OWSR No. 24: Upper Rogue River
- Begins at the border of Crater Lake National Park
- Includes the famous Takelma Gorge
- The Rogue River emerges from lava tubes at Natural Bridge
- Followed by the 47.1 mile Upper Rogue River Trail
Emily Little Paddling Takelma Gorge on the Upper Rogue River
| Photo: John Nestler
- Managing Agency: Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest
- Designated Stretch: From the Crater Lake National Park
boundary to the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest boundary at
- Designation Length: 40.3 miles (6.1 miles Wild and 34.2
- Outstanding Remarkable Values: Scenic, cultural-historic,
geologic-geohydrologic, water quality-quantity, and botanic resource
- Wild and Scenic River Designation: October 28,
Celebrated by Emily Little, Peter Tooley, and John Nestler on August 14,
2017 by paddling from Natural Bridge to River Bridge.
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.
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.
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