(Upper) Rogue River, Oregon
U.S. Forest Service, Rogue River National Forest
October 28, 1988. From the Crater Lake National Park boundary downstream to the Rogue River National Forest boundary at Prospect.
Wild — 6.1 miles; Scenic — 34.2 miles; Total — 40.3 miles.
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(Upper) Rogue River
From the Crater Lake National Park boundary downstream to Prospect, this section of the Rogue is paralleled by a major highway and tourist route from the park. Its diverse landscape includes pumice flats, deep gorges and chutes, and unique ecological systems.
The Upper Rogue is fed by snowmelt and springs originating on the peaks of the Cascade Range, including the slopes of Mt. Mazama—the volcanic caldera that contains Crater Lake. Along the uppermost portion of the Upper Rogue, the river is narrow and shallow but very swift. Numerous moss-draped snags of lodgepole pines and other trees that have fallen across the river slow its pace only a little. The river has, for a two-mile stretch, carved more than 200' down into the Mazama pumice (which was deposited about 8,000 years ago during the explosion that created Crater Lake). This sheer, white-walled canyon, with the whitewater river glinting in the sunlight far below, is a favorite sight for travelers along Highway 230.
Downstream, the Upper Rogue passes through the narrow, turbulent Rogue Gorge of black lava—and soon plunges entirely underground (into a lava tube) for about 250 feet at Natural Bridge. Interpretive trails at both of these places provide good views of the river, with signs that explain the natural history. Fed by tributaries such as Union Creek and Flat Creek, the river subsequently flows through rugged Takelma Gorge, well out of sight of any road. The Upper Rogue features several waterfalls, although the more spectacular falls are located on tributaries National Creek and Muir Creek.
The entire length of the Upper Rogue Wild and Scenic River is closely followed by the Upper Rogue River Trail, designated a National Recreation Trail. Because of the various road crossings, much of this hiker-only trail (open to equestrians for short sections near Hamaker Campground) is easily traveled for short segments at a time.
In addition to its clear, clean water and scenic beauty, the Upper Rogue is notable for its history. Parallel to Highway 62 between Farewell Bend and Natural Bridge, it passes through part of the Union Creek Historic District, listed on the National Register of Historic Places for the rustic 1920s-30s buildings at Union Creek Resort and the nearby former ranger station. At Union Creek Wayside, a traveler's comfort station along Highway 62, an interpretive kiosk tells the history of Union Creek.
A number of people have drowned in the Upper Rogue over the years, drawn to its banks to take a look but then foolishly entering the powerful current. The Upper Rogue is considered extremely hazardous for whitewater boating due to its gorges, chutes, and many obstructions—ranging from "sweeper" logs across the river to the underground section at Natural Bridge.
Certain portions of the main scenic section of the Upper Rogue are open to private (non-commercial) whitewater boating, with hard-shell kayaks being the most appropriate and preferred craft. The entire Wild section of the Upper Rogue and some portions of the Scenic sections are closed (by U.S. Forest Service order) to all boating. In the portions of the river that are open to private boating, obstructions and other hazards are common; this is a river for experienced-to-expert boaters.