A Journey Down the Rogue River with Travel Bloggers, Martin and Suzi
Ever since my husband Martin and I first met, we’ve been avid globetrotters. From the jungles of Central America to the bustling wet markets of Southeast Asia and the romantic villages of Europe, we’ve traversed 10 countries together in less than a decade. International travel is our main love, but lately, it's been hard to get overseas. Our three-day excursion with ROW Adventures was one of the first memorable trips that really made us want to focus on traveling within our home country.
How It Started
In July 2019, my parents suddenly asked if we could take their place on the Rogue River whitewater rafting trip the following month. We accepted, but with some doubt. First, this was a trip that my mother had talked about doing ever since I was little. There was some guilt in taking her dream trip, so that was one reason why we heavily documented the trip with video. Second, unlike the previous escapades that we planned, booked, and executed ourselves, this trip would be spearheaded by ROW Adventures, an adventure tourism company. Maybe it was the fear of having a cookie-cutter experience or losing the freedom to fully plan our trip, but the idea of traveling with a tour company didn’t make us jump with joy.
Nonetheless, in August 2019, we found ourselves in Merlin, Oregon, ready for what would turn out to be the experience of a lifetime.
About the Rogue River
Located in southwestern Oregon, the Rogue River originates in the Cascade Range near Crater Lake and runs 215 miles to the Pacific Ocean. Full of salmon runs and rugged beauty, humans have lived along the Rogue River for at least 8,500 years. Today, the river attracts visitors keen on hiking, fishing, and white water rafting the famous “Wild & Scenic” river.
What to Pack for a Whitewater Rafting Trip
As long-time Seattle residents, we had an idea of what to pack. However, we were grateful for the packing list email reminder that ROW sent us before we embarked on the trip. ROW Adventures provides two waterproof dry bags and life vests, but the rest of the gear is up to you. In particular, Keen sandals were essential since they are water shoes with excellent traction that also cover and protect your toes.
For aspiring Instagram influencers or those wanting to capture photo memories, leave the expensive cameras at home. Instead, opt for a waterproof camera like a GoPro or Olympus Tough point and shoot. Or get a waterproof case for your phone. If you bring a camera, don’t forget a tether to clip it to your life vest so that you don’t lose it when hitting a rogue rapid.
Rogue River Trip Itinerary
The trip kicked off on a Thursday evening at Morrison’s Lodge where all participants got a 1-hour orientation. No previous rafting experience is required, so the orientation is crucial for learning the basics. This was a group trip with 8 participants and 4 guides. Group members included father-son duos, recent retiree couples, and families with teens and children who just barely made the 7-year-old cutoff. The wonderfully diverse group made for lots of socializing among different types of people. This is a dynamic often missing in our self-led travels.
Our 3-day trip would involve rafting 45 miles down the Rogue River on up to Class II-IV rapids. For those who don’t speak rafting, Class II rapids are relatively easy; Class IV rapids are a lot steeper, longer, and more technical. Suffice to say that we were hoping for more of the latter on this trip (spoiler alert: we got what we wanted!).
River Rafting Begins!
Our trip began bright and early Friday morning at Morrison’s Lodge. We were shuttled to the Rand Boat Launch where our guides and 4 large rafts were waiting. After another safety orientation, we divided into the rafts. There are three rafts to choose from. Two for those that want to actively paddle, one for a couple that wants a leisurely ride. The final raft is strictly for carrying our baggage.
Martin and I bee-lined for a paddling raft, choosing to sit in front. Within minutes of setting off, we quickly appreciated wearing water-resistant long pants and shirts despite the August heat. Those sitting at the front of the raft are in the splash zone, and the Rogue River water temperatures are far from warm.
Much of the first morning is spent learning how to paddle in sync with the rest of your raft, while also learning about your new paddle mates and guides. The rafts move at a leisurely pace, but there are many moments when the entire raft becomes a splash zone. Speaking of which, splash fights are encouraged during sweltering moments of the day for fun and to cool off.
There are many opportunities to jump out of the raft and swim, or even jump off of mini-cliffs along the way. There are also stops along the way that offer hikes to cultural sites along the river, such as the historic Rogue River Ranch.
Guides hand out energy bars throughout the day, but bringing your own water bottle is encouraged to keep hydrated. Around midday, the rafts pull over for lunch. Guides prepare the feast of sandwiches and salad while everyone else stretches their legs. After lunch, we are given the option to switch boats if desired, and we set off down the river.
The Rogue River rafting trip comes in 2 flavors: tent camping or lodge-to-lodge. Had we booked this trip for ourselves, we would have opted for camping. However, we quickly appreciated not having to pitch a tent every night. Having a hot shower and comfortable bed to sleep in wasn't too shabby either. It turns out that most whitewater rafting trips ONLY offer camping. The Rogue River trip is one of the only places in the USA where you can do lodge rafting trips and spend each night in a lodge.
We stayed in two lodges that only accommodate lodge rafting trips, Black Bear Lodge, and Marial Lodge. While the lodges are not luxurious, they provide what you need after a long day on river. After all, the days end up being so packed full of activities, that all you have time to do at the lodge is eat dinner and rest up for the next day.
Speaking of food, each lodge outdid itself with the food. Each night, our freshly showered river rafting crew assembled around the dinner table for a home-cooked meal. From pot roast to made-from-scratch fried chicken, those dinners were easily the highlight of every evening. Maybe it was our hunger talking, but some of the best meals we’ve had in Oregon were at the Rogue River lodges.
Both lodges were wonderful in their own ways. Black Bear Lodge had a herd of deer that ate apples straight from your hand. But Marial Lodge was probably our favorite because it was right next to a splendid hiking trail. After dinner, one of our guides led our group on an optional evening hike that led down the river canyon. It was eye-opening to experience the canyon on foot after drifting through them for so long.
In the End
After three days on the Rogue River, it was difficult to return to civilization. There was no cell phone reception throughout the entire trip. Thus, most people did not bring phones or electronic devices. Everyone was grateful for an excuse to get away from technology. Immersing purely in nature and the company of other humans does wonders for the soul.
For Martin and I, we quickly shed the notion that traveling with a tour company had to be a negative experience. We were grateful to spend this trip relishing purely in whitewater rafting and not dealing with travel logistics. We still go about our old ways of traveling today. However, we are much more open to the idea of letting a tour company plan and execute a trip for us after our excellent experience with ROW Adventures. We hope you'll watch our full journey below and follow our travel story at Gemini Connect.