Story and photos by Larry Turner
High on Adventure, July 2018


My sister Brenda and I were in a vault of silence. A sanctuary of beauty. My hastily scribbled, water- soaked notes described it as such as I looked back to last summer's three-day journey through the Wild and Scenic Rogue River Canyon in Southwestern Oregon. It is a journey that I will treasure forever, and in reminiscing it will always bring a smile to my face, as it does at this moment of writing.

  Noah's Rafting Company (http://www.noahsroguerivertrips.com/) was our transport for the Lodge-to-Lodge journey (http://www.noahsroguerivertrips.com/rogue-river-rafting-wilderness-trips/#). Our group included Noah owner Hugh Hague (hugh@noahsrafting.com; 541-261-2677) (son of Noah's founder) and a large group of Southern California friends who had flown into Southern Oregon on a private jet. Later I learned that most of these folks were reformed alcoholics and attended the same church. Brenda and I met at Morrison Lodge (www.morrisonlodge.com), parked our vehicles and got into a large Noah’s Rafting van for a ride to the takeoff point downriver at Argo, 28 miles from Grants Pass. There we met our guides Bob Evans, Dove Miller and Mike Hale. Hugh had instructed me the day before to only bring cotton clothing for comfort, a minimum amount of toiletries and of course, my camera gear! Everything else would be taken care of, meaning full gear, food and lodging.   Rogue, arriving at Paradise  

Hugh and our guides gave us instructions (mainly about river safety), fitted us in our life-preservers (which we wore practically at all times except for sleep at night), and then we were divided up into three rafts. Our guide for the three days would be Mike who would prove to be the ultimate consummate river guide. Looking back at my notes, this is how I described Mike: 'Quiet, unassuming, positive, immensely skillful, a gentle sense of humor, professional, thoughtful, adventurous, considerate. I would trust him and his wisdom on any body of water.' Mike had just come off 28 days on the fabled Colorado River, his fifth Colorado expedition.

  Rogue Wild River   Rogue trail marker  
  Sis and Bro on the Rogue   Rogue River fun  
  Rogue River excitement   Rogue rapids  
  Rogue River quiet streth   Rogue, Mike Hale  
  Rogue River mid-day run   Rogue rafters lunch prayer  
  Rogue, leaving Morrison Lodge   Rogue kayaking  
  Rogue River kayak rescue   Rogue excitement  
  Rogue kayaking intensity   Rogue, Hugh and Sis Brenda  
Rogue bath


Noah's offers a variety of rafting and hiking trips through the Wild and Scenic Rogue, one of the original seven rivers so-designated when the national act went into legislation in 1968. They offer trips for up to four days. In May the season begins in earnest and continues all the way through late summer. Our two-night, three-day journey is $1,045 per person, a four-day is $1,345 and a one-night - $695. Our July journey—with perfect weather—included stays at Black Bear Lodge and Paradise Lodge, considered the most comfortable and pristine lodges on the Rogue. The lodge trips are offered Tuesdays and Fridays. A wilderness rafting camping trip is also on their schedule for two and three nights. Noah's consistently gets five star ratings.

Rogue, Bob Evans with steelhead
  Rogue, Bob the guide  
  Rogue, Dove   Rogue guide Dove Miller  
  Rogue guide Dove   Rogue guide Rick Hale  
Rogue guide Mike Hale
  Rogue stop for lunch  
  Rogue lunch prayer   Rogue lunch stop  
Rogue lunch plate
  Rogue moment  
Rogue Rainie Falls
  Rogue, Rainie Falls  


Departing Argo, it didn't take long to get into the spirit of the river. It was a pleasure to turn off the cell phone for the next three days and exist on river time. Brenda was especially happy about this as she is peppered constantly with phone calls and messages as the head of the tasting room (and events coordinator) for Southern Oregon's largest and most active winery www.roxyann.com. It didn't take long to get away from the noise of the jet boats, as they can travel only up to the Grave Creek Bridge area. Slipping under the bridge, we began descending into the canyon where silence reins and cares start dropping away like autumn leaves. The Grave Creek Riffles and Falls were our first Class 3 rapids before the upcoming formidable Class 5 of Rainey Falls. However, the guides unloaded all of us above the falls and took the Fish Ladder Route down. The Main Falls are too treacherous for amateur guest rafters, but we did witness one large raft – with a ballsy and expert lady guide—navigate successfully the Class 5 chute with a plethora of gear.

We figured that, in the old days, there must have been some moonshine made in these remote parts of the Rogue as we passed creeks named Whiskey, Rum and Booze. We stopped and hiked up one creek—which will be unnamed—where guide Bob Evans had successfully fished for steelhead with his dad throughout his lifetime. “Those are some of the most cherished memories of my life,” stated Bob, an athletic Rogue River sage, now guiding in his 70s.

