Nicole Smedegaard – O.A.R.S. Rafting Trips

Nicole Smedegaard works for O.A.R.S. Rafting Trips and lives in Eugene, Oregon. She grew up in Wimer, Oregon, and first started exploring the Rogue River as a child (her nickname as a kid was “nature girl”). When she’s not exploring rivers she works as an Environmental Education Coordinator.

The Interview

What is your connection to the Rogue River?

I’m a guide with O.A.R.S. Oregon and a recreational private boater.

How long have you been floating the Rogue?

I’ve been recreating on the Rogue in one form or another since before I can even remember, so since the ’80s. One of my first memories is along the banks of the Rogue as a kid learning about the finer qualities of mud. My father would take me out in his jet boat back when Savage Rapids Dam (1921 -2009) created a reservoir near the town of Rogue River. We went to Boatnick every Memorial Day and despite listening carefully I never did figure out what a blown picklefork drag boat was. I inner tubed my way down the recreational section of the Rogue through the ’90s; first behind a jet boat and then sun burnt on a tractor tube with high school friends. I started backpacking and hiked Crater Lake and the North Fork Rogue. This was before I couldn’t look at a stream without picking my line through each rapid. Then in 2010 I saw the Wild and Scenic section for the first time as a private boater via raft. I got hooked on whitewater, bought my own boat and in 2012 I became a guide. Now I live and love summers on the Rogue.

What are your favorite qualities of the Rogue?

The water, geology and flora. The water quality as well as the friendly quality of most rapids (thanks Glen Wooldridge) make it a great river for swimming and whitewater boating. The fluting in the sandstone and slate of Kelsey Canyon is my favorite geological feature. Madrone and iris are my favorite plants.

Favorite place on the Rogue?

At the base of Stair Creek Falls.

What’s the community like on the Rogue River?

The community on the Rogue is defined by the common interest that brings many diverse micro-communities together: the river. Each community has their own values. Everyone has a different idea of what a river trip should be. We form a community when we join in the common interest of preserving and enjoying this beautiful place.

How has the Rogue shaped your life?

I have chosen to live a seasonal life style in order to continue my affair with the Rogue River. The shape of my life is a cut bank. I’m obsessed with exploring rivers and the power of this obsession deepens the channel my life takes towards this goal every year. I can’t climb back up that bank now, it’s too steep and I’m happy here. My aspirations to identify a new flower or to nail my line through a difficult rapid won’t make sense to everyone in my life. I can try and explain it, but it’s easier to get them out on the river and just show them.

Does the Rogue have a personality?

The Rogue is a people person.

Everyone has their own story of the Rogue. Native peoples have survived and traded here for thousands of years, passing down river stories. Prospectors struck it rich here…or didn’t. Farmers sustain their fields from irrigation provided by its waters. Dams are built, dams are removed. Lodges get broken into by bears. Kids catch their first fish. Kayakers shred the gnar. Hikers contract poison oak. Drift boats line the falls. Rafters get wrapped on the picket fence. Guides keep it real, except when telling a story…

Any last words?

If you want to ensure good river karma for the next time you row through Blossom, make sure to pick up some litter along the way and pack it out.