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Rogue River Advice

8165 Views 23 Replies 17 Participants Last post by  Duce
I have a 3 day trip coming up next week on the lower Rogue and i'm looking for some advice. We have a group of 8 going on the trip, 5 of which have no river experience. We have 2 experienced kayakers on this trip (including myself) and we plan to guide two rafts down this stretch. I've taken multiple swiftwater rescue classes and I'm very comfortable on the river, but this will be both of our first times guiding rafts. Last week i took an 8 our private guiding class on the Nugget/Powerhouse stretch of the rogue and now I feel fairly comfortable on the oars. However, our other boat will be a paddle raft, which neither of us has any any experience guiding.

I've been studying all of the rapids and I'm mainly nervous about blowing the first move at Blossom bar. I'm debating changing this trip to a much easier stretch on the Lower Klamath, but I would hate to miss out on the Rogue if I'm overreacting. If any of you has any experience or advice, i'd love to hear it.

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what is your experience as an oars man? Have you done this section in a kayak so you know what is coming?, Blossom Bar is a serious rapid. Have you looked at the Youtube videos of the good and bad runs? What other class IV stuff have you rowed? IMHO if you're thinking of taking a paddle boat down without an experienced boat captain, not a good idea.

I think starting your group out on the Trees Of Heaven (put-in couple miles below the campground)run, then Happy Camp run and then Ferry Point would be a good training trip. Currently Orleans is at @3000 cfs a fun flow.

But I have to add that my comments are from an OC2 paddler who has done both the Klamath lots and the permited Rogue, and the Rogue is at the very top end of my comfort zone.

Cheers Carol
Blossom Bar has probably killed as many or more people than most commonly run rapids. It's a timing move and if you mis-time it, the picket fence will ruin your day at best.

I would strongly suggest that you consider going with an experienced rower to lead the way for your first trip. At least see if you can run it with another group.

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Running a Class IV river that has a known reputation for killing people on a regular basis seems like a poor option for a first time running a paddle raft. As well, a multi-day oar raft takes some getting use to compared to a day raft. It sounds like you have a minimal field experience and could benefit from working your way up.

Finding cancellations and early/late season Rogue permits doesn't seem to be that difficult if you have flexibility in your life. You live in whitewater heaven so I would think going to Plan B would pay off for you in the short and long run.

The Rogue all around seems like a place to take passengers when you have more experience and confidence.

Wish we had as many bailout options as you.

Thanks for the advice Carol. This would be my first time on the Wild and Scenic section. I've been watching every video I can find on Blossom as well as all of the other major rapids that we'd encounter.

Last weekend was my first time on the oars. I hired a guide for a day specifically to train for this trip. We did a couple laps on the nugget section practicing the back ferry to the right to simulate Blossom entry on nearly every rapid. I racked his brain the entire day with all of my questions about the lower. At the end of the day, i asked for his honest assessment on whether we should move to plan B (either sarah totten to happy camp or the stretch you recommended). He said we would have some "exciting moments" but believed that i could safely guide my group down.

As for as Class IV experience, just what I ran last weekend, which were clean runs on both Nugget and Powerhouse.

I appreciate your opinion about not taking a group down without an experienced guide, that's the kind of advice i'm looking for. With that said, safety is my top priority. Our group will all have helmets, pfds, and despite the hot air temperatures forecast for next weekend, drysuits.

If we still end up on the Rogue, and we arrive at Blossom bar feeling under prepared, I plan to R2 the paddle raft through Blossom with the other experienced kayaker and ask the rest of the group to walk (either around the rapid, or all the way to Paradise lodge).
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Rowing a raft loaded with gear for 8 people on a multi-day trip will be much different than what you have practiced.

I'm mainly nervous about blowing the first move at Blossom bar........If any of you has any experience or advice, i'd love to hear it.
Blossom is serious business. It seems like several people die there each year. You should practice somewhere else first. John Day, Grande Ronde, Deschutes....
As said I've never rowed, so others may shake their heads over this statement, but I found the Rogue far more challenging in an open canoe then the MFSalmon at 1.8 ft., or the Main at August flows.

If you were my best buddy - or not, asking for advice, go with plan B, so much safer and you would never forgive yourself if something went wrong.

If you haven't been on the Klamath before, I probably would not suggest putting in at Sarah Totten campground and going down to Happy Camp. Other than the first couple miles that has Hamburg falls, there's lots and lots of flat water and afternoon wind. If your group is agreeable, I would suggest a base camp at Curly Jack campground In Happy Camp. Great pizza parlor there too.:D Lots of people do happy camp down to **** Creek as an overnighter, with Dragon Tooth and Rattlesnake as the two rapids you really need to scout. Rattlesnake can develop quite a hole depending upon the flows, and boats do wrap on the "tooth". Trees of Heaven has lots of class II-class III drops depending upon the flows. And at some flows there is quite the surf wave at Schoolhouse.


