One of Oregon’s most famous Rogue River whitewater rafting trips has reopened despite the Rum Creek Fire. “The river will remain open unless life safety becomes an issue,” the Bureau of Land Management said in a news release. The reopening will depend on fire activity and weather, according to a news release.
From Grave Creek to Russian Creek outside Grants Pass, the Rainie Falls Trail and Rogue River Trail will be blocked.
The wild stretch of the Rogue River is a key economic driver for southwest Oregon, with tourists flying in from around the world to float the river’s rapids and canyons with Merlin and Rogue Valley outfitters. Floating between Grave Creek and Foster Bar, via a wilderness area, requires special authorization.
Local river outfitters claimed the decision allowed them to continue delivering rides safely while avoiding firefighters.
Erik Weiseth, managing partner of Orange Torpedo Trips in Merlin, runs commercial trips down the 34-mile wild section of the Rogue River.
Because of the fire, Rogue River rafting will be different. Some points Included here:
- Permit holders must pick up their permits between 7 and 9:30 a.m.
- All boats must leave the Grave Creek boat ramp by 10 a.m. and go downstream. Due to increased fire activity and helicopter use of the river, all boats must be out by midday.
- River users are asked not to depart on the river left from Grave Creek to Russian Creek, immediately below Wildcat Rapids. A river ranger in a boat and a dip site manager on shore will help control traffic when helicopters land at Rainie Falls. When permit holders pick up their permits, they’ll receive safety instructions.
Bill Dean, Grants Pass BLM Field Manager, is thankful for community support. “Their insight and devotion to safety help us assess the river every day.”
With hot and dry weather forecasted, the fire isn’t anticipated to be contained soon. Floaters may view active fires, smoke, and helicopters dipping for water.
Weiseth, who also guides on Idaho rivers, says it’s usual for raft guides to run trips into fire zones.
“I can’t remember a year when we didn’t sail past open flames on a river,” he added. “Wildfires are natural in the wilderness. It can be fun for customers. Uncertainty about the river’s opening can be stressful, but it adds adventure and makes a fantastic story.”
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