Due to the popularity of rafting and camping on the Rogue, obtaining a permit can be a challenge, however, it also means an incredible support structure for shuttles, rafts and gear rentals. In this article we break down factors involved in organizing a private rafting trip on the Rogue River. This includes deciding when raft the Rogue, how to get a permit (including cancellations), where to rent gear, reserve shuttles, and information for making the most out of your time on the river.
When to Raft the Rogue
Ideal flows between 4,000 and 1,200 cfs typically exist after spring runoff (mid-June) through the fall. Spring rains and snow runoff can make the river much higher. Above 6000 cfs the river changes character a bit.
During the priority season from May 15 through October 15, the Forest Service and BLM limit private launches to a total 120 people per day on the Wild & Scenic section of the Rogue River. Not surprising, summer launch dates with school out of session prove the most challenging dates to win.
Pre/Post Season Trips
With no limit on the number of people that launch per day, October 16th to May 14th is the pre and post control season where self-issued permits are required and can be picked up at the Smullin Visitor Center and Grave Creek Boat Launch Access.
Applying for Permits
The best way to get win any lottery is to have more chances. Having all your group members apply for the lottery means you are more likely to win. It also helps to be trying for a small number of spaces on a date. If there are 11 spaces left on a day and you are wanting 12, you will not get that date but if you were wanting 11 or less you would get the date.
- Rogue River Lottery opens for applications: December 1 – January 31.
- Lottery results emailed to winners on February 15.
- Permit confirmation required at least 10 days prior to launch date.
Figuring out your Group
Private permits allow groups of up to 20 people to run the river in up to 5 nights and 6 days. Keeping groups around 12 or less usually works best. Bigger groups become difficult to manage during the planning and trip running stages plus it makes getting a launch more challenging.
I like to invite people who I know are worker bees that like to chip in and are efficient at rigging and derigging their rafts. I’m also hesitant to have friends of friends on trips particularly if I haven’t done a trip with the primary friend before.
Picking up open dates can be done two ways. First are the open pool dates. The open pool dates are dates that never got handed out during the lottery. The second, common pool dates, are launch spaces that become available during the season due to a permit holder not confirming or cancelling a trip or a portion of spaces on a trip. As with the lottery it is much easier to get find enough spaces for a smaller group than a larger one.
Picking up open pool dates can be done by phone (541-479-3735) from 8:00 AM to 3:00 PM (PDT) daily starting the first business day of April each year.
Common Pool Cancellations
After the open pool dates are filled there are still canceled or not confirmed spaces that become available in the common pool.
Non-confirmed spaces are the best way to pick up a launch. Since confirmation is required 10 days prior to launch, spaces become available 9 days prior to launch at 8 AM. If you are looking for a launch on March 20 call on March 11th. Cancelled spaces can become available at any time. Check availability online and reserve by calling 541-479-3735.
If you don’t get a permit on the Rogue or if you need a back up incase you don’t get a cancellation here are some other fun nearby runs.
- Klamath – A nice 3-day class III trip from Happy Camp to Green Riffle. Dragon’s Tooth is a bigger class – IV rapid on the level of difficulty of Blossom Bar. Ukonom Creek makes for an excellent hike. Upstream of Happy Camp is an easier Class II run with nice scenery. Klamath runs all summer.
- Lower Owyhee – need to go early season. Class II with outstanding scenery. Can be cold.
How many Days
Four day trips are probably the most popular length of trip but it is also possible to do the trip in 3 or 5 days. For a 3 day trip there is minimal time for hiking and exploring. Many groups do a layover day on 5 day trips. It is also nice to take out early in the morning on your last day if group members want to do a long drive. Trips can be a maximum of 7 days.
Whitewater Cowboys has taken over running shuttles on the Rogue River since the Galice Resort burned down. During the summer, shuttles over Bear Camp Road cost $159. At times during the Spring, Fall and Winter snow causes closure of Bear Camp making the shuttle longer and more expensive ($229 – $299).
Raft Rentals on the Rogue
In Merlin, the Whitewater Cowboys rent rafts for around $460 ($115/day) for a 4 day trip. If you want them to pick-up and drop off your raft at put-in as well as shuttle your personal car to take out it they will charge you $710 for the first raft and $585 for each additional raft. Additional cars are $135/car. People also rent gear from here to take on the Klamath River. Whitewater cowboys also rents other items like groovers (toilets), river kitchens, paddles, life jackets, stoves, inflatable kayaks, etc…
The BLM/Forest Service require the following items even if you don’t plan to use them.
- Portable Toilet (space for group for all nights)
- Permit (during permit season)
- Oregon Aquatic Invasive Species Permit (required for each craft 10 ft or longer)
- Personal Flotation Device (for each person)
- Sound making device (whistle or airhorn)
Planning food for a 3 or 4 day trip can be overwhelming. Most groups simplify this by splitting into cook crews and having each crew bring a specific set of meals. For example have 3 cook crews for a 4 day trip, where each crew makes a dinner, than does the following breakfast and lunch. Simplify even more by only doing group meals for dinner and have everyone bring their own breakfasts and lunches. The last option is nice since people have different daytime eating habits and need for snacks.
While camping along the Rogue is extremely scenic, it can also be tricky. Since there are no assigned camps, commercial outfitters typically send a speed boat out in the morning to procure a camp for that evening. Sometimes you’ll be enjoying your first cup of coffee when they pull into your eddy.
The next issue is small groups will take large camps creating additional camp stress. Try to take a camp appropriate for your group size. If you are a small group in a large camp don’t be surprised if another group asks to share your camp.
Camping around the Rogue River Ranch above Mule Creek Canyon routinely gets congested with groups layover there multiple nights on 7 day trips. Here is an excellent map with guide to camps along the Rogue. Camp information starts on page 8.
Depending upon the time of year it is possible to stay at 5 lodges along the wilderness section of the river: Black Bar, Marial, Paradise, Half Moon Bar, and Clay Hill. Most groups doing lodge rafting trips will stay at two of the lodges and raft for 3 days.
- Leave campsites and stops in pristine condition by following Leave No Trace principles
- Discard urine and strained wastewater into the river or away from campsites and more than 200 feet from side streams.
- Pack out all trash, keep and eye out for small “micro-trash”.
- Protect fish habitat by keeping streams and the river free of non-naturally occurring substances. In the spring and fall avoid disturbing gravel beds that may contain fish eggs.
- Laws protect cultural sites and artifacts. Look with your eyes so they stay intact for all to experience.
- Regulations require fire pans for open fires within 400 feet of the river. Carry out ashes. At times special fire restrictions may ban open fires.
- Keep a safe distance from wildlife. Discourage animals from coming into camp by keeping it clean and never offer food to wild animals.
Bears commonly hangout along the river particularly during the late summer and fall when the salmon run starts. Over the years many bears have become too comfortable around people and will enter camps to eat food. Follow BLM and Forest Service recommendations regarding protecting the bears and your food.
Concluding thought on Private Rogue Trips
Finding the right group of people and keeping your logistics simple will make for an incredible trip down the Rogue River. Be sure to have everyone apply for dates and have a back up option that allows you to try to pick up a cancellation. Learn more general information about rafting the Rogue.