Travel

No ordinary row with the wife

You can expect to get wet at some point on a trip down the Rogue River but hot sun quickly warms chilled limbs.
You can expect to get wet at some point on a trip down the Rogue River but hot sun quickly warms chilled limbs. Jared Cruce

IT is not called the divorce duckie for nothing.

Perched on an innocuous-looking rock that guarded the entrance to a rapid that was barely worth grading, my wife Michelle and I knew what was about to happen next: we were going to join the ROW Adventures swim team.

Sure enough, as the next torrent of water tipped our double-seated inflatable kayak past the perpendicular, in we went.

"Keep hold of the boat," yelled Michelle as we started the exhausting yet strangely exhilarating experience of cascading down a rapid on the outside, rather than the inside, of the boat.

After what seemed like minutes, but was actually a few seconds, we were fished out of the water by a trailing guide, James, like a kid scooping a tadpole out of a fish tank with a net.

A brief, remarkably one-sided inquest established that I was at fault, and we continued down the spectacular Rogue River in a larger, guided boat, the Oregon sun quickly warming our drenched bodies.

Americans hold their rivers in the sort of reverence we hold our beaches. With a land mass 35 times greater than New Zealand, yet with less coastline, rivers are the arteries that connected the States as European settlement worked its way west from the Eastern seaboard.

The country has some 250,000 rivers in total and the eight great rivers - Missouri, Mississippi, Yukon, St Lawrence, Rio Grande, Arkansas, Colorado and Ohio - are as much a part of America's literary landscape as they are its geography.

The Rogue River might not carry as much water as those storied waterways, but it lacks nothing in sheer beauty.

It also has a significant connection to New Zealand. Zane Grey's Tales of the Angler's El Dorado, New Zealand helped establish the Bay of Islands as a premier game-fishing area. His feat of catching 10 striped marlin in one day seems quite grotesque now, but was viewed rather heroically back then.

Grey was also a prolific writer of westerns, with the best-selling Riders of the Purple Sage his most famous. Many of his books were penned in a hut - which we were able to visit - set just back from the banks of the Rogue, where he spent many hours fishing for brown trout, steelhead and the occasional sturgeon.

But ROW Adventures - recognised by National Geographic Adventure as one of the "Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth" - also offers rafting holidays on 20 other rivers across Idaho, Oregon, Montana, Washington, Nevada and even Ecuador.

The guides, uniformly engaging and knowledgeable, tell me that the Middle Fork of the Salmon and the Snake River's Hell's Canyon, both in Idaho, provide some of the most spectacular water in the world. If those two stretches of water can offer more than we got during three days of the Rogue, pencil me in.

"Some have alpine scenery," says co-founder Peter Grubb, a guide for 34 years, "while others are more arid and some like are desert landscapes. The Rogue is a unique coastal mountain ecosystem.

"Each river we run has its own characteristics in terms of the style of whitewater, some have plentiful Indian rock art while others have more in terms of pioneer homesteads and history. Each has its own personality."

A little more than one-quarter of 1 per cent of US rivers are protected by National Wild and Scenic Rivers designations, but that does include most of the 40km stretch of the Rogue we were bouncing down. It is easy to see why the federal Government would want to preserve this chunk of the country.

"It's one of the finest wilderness whitewater rafting trips on the globe," Grubb says.

"Warm water, fun rapids, spectacular scenery, amazing wildlife viewing, superb hiking trails and the uniqueness of lodge-to-lodge rafting or hiking in a wilderness setting."

During the three-day, two-night excursion, we saw eight black bears, at least three bald eagles, deer, otters, some western red-eared sliders (turtles to you and me), countless vultures and even Mr Swordfishtrombones himself, musician Tom Waits (he was floating down the river with another group).

So if it's wildlife you're after, you won't be disappointed. But it's still the water that is the highlight, more specifically the whitewater.

Our trip began with a night of rustic luxury at Morrison's Rogue River Lodge, just outside the small town of Merlin, after which we got a choice of craft, before getting into the river and heading for the ominously named Grave Creek rapids.

We could have chosen the Princess Craft, where you sit on an elevated benchseat as the guide does all the steering and propulsion. Or we could have gone solo in two single-seater duckies.

But we, of course, chose the double divorce duckie.

Very quickly, we noticed that the guides are amazing at piloting these things down some fairly lumpy water. The rapids range from a relatively gentle Grade II to a white-knuckle ride down Grade IVs. Not once, even when I found myself in, rather than on top of, the rapids, did I feel imperilled.

If the water is the focus of the trip, the overnight accommodation isn't far behind. We spent our first night at Black Bar Lodge, a no-frills lodge in a beautiful setting (and with a haunting history, as it happens) where we started to get to know our travelling companions over a few drinks and some terrific food.

Aside from the guides - all men with 1000 stories set in the outdoors - the trip provided a brilliant cross-section of Americans, from your liberal-leaning Democrats to your fully paid-up members of the National Rifle Association. The end-of-day conversations could be as entertaining as the daytime events were enthralling.