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I think you're wise to be thinking long and hard about this. Rowing a boat loaded with gear for your group's 3-day trip would mean a much heavier boat than you've rowed in your practice sessions. Heavier = more sluggish = less responsive. The crux move into the Entrance Eddy at Blossom Bar is not difficult, but you have got to make it at the right time or risk drifting down into the Picket Fence, where people die on a regular basis. Missing an oar stroke or two while making this move, or not having a rock solid back ferry move into the entrance eddy, could lead to very bad things. Everyone has to have their first run on a rapid sometime, and I won't try to tell you what you should do, but it sounds like you would benefit from more oar time on loaded rafts before running Blossom Bar, where one mistake could be deadly. Wherever you end up going, enjoy! The lower Klamath is a wonderful river as well. And kudos for thinking about this; there are way too many bozos on the Rogue who blunder into things without a clue.
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I really appreciate everyone's input on this. You are all saying pretty much what I expected to hear, so I'll talk with the group tomorrow about a change of plans.

I'd love to hear some more alternatives that would be a safer, yet still exciting, 3-day trip.
My concern would be your paddle raft, which you say neither of you have experience guiding. A paddle raft with a paddle captain who doesn't know what they are doing, guiding other newbies, could be dangerous. I personally hate paddle captaining. It's one thing for my brain to tell my body what to do on my raft with my oars. Totally different to communicate that info to 3-4 other folks in a few split seconds, in a calm, yet very clear manner, and have them follow through. Some people have a knack for paddle captaining, but not me. Make sure your paddle boat captain has his crew practice moves leading up to Blossam so that they are ready.

Plan B sounds like the best idea to me. It's supposed to be fun. Exciting is great.....up to a point.
We are headed out to do the John Day next week. It's not very challenging, but the camping and fishing is pretty good. If the Owyhee was running, I'd tell you to do Rome to Leslie Gulch, but it's not. The Grande Ronde was a little too far away for us this season, and I hear it's not much of a challenge.
I think the Rogue is the best challenge with reasonable risk encountered. Blossom Bar almost ate my ass last season. I was in a pretty loaded 14' raft with one Dud of a guy on the front of my boat. We made a clean pass through the picket fence, and then I managed to get hung up on what I think is called Volkswagon rock. I managed not to pin, or flip. The action doesn't really let up until you are below Devil's staircase.
Good luck, whatever you choose, and have a great time. :D
You're getting some real good advice from the folks here; I hope you heed it.

I can't say enough that you need to earn a bit more experience before you lead a trip down the Rogue. Rogue permits outside of summer are easy to get. There are a lot of good deals on used bucket boats right now--just check Craigslist. You do not need a fancy setup--just get you some old rubber and drive it downstream some. Be patient; the rivers aren't going anywhere.

Video scouting is a lot of fun, but the most it will tell you is what type of move you need to make. It will not tell you how to make it. If you're not practiced, even an in the flesh scout won't do you a lot of good. Sure, you could probably bounce your way down the Rogue without killing anyone. Probably. But chances are better than half that you will at the least need some sort of rescue assistance from other boaters at some point. I try not to impose on other groups in this fashion, and I always try not to take the people who are depending on me for their lives into situations that are completely outside of my experience.

The Lower K is a great choice. Curly Jack is a great base camp. You can work your way up the ladder of difficulty. Rattlesnake has big holes and can easily flip or dump you. Dragon's Tooth is mean, give it due respect. When you wrap your boat around the Tooth and finish the easy swim in safety, be happy you don't have to deal with 500lbs of camping gear plastered on the rock or floating downstream. Be happy you and your peeps don't have to swim though all the rocks of the picket fence. Be happy the road is nearby.

