All posts by Wild & Scenic Rogue

The Wild & Scenic section of the Rogue River is a 36 mile stretch of river that traverses through a wild, rugged, and remote area of southwestern Oregon. This special section of river is a major attraction that travelers from all over the world seek to experience. The Wild & Scenic stretch of river differentiates itself from the rest of the Rogue with a special congressional designation that protects the river and corridor from future development. The Rogue River has enjoyed this designation since being one of the original eight Wild & Scenic Rivers designated in 1968. About this website This website was built and is funded by Indigo Creek Outfitters of Ashland, Oregon.

Emily Berlant – Talent, Oregon

Emily Berlant is an Environmental Studies student at Southern Oregon University with a Sustainability & Policy concentration. She is on the board of Rogue Climate, a local climate & social justice organization. She was recently elected to the Talent City Council. She is an advocate for holistic waste management and waterway restoration. When she was was 19, she rowed a fully-loaded raft through the Grand Canyon. She grew up in Grants Pass, Oregon, and is frequently taking trips on the Wild and Scenic stretch of the Rogue River.

The Interview

What is your relation to the Rogue River?

I’m a recreational boater. I’ve been a river guide and a shuttle driver. I grew up with the Rogue in my backyard.

What is the best quality of the Rogue?

The welcoming nature of the water.

Favorite spot on the river?

Clay Hill Stillwater or my dad’s backyard in Grants Pass.

Is there a sense of community on the Rogue River?
There can be. The river brings people together for an opportunity to detach from modern, technologically driven society and have person-to-person interactions while surrounded by a beautiful, wild landscape.

What has the river taught you?

The river is life. I learned this on the Rogue. As with the river, life has periods of slow meanderings and periods of rapid turbulence. You can plan ahead but you never know what the river or life will throw at you. You may be doing everything right, but if you’re in the right place at the wrong time, the river (or life) can flip you and scatter all your belongings – fortunately, your friends are there to help you clean up.

What is the personality of the river?

Challenging and forgiving. Quiet and dynamic.

Have you had an experience that speaks to those characteristics?

​​It was Blossom day on the Rogue. My group floated through Mule Creek canyon and approached that beautiful boulder garden just as another group began to run the rapid. The water was flowing pretty high, I can’t recall the exact CFS. One from the other group ran far left and was precariously wrapped. Others of that group were climbing up the left bank with ropes, clearly unsure of how to release this (safely but strangely) wrapped raft.

A highly-skilled drift boater in my group ran the shoot, caught an eddy, tied up and offered assistance to the rescue group. Nothing seemed to be working; they couldn’t get ropes out to the raft and even if they had, they needed momentum moving right and back into the current, not towards the shore.

My dad and I were up on the big scout rock observing and discussing. “I have an idea,” he said, as he stood up and scurried back to our (very large and heavy) raft. He pushed off, leaving me up on the rock with my camera, and entered the rapid. He caught the safety eddy and proceeded to leap from his seat, with the bow line in hand, up onto a large, slippery rock. He landed, steadied the raft, and leaped onto the next slippery rock. Between the two rocks, he managed to wrap the bowline around some smaller rocks wedged between the boulders. He was Superman. He hopped back on the raft to grab a throw bag and carabiner which he got out to the wrapped raft after multiple tosses. The man on the wrapped raft connected the rope and the two coordinated their efforts to tug on the rope as the river pressure pulsed against the raft. Eventually, the river released the raft; ropes snapped, and cheers went up.

The two groups rendezvoused above Devil’s Staircase to exchange appreciative handshakes, high fives, and cold beers. (I have pictures. It was epic.)

Russell Heard – Morrison’s Rogue Wilderness Adventures

Russell Heard first kayaked the Rogue River in 2001. Five years later he started running rafts down the Wild & Scenic stretch and he’s never looked back. He lives in Grants Pass, Oregon, and works as a guide for Morrison’s Rogue Wilderness Adventures. Prior to moving to the Rogue Valley, Russell spent eight years in the US Coast Guard.

The Interview

Why do you love the Rogue?

It’s isolated, remote.

Favorite place on the river?

Where ever I happen to be with my wife. Isolated one boat camps, etc.

Tell us about the “river community…”

People always seem ready to pitch in and help when it’s needed most. And I’m always running into others I have become friends with from running the river over the years.

