August/September 2009Rafting the Rogue River
Wild Bunch

The Wild Bunch

Imagine 166 national parks you've never heard of. The Wild and Scenic River system protects our most spectacular waterways—and makes for some ripping raft trips. The king of them all? Oregon's Rogue River.

Text by Kevin Fedarko
Photograph by Woods Wheatcroft

“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.

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  • While there, stop in and visit (or stay) at Motel del Rogue (www.moteldelrogue.com)situated right on…
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