Floating the Rogue River can be a half-day outing to cool off on a hot day or a multiday excursion through remote canyons far from city life. You can paddle your own boat or row your own raft — if you have the skill — or pay someone to do the work for you.

Floating the Rogue River can be a half-day outing to cool off on a hot day or a multiday excursion through remote canyons far from city life. You can paddle your own boat or row your own raft — if you have the skill — or pay someone to do the work for you.

Choosing where to float depends on how much time you have, your skill level and your comfort zone. Day trips on the upper river, from Lost Creek Dam to Shady Cove, are popular for beginners and anyone who wants a brief taste of fun on the water. Multiday trips on the lower Rogue, downstream from Grave Creek, pass through challenging whitewater in the federally protected Wild and Scenic stretch, where you need plenty of skill and experience, as well as a permit from the Bureau of Land Management. Permits are awarded every spring by lottery, so if you want to float that stretch of water, you have to plan way ahead, or sign up with a commercial outfitter who has a permit.

In between, there are plenty of choices for day trips. You organize your trip by determining which boat ramp you want to "put in" and where you want to "take out" and the difficulty of the rapids you'll encounter along the way. Popular day trips include the run from Shady Cove to Dodge Bridge or from Dodge Bridge down to Touvelle State Park, or from Gold Hill down to the city of Rogue River.

Day trips on the upper river are easy to organize. A number of outfitters in Shady Cove rent inflatable kayaks (still often called "Tahitis," from the name of the original popular boat), as well as life jackets, paddles and anything else you need for an afternoon on the water. Most will haul you upstream to Lost Creek Dam as part of your rental fee. You float down to Shady Cove, (about 10 river miles) in three or four hours, and take your boat out of the water at the park just downstream from the Highway 62 bridge. One- and two-person inflatables rent for $20 to $30, which usually includes transportation to the put-in.

"We've had people as young as 3 and as old as 90" on that stretch of the river, says Shelly Tauriainen, owner of Raft Rite, a Shady Cove outfitter.

Tauriainen says this stretch of the river is extremely popular, so it's wise to show up early on hot days, or make a reservation. Paddle rafts are available for larger parties that want to share a single boat. Steering those boats requires some teamwork, and attention to balancing the crew's weight equally on both sides to keep the boat stable and avoid tipping in rapids.

Farther downstream, around Merlin, there is more challenging whitewater for day trips, but novices can still enjoy the ride. Outfitters rent one- and two-person inflatables for day trips, as well as paddle rafts for larger parties. Shuttle services aren't necessarily included in daily rental fees, which range from $30 to $45 for one- or two-person boats to $100 and up for six- and eight-person rafts, but transportation can usually be arranged for a fee.

Outfitters on the lower river also rent gear to "self-guided" rafters who want to float the lower Rogue, but don't own their gear.

"We can outfit you with everything from toilet paper to oars to wet suits," says Brad Niva, owner of Rogue Wilderness Adventures. "We will pack and do everything for you. All you do is show up."

Rental fees for rafts with rowing frames ("oar boats") start around $100 per day, and go up from there, depending on how much additional gear you rent. Anyone who rents gear to float the lower river needs to have real experience rowing through Class 3 and 4 rapids.

"On the lower river, you need to be able to stand up and pull on those oars," Niva says.

If you're not the rowing type, you can pay a guide to steer your raft through the rapids, set up camp, cook meals and clean up, but that level of luxury can be spendy. Three- and four-day guided trips start around $1,000 per person, depending on what options you choose. Some include overnight stays in rustic lodges along the river; on others you'll pitch a tent or sleep out under the stars.

Wherever you float, several unwritten river rules should be observed. Everyone should wear a life jacket, and adult beverages shouldn't be consumed on the water.

"Alcohol and rafting really don't mix," Tauriainen says.

Bill Kettler is a freelance writer living in Rogue River. Reach him at bdkettler@gmail.com.