How has the Rogue River changed your life?

The river has taught me to relax and take things as they come. The Rogue has always been a place of healing and allowed me the focus on the things in life that matter (other than the river).

What’s the personality of the river?

I don’t think you can nail the Rogue down to a one word descriptor. The Rogue has many personalities and temperaments and I love them all.

Glen Finch – Indigo Creek Outfitters

Glen Finch has worked on the Rogue River for eight years. In 2009 he moved from Livermore, California to Ashland, Oregon to attend Southern Oregon University. While in school he was introduced to the Rogue River and began guiding during the summer months. He’s traveled and worked on rivers in Australia, New Zealand, and Nepal, but has always found himself returning to Southern Oregon. He now works as the Operations Manager for Indigo Creek Outfitters.

The Interview

How did you get started working on the Rogue River?

In 2010 I was introduced to the “Nugget” stretch of the Rogue River. I first started guiding on the Rogue with Indigo Creek Outfitters in the spring of 2011. I now spend over a hundred days a year on the Rogue; guiding, training new guides and for my own recreating.

Why are you drawn to the Rogue?

It’s the local river. You can choose what you want on any day. In the summer you might find yourself on a three day vacation float through the Wild and Scenic section. In the Fall it’s an afternoon surf session on Lyman’s surf wave, or perhaps a nail biting descent down Takelma Gorge. The choice is yours.

Favorite place on the river?

I think its Grave creek. Despite the chaos as a guide in the middle of summer, Grave Creek is the start of a new adventure, low or high water, old familiar faces and new wide eyed ones. It is the excitement and anticipation of the next adventure.

Is there a sense of community on the Rogue?

Yes. On the Rogue you help those in need and I have seen this happen more than I can recall. I was just told a story of how someone launching at Grave Creek lost their boat after sliding it off their trailer. As they stood there watching it slowly drift downstream, closer and closer to Grave Creek rapids, a local guide stopped what he was busy with, jumped in the cold morning water and brought the boat back to shore. A small act of kindness.

How has the Rogue River changed your life?

I am sure in more ways that I know. It is my livelihood. Many of my mentors work or previously worked on the Rogue. I have spent more time on this river than any other, gained more friends and memories here than any other. These memories, experiences and friendships will continue for a very long time and continue to shape my life.

What’s the personality of the river?

An old friend. Someone you are comfortable spending time with, but one that is not afraid to lash out at you if provoked.

What’s your favorite story about the Rogue?

I think this story is best told in person.

Anything else?

“I need this wild life, this freedom!” – Zane Grey

Bob Rafalovich – Merlin, Oregon

Bob Rafalovich has been a whitewater and fishing guide for 43 years on the Rogue River. He is the former outfitter and owner of Rogue Wilderness Adventures. After selling the business, he continued to work as a river, fishing, and trail guide. Bob lives in Merlin, Oregon and guides for Briggs Rogue River Trips and Morrison’s Rogue Wilderness Adventures.

The Interview

How long have you been running the Rogue River?

43 years.

What brought you to the river?

When I came to the Rogue River I started work with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. That’s were I learned to run the river and I began guiding while I was working for ODF&W. Back in those days you could work as a guide and also work for ODF&W. Now a days it’s considered a conflict of interest

What is unique about the Rogue River?

The Wild and Scenic Rogue River is one of the most beautiful rivers in the United States.

Favorite place on the river?

Foster Bar.

Is there a sense of community on the Rogue?

The guides and outfitters are all in competition on the Rogue River. Despite this fact these are some of the greatest folks I’ve ever know. If you have a problem they are always willing to pitch in and help out. Everyone is dedicated to the resource and conservation of river.

How has the Rogue River changed your life?

At this point in my life I’m guessing that this is a career choice. I came to the Rogue in 1974 before the river was regulated by the BLM/USFS. I’ve seen a lot of changes and been part of establishing the current operating regulations, which I feel is one of the best and fairest limited use plans in the United States

Why do you love the Rogue River?

The Wild and Scenic Rogue River is a national treasure and jewel.

What’s your favorite story about the Rogue?

I have too many stories. You’ll have to corner me, and buy me a beer and I’ll tell you some.

