Last updated on September 3rd, 2020
Luxury comes in many forms. There is the obvious five star hotel with concierge service and private infinity pool type of luxury. But for me, experiencing the solitude of pristine, unspoiled wilderness is a more important form of luxury. A lodge to lodge Rogue River rafting trip gave me that experience with the added comfort of sleeping in a bed and hot showers at the end of each day, along with hearty home cooked meals and fine local Oregon wines. Now that is five star luxury indeed.
A Rogue River Rafting Trip
Plop-swish. Plop-swish. Plop-swish.
As my raft floated quietly down the Rogue River, the plop and swish of the oars was the only man made sound I heard. The sky was clear and blue. The sun was warm. The hills and mountains through which the river cut its path were covered in native greenery as far as the eye could see.
The solitude was broken only by the sound of rushing water as we approached a rapid. My guide Tom skillfully maneuvered the large raft as if it were just a simple canoe, positioning it expertly through the rushing foam. We bounced and jostled and got only wet enough to take the edge off the heat. And then we floated peacefully again. Plop-swish. Plop-swish. Until the next rapids. And repeat.
For three days I was totally off the grid with only mother nature and our small group of guides and rafters for company. Time slowed down to the pace of the meandering Rogue. Except when we went through the rapids, then time sped up and the thrills never seemed quite long enough.
I had always wanted to try a multi day whitewater rafting trip, but I was not sure about the sleeping-in-a-tent aspect of such an experience. My husband and I used to tent camp when we were first married, but these days I prefer the comfort of a bed with a mattress and indoor plumbing. Then I discovered the ROW Adventures Rogue River lodge to lodge whitewater rafting trip in Oregon, and that seemed to be the perfect option.
The Rogue River is in southwest Oregon. It begins its westward journey near Crater Lake and continues about 215 miles to its end in the Pacific Ocean. It was one of the first eight rivers designated as a Wild and Scenic River in 1968 and today, the lower portion of the Rogue has been called one of the best whitewater runs in the U.S.
The Rogue’s rugged outdoor attractions has a long history. In fact, in the 1930’s and 1940’s the peaceful scenery and good fishing along the Rogue River attracted many famous Hollywood personalities like Clark Gable, Bing Crosby and Ginger Rogers. Even though on screen, Ginger Rogers dazzled as she danced in heels and glamorous evening gowns, off screen she was quite an avid fisherwoman, trading in the heels for wading boots, and for many years owning a ranch along the Rogue.
My Rogue River Rafting Experience
My trip started with a safety briefing the evening before we were scheduled to set out. Here, I also met our five guides and the other members of our rafting group. The 21 participants were diverse in both age and location demographics. There was a group of 9 men who had been doing an annual friends adventure trip for about 40 years – most of them were from California. There were two adult daughters from Atlanta and their 75 year old father who lived (and jogged regularly) in Seattle. There was a retired couple from Annapolis for whom this was their first trip to the Northwest. There was a younger couple in their thirties from Florida who were taking a getaway trip from their very young children. There was a family of four from Tennessee with a 10 year old girl and a 13 year old boy. And of course, there was also me.
We were all given a large waterproof bag for our three days of clothes, toiletries, etc., and a small waterproof daybag for those things we wanted to keep handy while we were on the raft (sunscreen, cameras, phones, etc.). Of course, each person was also given a life jacket which they were required to wear any time they were in the water or on a raft. We also used a bright yellow safety helmet to wear while kayaking.
I looked quite stylish in my black swim leggings, bright blue swim shorts, striped long sleeve swim shirt, orange vest and yellow helmet-NOT! Wearing all those bright colors, I was certainly not going to be hard to spot if I fell into the water.
With five guides we had five rafts. Two rafts primarily carried supplies and were paddled solely by the guide. The front of one of these rafts had a seat where those that did not want to paddle could sit and just enjoy the scenery go by (I will admit that this was me because I wanted to focus on taking photos which is hard to do if you’re paddling). In the other three rafts, the participants sat on the edge of the raft and helped paddle according to the instructions given by their guide.
