs of salmon and steelhead and talented oarsmen, such as Hayden, row drift boats down the canyon as well – this is a very impressive feat if you have never seen it done. This trip once again confirmed for me how much I love this river and I strongly encourage everyone to experience the magnificent Rogue River as soon as you can – it could be life changing for you. It was for me!