Rogue River Traditions: 48 Hours of Birthday Bliss

The Rogue River flows for more than 200 wild miles through Southwestern Oregon, including through Hellgate Canyon, where the movie River Wild was filmed. It also happens to be home to most of my childhood memories.

Upper Rogue River Upper Rogue River

For years, I have celebrated my birthday (read: birthday week) in this recreational paradise. Sometimes, when a tradition becomes routine, it’s easy to take for granted the beauty and uniqueness of a trip or experience. This year when my birthday rolled around, I did my very best to be aware of my experiences as if this was the first time I had taken this trip.

Troon Vineyard, Applegate Valley Troon Vineyard, Applegate Valley

Four hours from Portland, a weekend in Southern Oregon is very accessible and requires no vacation time for me, making this an excellent choice for northwest-based nature seekers with limited time.

Our weekend format, while jam-packed, is doable if you stay on schedule. However, for your first trip I might recommend adding an extra day – especially if you are a first-time river rafter.

Ennis Riffle, Rogue River Ennis Riffle, Rogue River

It would be misguided to say it’s possible to experience all that Southern Oregon has to offer in one weekend. You could spend weeks in the area and still barely scratch the surface. Hiking the Rogue River trail, exploring the redwood forests along the coast, salmon fishing, visiting Wildlife Images, a wild animal rehabilitation center, camping on the Illinois River and an Ashland dining guide would all be included in a longer itinerary.

But realistically, spending weeks on vacation isn’t feasible for most, so this post will focus on maximizing 48-72 hours in the Rogue River Valley.

My recommended 100 Percent experiences for a weekend summer itinerary include rafting, jet boats and wine country.

Troon Vineyard, Applegate Valley Troon Vineyard, Applegate Valley

Rogue River Rafting

There are two parts of the Rogue River which you could consider rafting. The lower portion, often called ‘the wild and scenic’, offers stimulating class III and IV rapids starting at Graves Creek and ending at Watson Creek. A trip down the lower Rogue requires a longer organized trip through an experienced outfitter such as Rogue Wilderness.

The upper Rogue gives you the opportunity to navigate yourself down a six-hour invigorating river rafting trip by renting self-bailing individual rafts or group rafts through a local shop such as Orange Torpedo. For roughly $50, you can expect organized transportation, a life jacket, paddle and vessel. The two most exciting and adventurous rapids on this section of the Rogue are Galice Chute and Argo. I recommend asking for a drop-off at Ennis Riffle and pick-up after Argo.

Orange Torpedo , Merlin Oregon Orange Torpedo , Merlin Oregon

This section will take up to six hours so bring plenty of water and a lunch safely tucked in a dry-bag, which you can rent at the shop or buy at REI. Reserve your rafts over the phone ahead of time, and plan to be at the rental shop by 10 a.m. to start your adventure.

Lifejacket Fitting Lifejacket Fitting

We rented our rafts at Orange Torpedo and were on the river by 11 a.m. The water was running low and there were a lot of rocks to navigate. Sadly, in the first rapid, Galice Chute, my sister and I became beached on a rock in the middle of the rapid which submerged the front of our boat and water swiftly carried off my GoPro along with any intention of capturing action shots on the trip. However, we managed to recover and fortunately neither of us fell in the water.  (The GoPro however did not fare as well)

Rafting Packing List

          Bottled Water (lots!)


          River shoes


          Waterproof camera/GoPro


          Sunglasses with strap

          Rogue River map

Safety: Although this section of the Rogue is relatively safe and the rapids are not classified as dangerous, there is an assumed risk when/if you should fall out of your raft. Always wear your life jacket and check with the rental shop for current river conditions and safety tips.

100 Percent Tip: Almeda Park Campground is a great spot to stop for lunch midway through the trip. Check your map to know when to pull over. You will see a boat ramp and sandy beach on your left.

Rogue River Jet Boat Trip

No matter how many times I board this jet boat dinner excursion, I still laugh uncontrollably as my hair flies in the wind and a wall of water soaks me from head to toe. From start to finish, the team operating Rogue River Hellgate Jetboat Excursions is undeniably organized, professional and extremely fun. They provide a consistently world-class amusing experience.

We booked the dinner cruise – a six-hour, 36-mile round trip scenic joy ride complete with a delicious family style dinner with unlimited beer and wine at the OK Corral homestead. You can expect a wild ride on the way home, so be prepared and take a poncho or waterproof jacket if you don’t like getting your hair wet.

Rogue River Valley Wine Country

There are a few regions in the Rogue River Valley perfect for wine tasting on a Sunday afternoon. We usually choose the Applegate Valley region because that is where my father grew up – so in addition to sipping wine I get to hear all of the fascinating and undoubtedly embellished stories of what took place in the ‘wild west’ days of Grants Pass. The Applegate Valley wine region is bordered by the Siskiyou Mountains, giving you a camera-ready view at every turn. The drive alone is worth a dedicated half day.

Applegate Valley wine region Applegate Valley wine region

Some of the highlights of the Applegate Valley wine region include:

What Schmidt Family Vineyard lacks in welcoming service they make up for in a beautiful gardens, wood-fired pizzas and elaborate and creative wine tastings.

I recommend the Garden Flight which for $12, gives you an eight-ounce flight of six wines in individual test tubes. You can enjoy this flight anywhere on the premises – whereas the Vinter’s Flight restricts you to the bar. Schmidt also entertains guests with music on Friday evenings throughout the summer.

Troon Vineyard will forever be my favorite vineyard in the valley. The hospitable service coupled with the shaded back patio and wood furniture reminds me of Italy and makes me feel right at home. They also have yard games to keep all ages entertained while tasting. Troon is also the originator of my college red wine ‘go-to’: Druids Fluid. Troon is the perfect intimate setting for a picnic and sipping a glass of wine as you relax among the beauty of all the Applegate Valley has to offer.

In addition to the wineries we visited above, I would recommend stopping at Red Lily Vineyards and Bridgeview if you have time.

Bridgeview Vineyard, Applegate Valley Bridgeview Vineyard, Applegate Valley

If you’re concerned about driving during a day of wine tasting, have no fear, Allaboard Trolley Tours has you covered.  For $55 you can spend six hours sipping your way through four wineries, lunch included. They are also available for special occasions and corporate events.

Allaboard Trolley Allaboard Trolley

Looking for more tips while in the Rogue River Valley? Leave a comment below or email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *