OWSR No. 24: Upper Rogue River

Emily kayaking Takelma Gorge on the Rogue River

Emily Little Paddling Takelma Gorge on the Upper Rogue River | Photo: John Nestler

Quick Facts

  • Managing Agency: Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest (USFS)
  • Designated Stretch: From the Crater Lake National Park boundary to the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest boundary at Prospect.
  • Designation Length: 40.3 miles (6.1 miles Wild and 34.2 miles Scenic)
  • Outstanding Remarkable Values: Scenic, cultural-historic, geologic-geohydrologic, water quality-quantity, and botanic resource
  • Wild and Scenic River Designation: October 28, 1988

More Information

Celebrated by Emily Little, Peter Tooley, and John Nestler on August 14, 2017 by paddling from Natural Bridge to River Bridge.


Takelma GorgeJohn Nestler: Of all the rivers flowing through Southern Oregon, the Upper Rogue hold a certain kind of intrigue. Its whitewater is significantly harder and its walls narrower than many rivers in the area. The cool, clear water runs year round and allow for summertime boating when many other runs are too low to attempt. As a guide on the Wild & Scenic section of the Lower Rogue River, coming up to to do runs such as Natural Bridge and Takelma Gorge continually reminds me of the beauty of the headwaters of the river I guide on so often.

These sections not only test your paddling skills, but also provide a taste of what the untamed Rogue is. Enormous logs continually survive the previous year’s high water to guard the entrance to Takelma Gorge, and water gushes through a lava tube at the start of Natural Bridge. These sights remind one of the power of water, and quickly draw you into their beauty. I will continually return to this section for the impressive canyon, consistent water flows, and some of the best summer whitewater in the region.

Emily Kayaking on the Upper Rogue RiverEmily Little: After many trips down the Lower Rogue River, it was a treat to see the free flowing North Fork of the Rogue above the Lost Creek Dam. While most rivers are drying up during the hot months of the summer, the North Fork Rogue maintains a steady flow of water from the springs flowing out of the old lava tubes. Takelma Gorge is one section of the North Fork that offers quality class IV/IV+ kayaking when everything else is too low to paddle. This section can be tricky to run because the river gorges out into a very narrow canyon with not a lot of room for error. Fortunately for first timers down the Gorge, the Upper Rogue River Trail runs above the gorge and all the rapids can be scouted ahead of time.

We took our time walking along the trail and looking over the rim to scout our lines. Seldom runs have a trail offering a bird's eye view of the rapids, making this run doable to do without any knowledge of the lines. After writing down notes about how to run each of the pool drop rapids, we hiked back to our boats. The entrance to the gorge is a long class III/IV rapid with some potentially hazardous wood to avoid on the right. The next few rapids were really fun technical moves. During the flat water in between rapids, I was awestruck by the beauty of the gorge. The conglomerate rock offers unique geology to the rest of the Rogue.

About half way through the gorge there is a river wide log. Luckily, there is an easy portage around it on river right with good, small, eddy to catch. After the log portage is a longer, wider, boulder filled rapid with a couple different flow dependent lines. The gorge finishes with a few more fun drops and abruptly stops as the canyon opens back up.

This is my go to summer run for getting back in my kayak on some more challenging, quality whitewater after a spring and summer of raft guiding.

Snowman on the way to the Upper RogueZach Collier: In the early 2000s I was living in California and planned to paddle on the Smith River with some friends over winter break. It hadn't rained in months so there was absolutely no water anywhere. After some research we found that the only places to paddle in the West were the Upper Klamath, Upper Rogue, and White Salmon. Both the Upper Rogue and White Salmon have reliable water due to volcanic springs. We made the drive north and paddled the Upper Klamath first.

We then went to run the Takelma Gorge section of the Rogue River. The gate to the put-in at Natural Bridges was closed so we had to drag our kayaks through the snow. We had an absolute blast and paddled it 3 times that first day. We spent another day there paddling Takelma Gorge and other sections of the Upper Rogue.

Learn about Oregon Wild and Scenic River No. 25: Big Marsh Creek >>


Northwest Rafting Company Exploratory Division