Friday, September 14, 2012

Riding the Rogue River

Jerry's Jets SignWe had a few days off before leaving the coast, and decided that after three summers on the coast, it was time to take a ride on “Jerry’s Jet Boats”, a local adventure that it seems everyone we know has ridden.  The history of the boats is an interesting story of how, without roads, settlers in the mountains along the Rogue River could only receive supplies and mail by mule train or boats.  Over time, the need for the boats as supply vessels eroded, and the tour industry was born. Jerry's Boats Today, Jerry’s is a big operation, with 15 boats making a number different runs each day.  We opted for the 80-mile “whitewater excursion” trip over the shorter 64-mile and longer 104-mile trips.  Each trip stops in Agness, where a couple of lodges provide meals and a place to relax.
Rogue River BridgeIt was a chilly, but sunny and beautiful day on the coast.  Since this was a weekday after the Labor Day holiday, there weren’t a lot of tourists and so we boarded one of the smaller, 32-foot long boats with about 30 other people.  Leaving the harbor, we had to weave around all the fisherman in small boats trying for salmon which are beginning to show up for the fall migration.  As we passed under the highway 101 bridge and headed upriver, our speed increased and the temperature began to get warmer.  River ViewThe boats really scoot – with three engines and jet drives they run at around 35 MPH but are capable of speeds over 60, and only need a foot of water or  less to operate.  At the first area of open water, our pilot performed a high speed whifferdill – a maneuver where the boat is put into a sharp turn, then spins on it’s nose, throwing lots of water everywhere.  Fun this time, but a little less after about 20 or so. 
Oregon Cell-PineAs we sped up the river, we saw lots of Common Mergansers along the shore, and in the distance, spotted a rare Oregon Cell-Pine among the trees.  Surprisingly, we saw many Osprey; when we spent our summers in Montana, they had left for their winter homes in South America by now.  There were a number of Bald Eagle perched in trees along the way, and even a Harbor Seal about 10 miles up river.  We watched this pair of River Otter as they cruised the banks looking for food – it’s amazing how fast they can move through the water!River Otters
Along the way we came across this “Dinosaur Tree”, a strangely-shaped pine.  The fence in front of it is electrified and placed there by the Forest Service for use by overnight campers to keep their food from the bears.  Dinosaur Tree
We sped past Agness and continued upriver for the “white water” portion of the trip.  We were a bit disappointed, it really was more riffles than rapids, but our pilot managed to hit the water just at the right angle so that we’d be drenched in the spray.  And then do another “wifferdill” just to make sure no one remained dry.  After a while, we turned back around for our meal stop at the Singing Springs Lodge.  After a long hike up the bluff, we enjoyed a nice buffet on the porch overlooking the water.  We’d heard both good and bad about the food, but were pleased with the quality and service, although the price ($14 each) was a bit high.  After the climb, the food, and the trip upriver, it was tough to stay awake on the trip back down.  Except for all the damn whifferdills keeping us wet.  We saw another pair of otters, and finally, the holy grail of wildlife, a black bear.  It was eating blackberries in one of the many patches along the river, and seeing us, stood up, took one look, and disappeared into the woods before anyone could get a picture.
We pulled into the harbor a little over seven hours after our trip began.  By now, we were back in the marine layer and temperature was hovering in the low 50s with a strong wind, and we were glad to get in the car and start home.  Our impressions of the trip:  Worth the cost ($70 each + meals), but not something we’d do again.  Our pilot, Jon, wasn’t one of the more personable, and seemed more interested in bashing US Fish & Wildlife than telling us about the river.  The scenery is very pretty, but nothing unusual, and after a while the hard seats of the boat became a real irritant.  If we could do it over, we’d opt for the shorter, 64-mile trip, pack a picnic lunch, and bring along a waterproof windbreaker.
That’s it for our time on the coast!  We’ve crossed the coastal range and are parked in Myrtle Creek, along the I-5 corridor.  We’ll be here for a while, so check back and see what we’re doing!


  1. We took the mail boat trip to Agness several years ago rather than Jerry's. We saw a couple of bears also and it was the highlight of our trip. It's not so fun being all wet when you return to the chillier coastal air. Glad you had a good time other than that. We actually like the trip out of Grants Pass better and they have a wonderful buffet at the turn around point.

  2. We were told NOT to miss that ride, but we did. Glad you had a wonderful full day.
    That Dinosaur Tree is a hoot!

  3. As many times as we were on the coast we never did get to ride the mail boats because we had the pups. We did, however, follow a dirt road that followed the river and saw people getting drenched.

    If you like that sort of adventure, and you get to Depoe Bay, look up Carrie Newell

    Her prices may have gone up, but we paid $40. Jack went free. What a thrill. You can't find a nicer person.

    Another great day I had in 2010 was at Pacific Beach watching the Dorymen slide onto the beach. The Pelican Brewery is right there--Rich and I used to buy lunch and eat it outside while the pups ran around and had fun.

    Thanks for the post. I love the Oregon Coast--and long to be there again one day.