J.R. Weir – Sundance Kayak School

J.R. Weir lives in Merlin, Oregon and is an owner of Sundance Kayak School. He first discovered the Rogue River when he was eleven years old. Since then, he’s been a guide, kayak instructor, and is now an outfitter. When he’s not on the Rogue, J.R. is likely to be found paddling another Southern Oregon river or creek. 

The Interview

How long have you been running the Rogue River?

Recreating since 1994, Guiding since 1998, Outfitting since 2013

What are your favorite things about the Rogue?

The scenery and wildlife are some of the best in the world! I love that the Rogue is a great river for people of all ages and walks of life and has something for everyone. Amazing hikes and side creeks abound with scenic waterfalls visible from the river, fascinating cultural history, interesting geology, and classic whitewater.

Favorite place on the river?

Little Windy Creek.

Is there a sense of community on the Rogue?

Yes! One of the most rewarding aspects of being a “river person” is being a part of the greater river community. The Rogue holds a special place in the hearts of those who have floated and journeyed through it’s magical canyons. All who cross paths on the river share the experience and exchange knowing smiles, and friendly greetings. A general enthusiasm and helpful intention prevails.

What lessons has the river taught you?

When I was 11, my dad and I took a 9-day, full-immersion, wilderness kayak course with Sundance Kayak School, and that experience changed my life forever. We fell in love with the entire experience, the Rogue River, and with the guides who encouraged us to take our watches off and be on “river time.” I remember my dad surprising me when he took me aside and said, quite seriously, that if I ever had an opportunity to experience the lifestyle these glowing vibrant guides personified that I should seize the chance! Growing up, kayaking became a constant source of adventure and renewal in both of our lives as we explored our local rivers and shared quality time together. The lessons learned through kayaking and almost 20 years of guiding have helped me to appreciate and navigate life’s many bends, rapids and beautiful, fleeting moments, going with the flow, and connecting with the exquisite rhythm of the natural world.

What’s the personality of the Rogue?

The Rogue is wild yet forgiving, deep, warm, and playful. The pool-drop character lends itself to moments of excitement separated by periods of profound calm and beauty surrounded by breathtaking scenery and wildlife. It is manageable and fun for the first time river runner has classic whitewater which will challenge and excite even the most seasoned boater. The Rogue is the perfect place for family trips and personal growth, and experiencing a profound connection with nature in a wilderness environment.

Any final thoughts?

Life on a river trip is as pure as it gets. Good food, clean air, excitement, friendship and enchanting scenery. In the morning you wake up to a fresh day with purpose and serenity, watching osprey dive for fish and the mist dancing on the water. Your only job all day is to have fun, be spontaneous and mindful, and float through a spectacular wilderness canyon. In the evenings, making a comfortable home on a secluded beach, enjoying a hike, and watching otters play with cold beverage in hand. Dinner served at rivers edge, music by the fire, stories and camaraderie, a blanket of stars, the best sleep of your life. As the experience deepens, the crazed pace of the real world becomes distant and inconsequential. You notice that your life is more in tune with the nuances of the great outdoors. In addition to the song of the river, you hear the strum of a distant chord that now includes you in the workings of nature.

Covey Baack – Central Point, Oregon

Covey Baack grew up in the Rogue Valley and has been exploring rivers for over 21 years. He is a professional SUPer, rafter, and kayaker. When not on the river, his other job is a commercial flooring contractor. Covey, his wife Sabrina, and their two kids live in Central Point, Oregon.

The Interview

How long have you been running the Rogue River?

I have been a guide on the Rogue for 19 years. I did my first Wild and Scenic 27 years ago.

What are the biggest draws to the Rogue River?

The Rogue always has something for everyone! From the beauty of the Wild and Scenic to the challenging Nugget Powerhouse Rapids.

Favorite place on the river?

There is nothing like the hot Summer days in Mule Creek Canyon.

Is there a sense of community on the Rogue?

There is a community on the Rogue River like no other. When you’re down there it’s like having a whole family that you didn’t know all on the most amazing vacation together!

What influence has the Rogue had on your life?

The Rogue has totally influenced my life. It has helped me grow up knowing how lucky I am to be here. It is my training grounds for trying to become the ultimate waterman.

What’s the personality of the Rogue?

Relaxed but loves to party! Like a mullet.