Lunch stop along the river was pure pleasure with rest, great food and camaraderie. Noah's provides a lunch spread akin to dining in a nice restaurant. Live, healthy, tasty fresh food!

Black Bear Lodge on Rogue River
  Black Bear Lodge sign  
  Rogue River bear   Bear fence  
  Balck bear   Nursing fawn  
  Black Bear Lodge dessert   Black Bear Lodge  
Author's sister Brenda
  Black Bear Lodge dinner bell  


We stayed at Black Bear Lodge our first evening. The accommodations are simple, rustic, perfect. It was great to be in a room with no television again! After showering, Brenda, Rick and I took a stroll before dinner. The property is beautifully situated away from the humming, numbing world. It is as though the time-clock had been turned back a hundred—or even several hundred—years. The land is human and naturally landscaped, including a large fenced garden from which fresh food is gathered for evening meals. Deer amble about without a care in the world. Songbirds enrich the air along with the constant movement sounds of the river. We joined several other river parties for the evening meal including a friend of Brenda's - Pam Phillips who said, “We're a drinking group with a rafting problem.” Her friend Bill Inkvote chimed in lightheartedly, “We call it float and bloat!”

The night stars were coming out as we ambled back to our cabins. I took a few time exposures, then soon-after slipped into bed and read the opening chapters of Glen Wooldridge's book, A River to Run, about his experiences raft- running and living in the Rogue River Canyon.

  Zane Grey   Zane Grey boat  


The famous western writer (among his books Rogue River Feud) built a crude cabin here on a mining claim that he purchased in 1926 at Winkle Bar. An avid fisherman, Grey came here to fish, relax and to get away from it all, just as we did on our Rogue float, minus the fishing. Now owned by the BLM, we stopped here on day two to peruse this famous spot owned by the Levi Strauss family Haas after Grey. Little has changed since then except for the addition of a few more structures built by the Haas family. It was cool to see one of Grey's river boats, to peer into his one-room cabin, to view the old garden and grass airstrip, and to wonder in one's imagination about back then when he roamed these grounds steeped in solitude. Note: there have been 112 movies based on Zane Grey books.

The Rogue has been the recreation and visiting grounds for many famous people including Bing Crosby, Clark Gable, Tyrone Power, journalist Ernie Pyle, author William Faulkner, actress Ginger Rogers and my friend actress Kim Novak.

  Rogue free float   Garden House Paradise Lodge  
  Rogue River grave  



Rogue River Paradise Lodge balcony

Rogue River Paradise Lodge breakfast
  Rogue River Paradise Lodge  
  Rogue River Paradise Lodge room   Rogue River rapids fun  
Rogue River guides
  Rogue River free jump  
  Rogue River merganser   Rogue River mergansers  
  Rogue guide Mike Hale   Rogue River Paradise Lodge morning  
Rogue River cooling off
  Rogue River Osprey  
Rogue River summer fun




Rogue River waterfall

  Rogue River turtles   Rogue River is wild  


Day two on the river was epic. Actually, any day on the river is epic. Leaving Black Bear—after a hale and hearty breakfast—we slipped back into the kingdom of solitary wildness. It was a day blessed by wild creatures and wilderness. I photographed bear, bald eagles, osprey, turkey vulture, mergansers, water ousels, songbirds. In this wilderness, we hiked, we swam, we kayaked, we jumped in the water and let the current take us supported by our buoyant life preservers, we visited Zane Grey's cabin, we passed by the Rogue River Ranch, we hiked up a creek and slid down a chute into pristine waters. Mule Canyon got our attention and it was sublime. We were challenged and exalted by the famous Class IV and V Blossom Bar and the Picket Fence and then we arrived at the Paradise Lodge for a late afternoon and evening of self-pampering. We did not want to leave Paradise. We would have given ourselves to its embrace for another week!

Rog River Howard Creek dip
  Rogue River brother and sister  
  Rogue River kayaker   Rogue River duel  
  Rogue River beach  

Rogue River lunch stop

  Howard Creek dive   Rogue River kayaking  
  Rogue River kayaker   Rogue River group  


After a lovely and leisurely morning at Paradise, we reluctantly slipped into our raft transports for the final Rogue River passage on our Wilderness Lodge to Lodge trip. As always, any Paradise is hard to leave. We had bear prints in our raft from the evening before. A good sign. The wild opportunists looking for human crumbs! The hollowed morning light in the canyon was sublime, ethereal, heavenly, introspective. How could we leave when we just arrived at the perfect place where we wanted to be?

After Paradise, there is plenty of wildness left in the canyon. Eventually, civilization reveals itself as you near the takeout at Foster Bar. Reluctantly, we pulled in as the trip was coming to an end. I wanted to continue on with the river, and the river, with me. We seem to always have deadlines...this story, this trip, all trips, all aspects in life. But remember, an ending is also another beginning, and a river, like the Rogue runs through us all. I like the meaning of this river.

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