Trip Report: October Rogue Trip

Trip Report: October Rogue Trip

Submitted by Thomas Benke

On October 13-16, 2023, our group of four persons and two dogs launched at Almeda Park on the Rogue River.  Permitted spaces became available approximately one week before the Friday launch.  We ran my 14-foot raft and a rented 16-foot raft.  At a flow of 1950 cfs the drops were steep and splashy.  Navigation at that flow was constrained and the 16-foot raft was at a significant disadvantage even though we were careful not to overload it.  Weather during the day was cool (60’s) with some showers.  Two rafters wore dry suits, one rafter had on neoprene and rain covers, the fourth rafter had only rain covers (and so was predictably uncomfortable most of the trip).

We launched at Almeda Park because the road downstream of the Rand BLM station was closed due to a landslide.  This added four miles to a trip that normally begins at Grave Creek (app. 1.5 hours).  A late start due to car trouble meant that we were continually behind schedule for a planned take-out at Foster Bar by 2:00 pm the following Monday.  (We arrived at 4:00 pm Monday).  The problem was exacerbated by short days and poor but tolerable weather.

The drop at Grave Creek Falls was steep and required some adjustment to the right.  Both rafts made it down the Fish Ladder without inordinate effort.  The size disadvantage of the 16-foot raft first became apparent here.

We were warned by BLM that there had been a drowning at Wildcat Rapids the previous week or two.  According to news reports the victim suffered a foot entrapment.  We were advised to stay right (inside the turn) but the leading 16-foot raft was pushed mid-channel, up onto a large rock and stuck.  There was no reliable footing outside of the raft and it was easy to see how someone exiting a stuck boat might slip and get washed down into the boulder garden below and become entrapped.  Fortunately, the 14-foot raft nearly suffered the same fate but for colliding with and dislodging the 16-foot raft.

Slim Pickins was indeed slim but easy to read.

Tyee Rapids was potentially treacherous.  Most of the river goes right but our sight-line was obstructed by a large rock mid-channel.  We went left, going with “the devil we know”, and observed upon passing that the channel right was entirely closed.

Our fourth rafter was a strong individual but a relatively novice rower.  Nevertheless, I agreed to let him be at the oars in my 14-foot raft at Mull Creek Canyon and Blossom Bar because I wanted him to learn those drops, not just be familiar with them.  Mule Creek Canyon was less turbulent than we’ve seen at higher flows.  An experienced rower dropped Blossom Bar successfully with one passenger and a dog in the 16-foot raft.  The inexperienced rower followed behind in the 14-footer with an experienced passenger and dog but failed to orient the raft properly and was therefore not in position to eddy out at the horned rock.  The NRS-framed raft (an Aire) flipped onto its side (bottom of the boat facing river right, rear of the boat downstream) and became wedged in a two-foot wide slot between the sheer-faced boulder on the river’s edge and the left-most boulder of the picket fence.  The rower clambered up the sheer-faced boulder while the passenger and dog (both wearing appropriate floatation) ejected for a pleasant swim of several hundred yards.

Foot access river-left is very difficult.  Other experienced rafters were quick to assist.  In the end I was able to lift the raft up and through the slot.  No damage to raft or frame although three fishing rods were broken, a fly rod was lost, and two chairs were torn off the raft along with the groover.  If anyone finds a red bucket riverside…  We flipped the raft riverside using the technique taught at the OWA Clackamas Pool clinic.  No one was hurt except that I fell on a sharp rock when we flipped the raft back right-side-up upon recovery.

Everyone agreed later that it was a good trip and family members hearing about the incident at Blossom Bar were quick to point out that this was typical of me and no surprise.  Dress to swim (or at least to go bouldering), rig to flip.

Plenty of bear sign but no sightings.  A wood fire (with pan) was a welcome luxury.