Any final thoughts?

There is nothing like a Rogue Flood float! One day I’ll get a “source-to-sea” in one day!

Dale Fulton – Indigo Creek Outfitters

Dale Fulton is from Ashland, Oregon and has spent a significant amount of time on the Rogue River. His family has a history of guiding on Southern Oregon rivers and Dale continues that tradition with his summer job as a guide for Indigo Creek Outfitters. When he’s not running whitewater, you might find Dale and his fly rod chasing steelhead. 

The Interview

How were you introduced to the Rogue River?

I grew up in the Rogue Valley and from an early age I was floating the Wild and Scenic stretch of the Rogue with my parents – one of them was a river guide for many years before I was born. At a young age I found a love for fishing, especially fly fishing, and now spend every chance I get floating the Rogue with friends or swinging a fly through Casey [State Park].

What do you like most about the Rogue?

I love how much variety the Rogue offers in terms of activities that cater to a very wide scope of people, from serious class V white water kayaking and boating through the upper river, to Jet Boating through Hell’s Canyon. There is a beauty about this river that everyone can appreciate.

Do you have a favorite place on the Rogue?

My favorite place on the entirety of the Rogue river would have to be the Mule Creek camp and the Rogue River Ranch. It is just such an incredible location for beautiful scenery, secret swimming holes along Mule Creek, incredible vibrant history chronicling the Rogue, and of course, the sounds of the river at night.

Does the Rogue River foster a sense of community?

The Rogue has the ability to bring everyone together. I have met some of my best friends while on the Rogue or simply through conversations about the Rogue. Everyone can just let loose and enjoy themselves, and once the river has a hold of you, nothing can bring you down. The community on the Rogue, particularly the Wild and Scenic stretch, is a group of adventurers enjoying a beautiful river and experience as one.

How has the Rogue River shaped your life?

The river has had a profound impact on my life, as I have spent more of my free time on the Rogue than I have anywhere else. It is the river I grew up on, I know it like the back of my hand, I love it more than anything else, it is where I go to get away from the chaos of life, it is where I go to reconnect with myself. The Rogue has had a larger impact on my life than any other place, person, or experience ever has.

Do you have a favorite memory from the Rogue? 

Two years ago while camped at Whiskey Creek, I paddled across the river to Rum Creek to read and relax. The sun was starting to go down, I was sitting by the creek reading “Catcher in the Rye” and heard a twig crack behind me. When I looked back, there was a mountain lion making its way down to the river. It walked within 30 feet of where I was sitting, down to the river, leaned down and drank from the water, and then disappeared back into the trees behind me.

Any final thoughts?

The Rogue is a beautiful, secret, and surprising river. It is surprising in the way that it always has something completely new every time you explore it. The river is secret in the way that any river is – one can never completely understand any river – things are always changing, and things are always happening hidden from view, under the surface of the river and waves.

Jim Ritter – Rogue River Journeys

Jim first started guiding for Outdoor Adventures (now known as Rogue River Journeys) in 1977 when he was in high school. After graduating from Humboldt State University, he continued as a manager with Outdoor Adventures for 27 river seasons and oversaw the Rogue River operation. He lives in McKinleyville, California and is the Executive Director of Humboldt Live!, an organization which helps middle and high school kids learn about and prepare for their future career opportunities, including river guiding. During the summer, Jim still finds time to guide a few trips on the Rogue River.

The Interview

How were you introduced to the Rogue River?

I enjoyed my first private trip on the Rogue in 1983 and managed Rogue River Journeys (Outdoor Adventures) from when we bought our business in 1989 through the 2013 season. I have been fortunate to run at least four trips on the Rogue every year since 1989.

What are your favorite qualities of the Rogue River?

Water is life and I love the multitude of creeks that flow into the wild stretch of the river.

Favorite places on the Rogue?

There are so many wonderful stretches of the river, but I really enjoy the playful stretch of Wildcat Rapid down to Howard Creek and the feeling at the bottom of Blossom after all of your boats are safely through with smooth runs.

Is there a sense of community on the Rogue?

Rafting is fun and when you get to raft and camp and spend time in a beautiful canyon like the Rogue River it can’t help but build community and fellowship between many different people.

Has the Rogue River changed you?

