NW Kids: River rafting for Families on the Rogue River

May 19, 2015

Guide to Rogue River Rafting and Floating

By Amy Whitley

Photo at right: The author’s son, Calvin, age 11, paddles an inflatable kayak in Mule Canyon on the lower Rogue River. Photo by Amy Whitley


For our Southern Oregonian kids, it’s not officially summer until we’ve packed the car with inflatable kayaks, oars, and life jackets and headed out for a day on the Rogue River.

With a split personality of tranquility and whitewater, the Rogue has something for everyone, from thrill-inducing whitewater to leisurely floats. Here’s where to go and what to plan.

Self-guided Rogue rafting

Head to the Upper Rogue, starting with put-in at the Lost Creek Dam and meandering to the heart of Shady Cove, Oregon. This 10-mile stretch includes fun riffles and Class I-II rapids easily navigated by newbies.

On weekends, families won’t be alone on the water, but impromptu water fights and a general sense of camaraderie are part of the package. Stop for a picnic lunch where Elk Creek meets the Rogue at Rogue Elk County Park campground at about 3–4 miles, or one hour on the rafts from put-in.

Plan to be on the river about four hours. Rafting rental companies in Shady Cove will shuttle families to the start as part of their rental expense, and for those bringing their own rafts, they’ll shuttle a family group for approximately $5 per person.

If you’re bringing your own rafts or kayaks, they will allow you to inflate on-site and will transport them for you if you’re paying for their shuttle service.

Alternatively, the Lower Rogue offers a family-friendly section from Galice to the start of the permit-only Wild and Scenic section, beginning at Almeda Bar. This stretch of the river includes long sections of still water, ideal for family floats with plenty of swimming. Put in near Morrison’s River Lodge or Galice Resort, where daily rentals are available.

Multi-day guided trips

The Rogue Wild and Scenic section runs 84 miles from below Galice to just shy of Gold Beach on the Oregon coast. Well-worth a multi-day rafting trip with kids, this section of the river includes rapids up to Class IV and must be navigated either with a guided rafting operation or by permit (experience needed).

We spent five blissful days on the water with O.A.R.S. Rafting; en route we saw plenty of experienced families paddling their own rafts, plus multiple additional Northwest-based multi-day operations.

Whitewater Park

Located along the Middle Rogue, the new Gold Hill Whitewater Center offers a world-class course at Ti’lomihk Falls. Easy to find from Interstate 5, families can stop by in summer to watch experts navigating the falls on kayaks and SUPs. Be sure to catch the King of the Rogue competition at Gold Hill on July 11, 2015.

If You Go:

Proper gear is always needed on the Rogue River. Here are our recommendations:

Life Jackets: Must be worn at all times by kids under 12, and stowed for easy access for all adults.
Sun Protection: Wear UV-blocking sun shirts and hats, and wear sunglasses on the water.
Hydrate: Bring plenty of water or other hydrating drinks, even if you’ll only be rafting a few hours.

Base Camps:

Morrison’s Rogue River Lodge is a great base camp for Lower Rogue adventures. See our online story at www.outdoorsnw.com/2015/morrisons-rogue-river-lodge
Gold Hill White Water Center: www.goldhillwhitewater.org
OARS Rafting: www.oars.com

Amy Whitley of Medford, Ore., writes about her family adventures in NW Kids in every edition of OutdoorsNW. Miss a column? Log onto www.OutdoorsNW.com and search NW Kids. You can follow more of Amy’s adventures at www.PitStopsforKids.com