My first time rowing Blossom I had been rowing for a while. I'd rowed a half dozen different class IV runs and one easy class V rapid. I had been briefed and followed a guy who was a pro. About halfway down we came across another group that was in the process of finishing up a rescue. One of their kayakers had broken his femur... The guy lived, but he might not have.
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I was lucky to learn the lines at Blossom Bar in a guide school. Plenty of theory and practice and tips before the Rogue graduation multiday run with Blossom being at the end. If at all possible I recommend you get training for more than a day and at best running Blossom with some one who knows it well and is a good instructor. My opinion here for what it is worth. A lot of rapids end up with the critical move being the entry and then powering down maybe avoiding a hole or so. Blossom Bar to me is a series of critical timing, power application and having your boat finish one move in a good setup for the next. Easy to get excited and over power your move. The first critical move is at the top followed by the little chute then you got to miss VW rock with a decision left or right. Plenty of opportunities to hang up on rocks just below the surface along the way. Don't start the celebration till you miss the big hole at the bottom and hit the flat water. The best way to learn the moves on Blossom is to make a run with some one who knows the moves, then get you on the oars to get the "feel" of the moves down. As has been mentioned before Blossom is a fairly complex series of moves and the position, timing and power is gonna be different depending on the raft and load involved. I spend a lot of winter time looking at Blossom Bar video runs. The best boat men and women make it look easy but it really is their experience with the moves that makes it look so easily run. Videos can help you figure out boat positions but not the feel on the oars. Having said all the above the Rogue and especially Blossom Bar is at the top of my list of fun multidays and rapids I have run. I envy you living close enough to run the Rogue multiple times. As was mentioned before, the river will be there for you to run many times. Take your time and enjoy it!
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For alternate runs I would also lean towards the North Umpqua. You can basecamp and any number of camps int he area. There are two very nice III-IV stretches. You can run them back to back for a long day trip. Great mountain biking and reward yourself with a hike up to the Umpqua hot springs.
Plus one for using the Umpqua as a training run.

Easy to do multiple runs, plenty of tight moves and water quality that is outstanding.

Easy to camp and do the runs until the moves on the oars become second nature.

+1 on the N.Umpqua as great place to hone your rowing and paddle boating skills. I think that is the best place in N.Cal and So_OR to dial it up. Lots of shake and bake water. Also, the hot springs a great bonus. Camp at Horseshoe to be in the middle of two fun runs. Or, Boulder flat to be at the put in of the upper run and closer to the hot springs. But, it is car based camping and not a downriver experience.
Lots of folks chiming in about the Lower Klamath. It is a great place to be and depending on the stretch could be a good choice to get the feel of rowing a loaded gear boat and learning some paddle guide skills. From what I am reading you want excitement, but you want to stay safe. Those are both relative things and hard to achieve to everyone's satisfaction. I would recommend putting in Sluice Box and taking out at Independence Bridge. That way you avoid Dragon's Tooth until you get more experience rowing heavier boats and cleaning up raft carnage. You still get the downriver trip.
The Lower Rogue is not the place to have someone self learn to paddle captain a raft, or row heavier gear boats for the first time. Your experience rowing on Nugget/Powerhouse is great, but does not really relate at all to moves that need to be made, or reads, on the Lower Rogue, especially with the weight.
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Most people that don't make it at Blossom Bar either die from a heart attack or foot entrapment. If you end up on the Rogue doing Blossom Bar, wear a helmet, take your aspirin for the day and if anybody goes out, keep your feet up. Do not put them down unless you are in an eddy or out of the current!
During permit season, there are usually people scouting Blossom Bar from river right. Stop there and watch a few rafts go through first. You might even find an experienced rafter there that would take your boat through for you, if you so wanted.
My first time down the Rouge I found lots of good advice and how to's from other people on the river. I took a paddle boat, four other people and all their gear for three days. Learned a lot that trip. First lesson was to go river right at Rainy Falls. We went left. The raft made it through the falls with all our gear just fine, but we all swam. I ended up with a cracked rib, but we had such a great time that I now have done the Rogue at least fourty times.

By the way: Seven days without kayaking makes one week( weak?).
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Thanks everyone. We've changed our plans to the lower Klamath. N Umpqua looks great too, I will definitely keep that in mind. We'll save the Rogue for another time.
Rowing a raft loaded with gear for 8 people on a multi-day trip will be much different than what you have practiced....
I know that you have already moved on from the rogue but this is your biggest hurdle. Rowing gear is much different then pushing and empty raft around the river. You have to set up for rapids a lot earlier than you think. As far as the paddle boat. If you have a good committed crew they usually figure it out by the time you get to blossom with a good paddle captain (been there).

Hit the NUMP and have a great time. That river is awesome for day trips and camping.
I'd love to hear some more alternatives that would be a safer, yet still exciting, 3-day trip.
N Umpqua - Car camping at Horseshoe Bend which is away from the highway. Good day trips above and below there with good whitewater and scenery.

John Day (Service Creek to Clarno) - I think Clarno to Cottonwood would be to far for you allotted time. Too early for bass fishing but good river camps and scenery. You might still be able to get a permit.

Grande Ronde (Minam to Powatka or Troy) - A good 3 day trip with scenery and wildlife. No significant whitewater but continuous. Great camping.
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