“So, this next rapid is obviously one of our bigger ones,” said Kate Wollney as she scanned the angry section of whitewater a hundred feet downriver.
Wollney, slim and dark haired with 16 years of guiding experience on Oregon’s Rogue River, is a master of understatement. Blossom Bar is not “one of” the Rogue’s largest commercially run rapids. It’s the largest, a Class IV meat grinder that injects doubt into the mind and wobbliness into the knees. And we were about to paddle right into it. My fellow rafters and I had assembled on a rock as Wollney sussed out a safe line. Ahead I could see a jumble of grayish-black boulders whose dimensions ranged from Sub-Zero refrigerator to Home Depot storage shed. Even at a safe distance, Blossom’s roar was consuming.
To tackle the rapid, Wollney said, we would start river left at Purgatory Eddy, then make a sharp cut right to avoid a line of nasty stone teeth known as the Picket Fence. Next we’d thread between the evil-looking pinnacles of Horn Rock and Goalpost before straightening out for a bumpy ride down Beaver Slide, a stretch of submerged ledges that, assuming all went well, would usher us into calm water.
“If you do happen to get thrown into the river, I don’t think it’ll be dangerous,” Wollney said. Before any of us had time to fully digest this comment, we were back in our boats and accelerating toward Blossom’s snarl of whitewater. I hadn’t come on what I’d always considered a “nice little river trip” expecting to find my heart in my throat. But as its name implies, the Rogue doesn’t take to being pigeonholed.