Come to an uncommon place in North America where two rivers collide head-on—in Glide, Oregon, on the northern piece of the Rogue-Umpqua Scenic Byway. This is where the tributary Little River joins the North Umpqua River at the site of an ancient Native American settlement. Rafting is excellent on the Upper Rogue and North Umpqua Wild & Scenic Rivers, which parallel the scenic byway. Experience a wild ride or a gentle float on these mountain waterways, which pass through the rugged terrain of Western Oregon public lands.
On the southern segment of the byway, rafting adventures can begin at Shady Cove. The town marks a prime river rafting spot on the Upper Rogue River, which flows south from the Cascade Mountains. Shady Cove is also a great place to rent equipment, scout for a guide, and arrange shuttle transportation back to your vehicle. Once you’ve planned your trip and your lifejacket is securely fastened, set out on an enjoyable journey downstream to Gold Hill, site of world-class kayaking competitions. As you float or maneuver your way downstream on the Upper Rogue River, take in nature’s most inspiring combinations of green and blue, from ancient Douglas Fir forests to foaming blue waters. Upon your arrival at Gold Hill, where the Rogue-Umpqua Scenic Byway begins on Interstate 5, take the shuttle back to Shady Cove, or continue up the drainage toward Crater Lake National Park and interpreted geologic formations like Rogue Gorge and Natural Bridge.
The run between Shady Cove and Gold Hill experiences rapids from Class I (novice) to Class III (experienced). The universal whitewater rapids ranking system classifies rapids on a grading scale from I (one) to VI (six). Class I rapids are very small, with little or no current. Slow-moving with no obstructions, these rapids are safe for your whole family. On the other hand, Class VI rapids are extremely turbulent and nearly impossible to navigate. Class VI rapids are extreme and dangerous and require a great deal of experience. Your local river guides are invaluable for informing you about river safety and the runs most suited to your skill level.
The North Umpqua River contains rapids which range from Class I to Class VI. Drive around the Diamond Lake Recreation Area toward Toketee. Down in elevation from the Diamond Lake Ranger Station, the river mostly parallels the byway until the road and river reach Glide, where the two diverge. You’ll find multiple river-access points along the byway. If you’re confident in your rapid-tackling abilities, grab your raft or kayak and a friend, and splash down into the white waters of this designated wild and scenic river, acknowledged in the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. If you’d feel more comfortable with an expert by your side, choose among the many outfitters and guides serving the North Umpqua River region. They will be happy to offer advice from the best times to float the river—May, June, and early July—to the river segment best suited to your experience level. Plan a multi-day adventure and raft the river while camping along the way.
However you choose to experience the North Umpqua River, notice the surrounding natural beauty of old-growth forests, volcanic spires, spawning salmon, and cascading waterfalls. Additional highlights are described in BLM brochures available online or at local visitor centers. Experience Oregon’s whitewater rafting on two of the state’s most gorgeous rivers, the Upper Rogue and North Umpqua. Access both rivers and embark upon unforgettable outdoor adventures when you follow the horseshoe-shaped route of the Rogue-Umpqua Scenic Byway through pristine, forested landscapes.
- Public domain. Courtesy of USDI-BLM
- Public domain. Photo by Ron Murphy of BLM
- Copyright © May 2007 Christina Lilienthal.