I was blessed to work most of my career as an outfitter on the Rogue. It was a great way to make a living and I feel fortunate that Bob hired me as a high school kid all of those years ago. My own kids got to grow up on the Rogue, and really, what could be better than that?

What is the personality of the Rogue and what are some of your favorite memories?

Friendly, fun, and wise.

I have so many great memories and experiences on the Rogue. Entering Mule Creek Canyon for the first time, hiking the river trail with the amazing canopy of trees, watching bald eagle and osprey battling over fish, partying at the guide shack at Paradise, more wildlife sightings than any other river in the lower 48, and the camaraderie and connection with hundreds of guests, guides, shuttle drivers, BLM folks, and other outfitters. The Rogue River is a treasure and I’m thankful for the experiences it has shared with me.

Zach Urness – Outdoor Writer / Salem, Oregon

Zach Urness is a “writer of words about topics related to Oregon’s outdoors.” He lives in Salem, Oregon and writes for the Statesman Journal. Previously he worked for the Grants Pass Daily Courier, covering both their outdoor section and youth sports. Random Fact: In his own basketball days (a tremendously long, long time ago), Zach once guarded the ex-husband of Kim Kardashian on the basketball court (NBA baller Kris Humphries). 

The Interview

How were you introduced to the Rogue River?

When I was an outdoors reporter in Southern Oregon, the Rogue River was the center of the universe. It’s pretty tough to do that job without a working knowledge of the river. A lack of that knowledge —indeed, any misspelling of something Rogue-related — will inspire people to say unpleasant things about your upbringing.

What are your favorite qualities of the Rogue River?

This is my best way of saying it, from a story a few years ago:

On Saturday mornings throughout the year, I’ll wake up, make coffee and head to the Rogue River. The hot summer days usually find me floating into the canyon scenery between Ennis Riffle and Grave Creek, leisurely and happy, the spray of rapids and warmth of sunshine alternating in mindless hours below cliff walls.

If it’s autumn, I’ll probably be driving toward Tou Velle or Valley of the Rogue State Park with a fly-rod in the trunk and thoughts of steelhead in mind.

I might tempt the wrath of Nugget-Powerhouse’s Class IV rapids in a hardshell kayak, or troll more peaceful water for spring chinook.

The Saturday adventures on the Rogue River change with the seasons, but the uniting theme is that they’re always available. The river is a friend who’s occasionally moody and even violent, yet is always there, just a short car ride away.

Favorite places on the Rogue?

Because it’s where I really started to understand it, and love it, the recreation section between Ennis Riffle and Grave Creek.

Describe the Rogue River community…

There is a wonderful community on the Rogue, but they are a touchy bunch for a reporter. You have to prove yourself a little first — show the ability to catch a fish or run rapids — before they’ll even consider your membership. Even then, it depends what you’re writing about. It can be a love-hate thing, but my only jealousy is reserved for Rogue River guides.

Has the Rogue River changed you?

I was mostly a backpacking / climbing / fishing / hunting guy when I arrived in Southern Oregon. The Rogue inspired a love of river-running that has become a major part of my life.

What is the personality of the Rogue?

Depends on the section. The North Fork (Upper Rogue) is fast and reckless, very much like a teenager. The longer its around, or the lower you get, the more complex it becomes, alternating between anger and mellowness and depth, pretty closely mirroring the condition of your standard adult human.

Tell us a Rogue River story…

Years ago, my friend Larry Cathy and I ran the entire wild section of the Rogue River in one day … in those old-school orange torpedos. It was pretty exhausting, and Larry took an awful swim at the beginning of Mule Creek Canyon. It shook him pretty bad, and he was weary about running Blossom Bar right after.

But after a pep talk he did it — catching the eddy and making it around the Picket Fence with smoothness and no drama. We celebrated at the bottom of Devil’s Staircase with cold beer. It was a great moment. Just the adrenaline and triumph and exhaustion of paddling 33 miles of the Rogue in 100 degree sunshine.

Later, when he had stage 4 cancer and knew he’d probably die within the year, he said he thought of that trip often. It was one of his favorite memories during the soul-sucking awfulness of radiation and chemotherapy treatment.

It’s one of my favorite memories as well, now that he’s been gone three years. I remember my friend, discouraged but defiant, paddling into Blossom Bar.

Any last words?