The second night was spent at Marial Lodge, with more good food and drink, plus the option of a sunset hike along a trail above Mule Creek Canyon to a spectacular waterfall.

The last day had the gnarliest rapids - Mule Creek Canyon, Blossom Bar and Devil's Staircase - providing a suitably dramatic finale before the take-out at Foster Bar about 40km from the mouth of the river.

By then we had some unforgettable memories of wild water, spectacular scenery and fascinating yarns ... but, above all, of the divorce duckie and a face full of river.

>> Read more travel stories.

Topics:  adventure, oregon, travel, travelling


Stay Connected

Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.

Top five pie locations in Central Queensland

Meat pies at Pie Face.   Photo: Chris Ison / The Morning Bulletin

Central Queensland's best pie locations.

CH Regional Council heads to Blackwater

Mayor Kerry Hayes presented a cheque for $500 to the Blackwater Army Cadets.

Council heads to Blacktown.

Unveiling ceremony to honour victims of flood

AFLOAT: Floating Lantern Ceremony at the Clermont Gold and Coal Festival paid tribute to the great flood in Clermont in 1916.

VICTIMS of Clermont's 1916 flood will be honoured in ceremony.

Local Partners

Space event rocks Comet

SPACE event near comet sparked concerns of a plane crash.

Meet Central Queensland's pet of the week

Central Queensland Pet Rescue's pet of the week, Pablo. On September 29

Meet the newest member of the Central Queensland Pet Rescue family

Top five pie locations in Central Queensland

Meat pies at Pie Face.   Photo: Chris Ison / The Morning Bulletin

Central Queensland's best pie locations.

CH Regional Council heads to Blackwater

Mayor Kerry Hayes presented a cheque for $500 to the Blackwater Army Cadets.

Council heads to Blacktown.

Unveiling ceremony to honour victims of flood

AFLOAT: Floating Lantern Ceremony at the Clermont Gold and Coal Festival paid tribute to the great flood in Clermont in 1916.

VICTIMS of Clermont's 1916 flood will be honoured in ceremony.

Swooping season has begun

A magpie on the touch field at Kearneys Spring Sporting Complex, Saturday, August 27, 2016.

Spring is here and the magpie swooping season has begun.

Construction starts on Hoods Lagoon boardwalk

BOARDWALK WORKS: Cameron, Ashlynn and Sandy Frost walk along Hoods Lagoon, Clermont.

Hoods Lagoon boardwalk rejuvination begins.

From Casino to CQ: Emerald bull sales

SENEPOL BULL SALE: Vendor Colin Godfrey with son Blair.

The Godfrey family travel a long way to sell bulls at Emerald.

Classic car auction draws buyers from US, Dubai

"He wants everyone to enjoy the cars, the collection got too big'

Why Chris Hemsworth was spotted wearing nail polish

RED CARPET: Do you think Chris Hemsworth is the typical unpolished but well-natured Aussie bloke?

He's now officially the best bloke in Australia

Testament's new album is a concept album

ROME, ITALY- JULY 27, 2016: Testament photographed at The Roman Collisseium in Rome, Italy on July 27,2016. Gene Ambo

Testament to release new album

'Baby' recreates famous Nirvana cover shot 25 years later

The baby from Nevermind album has recreated the iconic cover shot.

PREVIEW: Luke Cage origin story is a strong addition to MCU

Mike Colter in a scene from the TV series Marvel's Luke Cage.

MIKE Colter stars as latest Marvel superhero to get his own series.

Kate goes down fighting in heated Survivor elimination

Australian Survivor contestant Kate Campbell.

YOGA teacher's 'good guys' alliance fails to get off the ground.

Emily Blunt's (almost) singing career

Emily Blunt nearly became the British Britney Spears.

$40million hotel, shops development project for Mackay

Mt Pleasant hotel and retirement accommodation, proposed at 194-202 Malcomson St.

$40m development to take Mackay to 'the next level'

Property 200m from ocean selling for just over $100K

BEACHCOMBER PARK: Work has started on a new $19.2 million development at Toogoom.

The estate's developer is offering huge discounts for early buyers.

UPDATE: Former rodeo champ's sale rained out, now back on

Larkhill local Ken Consiglio is having an auction of most of the things on his property.

'People kept showing up and we had to turn them away'

First stages of $25 million housing development underway

New development on Madsen Rd - The Springs.

The blocks of land are much bigger than usual

Couple build their own 'tiny house' for $45k

Holly Bowen and Oli Bucher built their "tiny house" themselves, only hiring a plumber and an electrician. Photo/supplied

The house, which is built on a trailer and can be towed.

Rocky proves prime real estate in latest REIQ report

Kas Woch sold this Wood St home in Depot Hill for $107,000 in August.

A new investor's market as Rocky house prices hit lowest in state