Our days had an informal rhythm. A hearty early breakfast, rafting, a short stop to see a local sight, a little more rafting, then a delicious riverside lunch, followed by some more rafting, another short stop, and then rafting to our lodge for the evening R&R and more good food and drink.
We also had opportunities for floating downriver in the calm sections or trying our hand at individual paddling in inflatable kayaks, also in the calmer sections. I did both. I took my trip in early July, and while the air temperature was warm in the middle of the day, the water temperature was a wee bit nippy when I first got in.
I also tried the kayaking for a short distance – my first time ever paddling a kayak on a river. This certainly gave me an appreciation for the skill and hard work that paddling the rafts requires. I had to work to keep the kayak going where I wanted it to, even though I was in the “calm” part of the river.
Our skilled raft guides made going through the rapids fun and easy and I never once felt like I was in danger. The majority of the rapids were a class II and III which generated some bouncing and just a little splashing. When we approached a class IV rapid, the guides stopped to check it out first before we went through, and it was not a problem. For the single class V rapid, we all hiked around it as the guides skillfully took the rafts through the chute (which looked like fun). I found that our guides on this trip were extremely safety conscious and conservative which made it possible for us to focus on just having a great time.
Our Rogue River Rafting Guides
I have to say that I was very impressed with all of our guides. We had three female (Maddie, Jules and Kate) and two male guides (Tom and Matthew), varying in age from early twenties to early fifties. All of them had a lot of rafting and guiding experience and had been guiding on the Rogue for a many years.
Beyond their skills on the river, they were also extremely personable as guides. They were able to keep a group with diverse backgrounds and ages (10 to 75) entertained, engaged and smiling. They clearly loved what they were doing and were enthusiastic about sharing their love for the Rogue River experience with us.
After hours, our guides’ other talents came out as well. Maddie engaged the kids in craft projects and games. On the first evening, Tom pulled out a telescope and had us moon and star gazing. Jules had studied music and singing and on the second evening, serenaded us after dinner with her lovely folksy voice. Tom had worked at many summer camps and he also pulled up a guitar and had us taking part in various campfire songs.
The Lodges on the Rogue River
The lodges that we stayed at were historic and quite comfortable. I liked that their design fit in with the scenic outdoor environment, which for me really added to the experience.
Our rafting trip started and ended at the Morrison’s Rogue River Lodge (note-the cost of the lodging on the night before the rafting trip starts was not included in the price of the trip). The lodging options vary from hotel type rooms to cabins of varying sizes. The lodge has an on-site restaurant for its guests and a store for any last minute supplies. I especially appreciated the laundry room (I was midway into a two week Oregon road trip, so being able to wash clothes was a nice bonus). I also appreciated the bathroom and shower that was available at the end of the rafting trip where I could get cleaned up before leaving.
I stayed in one of the cabin studio rooms which I found to be spacious, clean and quite comfortable.
My stay here on our first night on the river was in one of the rustic log cabins. The room was clean and comfortable and I definitely appreciate the en suite bath with shower and toilet out here in the wilderness. The Black Bar was built in 1934 and in its day, played host to Hollywood celebrities like Gregory Peck, Clark Gable and Ginger Rogers. A scrapbook at the lodge had fascinating newspaper article clippings depicting the long history of the lodge, including one piece about the visit here by First Lady Laura Bush.
As we enjoyed snacks and a glass of wine on the deck of the Marial Lodge, it felt like we were staying in a tree house. The lodge’s living area was a very comfortable gathering spot with many books about the local area, board games, and even a few musical instruments that anyone could use. One interesting detail was the guide’s hall of fame where each river guide had his or her own mug displayed. Again, my room here was rustic but quite pleasant.
All the lodges had electricity for charging my camera batteries and my phone, but no cell signal.
The food was fantastic, under any circumstances. Lunches were freshly prepared and colorfully presented at a picnic spot along the river and included plenty of fresh choices for all dietary needs. There were plenty of drink options as well, including a selection of sodas.
