Five day guided rafting trips Rogue River review with O.A.R.S.

If deciding whether multi-day guided rafting trips are right for you, you’ve no doubt read all the information available on numerous river rafting websites, scanned itineraries, and compared reviews. But which to pick? Nothing beats a day by day report from ‘the field’: we spent five days in July on the Wild and Scenic Rogue River with O.A.R.S. 5 day Rogue River trip. Read on for our full experience, plus river rafting tips.

Day 1:

Day 1 actually starts the evening before departure, with a meeting at departure point Morrison Rogue River Lodge. We met our lead guide Laurie at this point, who handed out dry sacks in which we were to pack our personal belongings and sleep kits. (Families can bring their own sleeping bags and pads, or rent from OARS.) Laurie answered any last-minute questions, and let us know our departure time for the river the following day (8:30 am). This was also the point at which we met our fellow rafting partners. On our July trip, we had a total of 11 clients in the group: a family of four (kids aged 7 and 10), family of three (kid aged 10), family of two (myself and son Calvin, aged 12), and couple of two.

We departed from Almeda Bar the next morning (a very short van ride from Morrison’s), and met our additional three guides, Alyssa, Noah, and Jenae. After a safety talk from guide Alyssa and an introduction to our modes of transportation on the river: oar (gear) boats and inflatable single and double kayaks (or duckies), we floated through mild riffles and flat water, a good warm-up for our first challenge: Rainie Falls. Rainie is a Class V rapid, but there is an optional Class IV route, which we took. Rafters 12 and up had the option of ‘duckying’ through; the rest of us rode as passengers on the sturdy gear boats. Calvin opted to ducky: it’s worth noting that lead guide Laurie had, in only a few hours time, already been able to access his ability level as competent for this challenge.

OARS river rafting

We stopped for our first lunch shortly after Rainie Falls, where we were introduced to food procedures. OARS always has a hand-washing station set up by the food table, as well as ice-cold water and a ‘juice of the day’. Rafters use assigned OARS mugs throughout the trip. Lunch blew us all away: delicious cold cuts and pulled pork sandwiches, along with appetizers of crackers and cheese and fresh fruit. There’s always a cookie option for dessert!

We rafted another few hours, stopping periodically where our guides knew of good ‘jumping rocks’ and swimming holes, then made camp at a sandy beach overlooking the water. We were introduced to the ‘groover’, the portable toilet system (if you’re used to camping, this will be no big deal), and our first of many delicious dinners (baked salmon with cobbler for dessert). Wine, beer, and soda are available at dinner.

Day 2:

By Day 2, we felt we had gotten our feet wet (pun intended) and more people were eager to try the duckies. We had mild water in the morning, making for a perfect opportunity for the younger kids to kayak. Our guides stopped for lunch near a short hike to a historic cabin (Whisky Cabin) and excellent swimming hole in a nearby creek. We spotted rattlesnakes on Day 2, as well as bald eagles and osprey. We camped on Day 2 on a gravel bar on the shore, perfect for the fishermen in our group. The rest of us swam, played games with the guides, and played cards.

River Rafting OARS

Day 3:

During our evening pow-wow the night before (during which the guides let us know the plan for the following day), we learned that we’d have a short river day on Day 3, allowing us to reach our desired campsite before others (its beauty and location make it popular). While I was initially disappointed to be stopping before lunch, I quickly realized that a day off the water still meant a day of fun. Our camp was between the river, a sandy beach, and a creek, with the historic Rogue River Ranch (with museum) above us. We explored the ranch, played games, swam, and creek hiked all afternoon, with no worry about ‘what’s for dinner’, food prep, or clean-up. Our energetic guides had everything under control. I loved having time for journal writing and novel reading while the guides led field games at the ranch.

food on OARS trip

Day 4:

By Day 4, our small group had really gelled, and the kids very much enjoyed each other’s company. We had a big day on the river: exciting Blossom Bar rapids and scenic yet challenging Mule Creek Canyon. Our morning started with a swim test (after a breakfast of eggs benedict), necessary for anyone wanting to ducky through the canyon. Calvin and one adult tried and passed. (The swim test involves purposely tipping over your kayak, swimming, flipping it back over in the water, and getting back in.)

We scouted Blossom Bar before rolling up the duckies and taking the gear rafts through, then re-inflated them for Mule Creek Canyon. Our ‘ducky-ers’ did great, despite our guide losing an oar boat oar to the jagged rocks. We emerged from Mule Creek Canyon at Paradise Lodge, a unique lodge accessible only by river, and enjoyed ice creams on the sunny deck overlooking the water. We camped nearby, celebrating the 4th of July with yet another gourmet dinner and dessert. The guides surprised us with a corn-on-the-cob eating contest and birthday cake for Calvin and another rafter. Their culinary skills were truly amazing.

adventure with OARS trip

Day 5:

Our last day took us through more beautiful scenery and our best ‘rock jump’ yet: up Tate Creek to a swimming hole with a rope climb to a natural water slide. We pulled off the river once more for yet another jump into the Rogue, photos by yet another waterfall, and yet another excellent lunch (tuna salad sandwiches and lox). Departing the river at Foster Bar, none of us were quite ready to be done.

River rafting tips:

1. Ask about your fellow rafters before booking. We had a great group of people, but don’t just hope to get lucky: inquire about the demographic of your group before committing. Definitely aim for a trip with other kids attending if you’re bringing your own. Kids will have fun even if they are the only ones underage, but a big part of the enjoyment for us was the fellow rafters.

2. Leave modesty at home. If you’re not squeamish about the ‘groover’, you’ll have a better time. The unit is always set up somewhere private, but it’s still in the outdoors (no walls or doors to lock). Toilet situation aside, you’ll be spending multiple days camping with strangers; after Day 1, we were quite comfortable with one another.

3. Follow the packing list. The OARS packing list is very thorough, and we found it very useful. Even if you don’t think you’ll need rain gear or a jacket, bring what’s on the list. It’s also helpful to have comfortable shoes for in camp at night. Opt to use one of OARS sleeping pads instead of a Therma-Rest style: they are three-times as thick and comfortable!

4. Bring camp toys. Even following the packing list to a ‘T’, you’ll have room for a few toys. Bring a Nerf ball or deck of cards, or even lawn games. If you think you’d like to fish, bring your equipment (room will be made on the boats) and a license.

5. Definitely have a good hat and two pairs of sunglasses each. We lost two pairs on the water, and we were thankful for our hats from day 1.

6. Don’t bring food. You won’t need any. Really.

7. Bring a tip. I put mine (cash) in an envelope inside a small dry back (available at sports stores). The lead guide does not return home with you on the van after the trip, and it’s best to give it directly to him or her to distribute. These guides earn their tips (and more) and it will be safe on the trip.

Disclaimer: We experienced OARS as guests of the tour operation, for the purpose of review.