Steve Welch – ARTA River Trips

Steve Welch is the General Manager of ARTA River Trips. He first visited the Rogue in 1976 and continues to work at least one trip every year. He lives in Groveland, California.

The Interview

What is your connection to the Rogue River?

Outfitter on the Rogue with ARTA River Trips.

How long have you been working or recreating on the Rogue?

First Rogue trip was in 1976 (a private, self-supported, inflatable kayak trip), at least one trip per year since then. A lot of trips but not enough.

What are your favorite qualities of the Rogue River?

Everyone loves the Rogue. I love how inviting it is; how pretty much everyone can go and find something to do at the appropriate level. The timid can ride an oar raft through Lower Black Bar Falls and the intrepid can swim it and everyone can find their thrill level in between. That’s rare. I also like that there is so much unexplored (to me) area in the canyon. I’ve always wanted to spend a day hiking up Missouri Creek (or a half dozen others) and I’ve always wanted to spend a week hiking down from somewhere along Bear Camp Road to the river. I’m sure there are amazing places down there that few people have seen.

Favorite spot on the Rogue?

There is nothing like entering Mule Creek Canyon. The 30 minutes from Marial to Stair Creek are mind-blowing; every time. It is as special as the first time someone sees Yosemite Valley.

Is there a sense of community on the Rogue?

I’d have to say no to this one. For as well as the river can accommodate lots of people with lots of different interests (rafting, kayaking, fishing, hiking, private, commercial, small groups, large groups), the actual users are less accommodating. We all want it our way and that creates some tension.

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

So, that first trip in 1976 was the year I graduated from High School. College started late for me (September) so I had that month when all my friends had gone off to school and I hadn’t. A buddy and I borrowed 2 inflatable kayaks and went down the Rogue. We didn’t really know what we were doing or where we were (in life or on the river) so that trip has all the magical qualities of growing up and finding my place. One of those experiences that are amazing as they happen but you don’t really realize their importance or appreciate them until 10 or even 15 years later. If I hadn’t gone on that trip in 1976, there is a very good chance I wouldn’t be writing this right now.

What is the personality of the Rogue River?

The Rogue River is beautiful, but in that unassuming, natural, comfortable, not-flashy kind of way; like it would look good in sweat pants and a T-shirt, in the morning. No stunning, cover-of-National-Geographic vistas, just mile after mile of gentle prettiness. Like that girl (or guy) you knew in High School who wasn’t the prettiest or the smartest or most popular or the best dressed but was always going to be your friend. Steady, trustworthy, welcoming, friendly. Nice. The Rogue is nice.

What’s your favorite memory of the Rogue?

Well, I’ve taken thousands of people on Rogue trips over the years, some people who were “veteran” river runners and others who had never camped before and I am sure they all love the Rogue. Everyone loves the Rogue. But my favorite Rogue memory was a trip I did with just my girlfriend (now, 35 years later, my wife) over Easter. Just the two of us. I remember we had Easter morning on that tiny little spit of sand on river left just downstream from Quail Creek, where the river bends to the left. Every time I pass that spot, I remember that morning and probably every other time I pass that spot I mention it to the people in the raft with me. “I spent Easter morning there once about 35 years ago.” And every time I mention it, I don’t get much of a response. A courtesy: “Oh, that’s nice.” but no goosebumps or “tell me mores”. But I still mention it. That’s how I know it was special.

Anything else?

I can’t wait to go back.