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Options abound for riding the Rogue River

Rafting options abound along the Rogue River, from family-friendly do-it-yourself outings on the river's upper stretches to guided multiday trips through remote whitewater.

Shady Cove is the destination for many beginner and experienced rafters who want to navigate the relatively gentle waters of the upper Rogue.

Rapid Pleasure Rafting Co. is among the many Shady Cove businesses that rent rafts and inflatable kayaks, often called Tahitis.

From Shady Cove, the company shuttles customers upstream to a fish hatchery near Lost Creek Dam to a put-in point on the river. Three hours of floating and paddling later, customers arrive back at Shady Cove and their vehicles.

"It's a lot of fun and very popular," said Carolee Enriquez, co-owner of Rapid Pleasure Rafting.

Rafters need to pick a line down the river, such as when the river splits around an island, and avoid overhanging trees along the banks, she said.

"We equate it to driving a car. You have to look where you're going," Enriquez said.

A one-person inflatable kayak rents for $20, while a raft for two to four people rents for $50 and up. Prices include paddles, lifejackets and the shuttle service. Rafts for larger parties of five to nine people rent for $70 and up through Rapid Pleasure Rafting.

Shady Cove charges a $3 tax for each floating device, which is not included in the price.

Several rafting companies in Jackson and Josephine counties rent rafts and offer guided trips on the middle Rogue.

A popular alternative to rafting is to take a jetboat trip, especially when entertaining out-of-town guests.

Without any special gear except for a jacket to ward off the chill of speeding along the water, customers can step onto the jetboats and relax.

Hellgate Jetboat Excursions in Grants Pass offers options from two-hour scenic outings to five-hour whitewater adventures to trips that include stops for meals. Prices start at $40 per adult.

Rogue Jet Boat Adventures operates in the area near the iconic Table Rocks. For details of their services, see www.roguejetadventures.com or call 541-414-4182.

Whitewater rapids abound on the lower Rogue, where rafters can enjoy rugged canyon scenery and rent equipment from many businesses in Merlin and Galice.

Merlin-based Rogue Wilderness Adventures rents kayaks, rafts and other equipment.

Single inflatable kayaks rent for $35 per day while raft rentals start at $65 per day. Paddles, life jackets and dry bags are included, but there is a $40 charge per raft or per six kayaks for delivery, put-in and takeout through Rogue Wilderness Adventures.

Popular runs include putting in at the Hog Creek boat ramp and floating for four to five hours down to the Grave Creek boat ramp, encountering plenty of rapids along the way.

Rafters are not allowed below Grave Creek without a Bureau of Land Management permit. The permits control the number of rafters going into the Rogue's wild section and are available only though a lottery.

Even with a permit, only experienced rafters should travel beyond Grave Creek, because just a few miles downstream is Rainie Falls, a dangerous, powerful chute of water with roiling rapids. Most rafters bypass the falls through a narrow, tricky side channel studded with boulders.

For inexperienced rafters or experienced rafters without a wild section permit, local companies with permits offer guided expeditions into the lower Rogue.

Ashland-based Momentum River Expeditions offers three-day trips with overnight stays at remote lodges, or four-day trips with overnight camping for $995 per adult.

The trips include gourmet meals, transportation, showers and professional guides.

"The biggest advantage of taking a guided trip versus doing it yourself is it's a lot less work," said Momentum River Expeditions Owner Pete Wallstrom. "For most people, it's safer. With commercial skilled guides, everything is provided for you."

Wallstrom said last summer many local rafting companies saw a drop-off in business because of area wildfires that filled the air with smoke and led to temporary closures along the lower Rogue.

This summer, he said, companies fear customers will shy away from booking trips, believing that recent drought conditions will cause low water conditions in the Rogue.

However, ample water has been stored in Lost Creek Reservoir above Shady Cove to keep Rogue flows strong.

"We're intent on getting the word out we're going to have great water," Wallstrom said.

For rafting tips and rules, rapids locations and difficulty classifications, and a detailed map of rafting put-in and takeout locations along the Rogue from Grants Pass almost to the Pacific Ocean, see www.blm.gov/or/resources/recreation/rogue/files/FloatGuide04.pdf.

Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-776-4486 or valdous@mailtribune.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/VickieAldous.

Rafters get wet on the Rogue River near Gold Hill.