Phil Finkel – Rogue River Journeys

Phil Finkel is a guide for Rogue River Journeys and he has worked on the Rogue since 1989. When he isn’t tackling the whitewater challenges of the Rogue River, Phil can be found taking on the challenges of managing his 8th grade class in Susanville, CA. During the winter, Phil is on the backcountry Ski Patrol at the Lassen Volcanic National Park.

The Interview

What is your connection to the Rogue River?

I’m a river guide for Rogue River Journeys (formerly known as Outdoor Adventures) and I have worked on the Rogue since 1989.

What are your favorite qualities of the Rogue River?

The diversity of the flora and fauna, the absence of roads, many unusual rock formations, exciting and mostly forgiving rapids, evidence of human history and great stargazing.

Favorite spot on the Rogue?

Just past Wildcat Campsite entering Russian Rapids through the Howard Creek Chutes, and exiting Huggins Canyon to Brushy Bar and Solitude Bar.

Can you describe the community of people who visit the Rogue?

Locals in rafts festooned with multiple prior permits tags waving pirate flags while laughing at kids in inflatable kayaks, floating along with commercial guides running a great trip for guests from all over North America, also navigating rapids with inflatable kayaks, all the while leapfrogging campsites and trading stories of last night’s bear sightings, the incredible meteor shower and, “Would you like some chocolate bacon from this morning’s breakfast?”

Has the Rogue River changed you? How has it shaped your life?

While attending Humboldt State University, I’d hear about this great river to the north – the Rogue. I cut my teeth on the Trinity, Klamath, and Cal Salmon Rivers, but it wasn’t until I got my teaching job that I joined the crew to work the Rogue River. With each school year ending, I could always look forward to working with a solid crew to run a few Rogue River trips. The Rogue defines my summers and it recharges my batteries for another year of teaching eighth grade students.

I see myself as a “teacher” on the water; whether it’s giving coaching tips to a guest kayaking through a rapid, helping identify a rough-skinned newt to a curious child, or telling the “Jack Mahoney” tale to a captured audience around the campfire. When a colleague asks at the beginning of a new school year, “So, Phil, did you do the Rogue this summer?” a smile crosses my face, while I trace the calluses on my palms from all the rowing, before I answer.

What is the personality of the Rogue River?

I hate to refer to man while describing the Rogue, but it’s “Nature’s Highway.” The idea that you can sit on a raft and let the water pull you along with its twists and turns, ups and downs, and around rocks and eddies, with no exit signs to pull off until you hit an empty campsite, set it in Park and relax is about as good as it gets. While you take ‘er easy though, there comes the realization that the Rogue River is ALIVE! That water – she runs 24/7 making new channels, smooths her river rocks and alters the flora alongside her banks. Look above and you see her eagles, ospreys and herons pointing hunting eyes to the river below as the salmon, steelhead and skinks swim and scurry to another interchange. And later on, when the clouds lift to welcome the Milky Way Galaxy, the Rogue’s “white noise” will lull you to sleep.

Tell us a good Phil Finkel Rogue story

Twenty years ago I was working a commercial trip with my college buddy Jeff cracking out a great journey with just us two guides. It was July and “Africa Hot!” All the guests jostled for the inflatable kayaks, or wanted to float in the river to cool off. We managed to snag one of the last campsites, Tacoma, for our final night on the river. I remember cooking over the fire pan and feeling so hot I would plunge into the river multiple times with a cooking apron wrapped my searing body. Hours after nightfall, when the campfire finally died out, and Jeff and I had our last dip in the river, we reclined atop our sleeping bags above the heated slate rockbed trying not to think of the hot and muggy night. While chatting about tomorrow’s takeout, we noticed the clouds parting, the crescent moon making an appearance, and the cool marine air ascending the Rogue River from Gold Beach. It didn’t take long for us to appreciate the cooling gift the river gave us as we zipped ourselves up in our sleeping bags.

Any last words?

The Rogue River Descends
Wildlife Dancing Above
My Eyes Opening

“Fake Haiku” written after my first trip on the Rogue River, April 1-3, 1989
Outdoor Adventures (Rogue River Journeys) Training Trip

2 thoughts on “Phil Finkel – Rogue River Journeys”

  1. I remember that trip Phil ! Upper Tacoma camp, hotter than hades, cooling off in the eddy and sitting up on the rocks in the evening.

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