Breakfast and dinners were served family style in the large dining rooms at both the Black Bar and Marial lodges. This was good home-style comfort food cooking that tasted great after a day of exercise on the water.
There were also plenty of pre-dinner snacks and adult beverage choices in the way of local wines and beers.
All this great food and drink definitely added to the vacation experience.
The Sights on the Rogue River
Each day we made short stops and hiked a little way to various historic sights. At each stop, one of the guides gave a short informative talk about the sight and its history.
Whiskey Creek Cabin
The Whiskey Creek cabin is one of the few remaining relics from the Rogue River gold rush days. Occupied for almost 100 years, the cabin may have been simple, but did not lack in comforts as each owner made improvements. By the 1950’s there was a solar heated shower, piped running water from a nearby stream and a water wheel that generated enough electricity to light the cabin.
Zane Gray cabin
Zane Gray was a novelist in the early part of the 20th century whose popular western stories made him a household name, especially once his books were turned into westerns for the big screen. In 1925 Zane took a boat down the Rogue and fell in love with the landscape. He bought land here and built a cabin where he could indulge his passion for fishing and have the peace and quiet that he craved for his writing.
Rogue River Ranch National Historic Site
For almost one hundred years the Rogue River Ranch existed under two different incarnations. At the turn of the 20th century the Billings family set up a homestead here where they established a trading company, post office and boarding house. In 1931 Stanley Anderson purchased the property and painted the house its current apple red color. Stanley was a Hollywood businessman who owned the Beverly Hills Hotel and used this property on the Rogue to entertain his Hollywood friends.
I always enjoy learning about the history of the places where I travel so for me, these short stops really added to the Rogue River rafting experience.
Packing for a Rogue River Rafting Trip
ROW Adventures provided a very thorough packing list. Since this rafting trip was part of a longer trip for me, I left my large luggage at Morrison’s Lodge and only took two packing cubes with clothes and a toiletry kit for the tree day trip. These went into the large waterproof duffel bag that ROW Adventures gave us.
On the river I focused on quick dry clothes that protected me from the sun. I wore swim leggings, swim shorts, a swim suit top and a long sleeved swim tee over that, plus a hat and sunglasses. I rinsed all this out each night and wore it all again on the river the next day. On my feet I wore a pair of Teva sandals the whole time. I was not stylish, but I also did not get sun burned and everything dried quickly after getting wet.
For the evenings I packed lightweight long pants, long sleeved shirts and hiking socks to provide protection from bugs. I also packed a lightweight fleece jacket and a light rain jacket. I did need the fleece in the mornings, but fortunately, we had three perfect sunny days, so did not need the rain jacket.
What I liked
- Everything. The guides were great; the food was delicious; the lodges were comfortable; the scenery was beautiful; the rafting was fun, and the solitude was regenerative.
- I particularly loved that I could experience an unspoiled wilderness setting for three days without having to backpack or camp.
- I especially liked being off the digital and electronic grid for three days.
- I really appreciated that this was a trip that was thoroughly enjoyed by a group that spanned ages 10 to 75. I look forward to doing this with my grandchildren one day when they are old enough.
- My trip was the first week of July and we had perfect weather all three days of the trip. The day temperatures were warm enough to go swimming in the river and the evening temperatures were comfortable.
What I struggled With
- ROW Adventures did a fantastic job and there was nothing I disliked about my rafting experience with them.
- When the trip was over, I wished it could have been a few days longer.
- Unfortunately, jet boats are allowed on the portion of the Rogue River near the coast, so for the last hour or so of the trip, the peace and quiet was spoiled by their noise. Still, I felt good about knowing that I had experienced the Rogue in a way that the folks on the jet boats never would.
This was my first multi-day rafting experience and I absolutely loved it. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I am thinking about doing another rafting trip and braving the sleeping-in-a-tent bit. Ultimately, I want to raft through the Grand Canyon!
You can read about more of my Oregon adventures at https://quiltripping.com/category/travel/north-america/usa/oregon/
Please note that my rafting trip was hosted by ROW Adventures. All content is my own.
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