June 20, 2011, 4:25 pm

SECTIONS OF THE ROGUE FOR RAFTING AND KAYAKING

Well, it took long enough, but summer has finally made its presence known.

It’s a funny thing about southern Oregon how quickly the weather changes. It will shuffle its feet between clouds and rain and cooler days and then — POW! — it’s suddenly sunny and 85 degrees every day.

With the heat wave a-coming to Grants Pass, I thought I’d put post a breakdown on some of the different runs on the Rogue River for your summer enjoyment.

The Rogue offers a variety of water around Grants Pass that novices can tackle, plus bigger waves downstream and upstream for the more hard-core folks.

Rafters, kayakers and inflatable tahiti runners should be sure to bone up on river safety before heading down the river. Always wear a lifejacket, no exceptions. Nearly every year somebody drowns on the Rogue, and almost always they aren’t wearing a lifejacket.

Boaters should also make sure to have the correct permits. In 2010, a law was passed requiring a $7 invasive species permit for all boats 10 feet or longer. If you own a raft or kayak of that size, you’re subject to the law. Permits are available at all ODFW license outlets. If you rent, your outfitters should be aware of the law.

Finally, be sure to check the flows of the river before you head out. Rapids that you might think are Class 2 — such as the Galice Chutes or Argo — might actually have larger waves with the higher flows.

The bottom line is: Wear a life jacket, don’t do anything stupid and you’ll almost certainly have a great time.

Here’s a look at the raftable sections of the river:

CASEY PARK TO SHADY COVE

This scenic stretch is followed closely by Highway 62, making shuttles and other logistics easy. Shady Cove offers everything a rafter would need, from equipment to food and drink. The river here is fast-moving, but not dangerous.

SHADY COVE TO TOUVELLE PARK

Because of length, this float is not easily completed in one day, but it’s filled with mostly Class 1 and 2 water, which is easy for most rafters and kayakers to manage.

TOUVELLE TO GOLD HILL

This used to be blocked by Gold Ray Dam, which was removed in 2010. The former reservoir site is an interesting float with newly carved river beds. Be wary of trees and debris, however.

Below the former dam, in the last few miles to Gold Hill, lie some good Class 2 and 3 rapids, followed by Class IV Hayes Falls and Powerhouse rapids.

The entrance to Powerhouse is no longer blocked by the former Gold Hill Diversion Dam, which was removed in 2008.

Only experienced rafters should attempt Hayes Falls (Nugget) or Powerhouse.

GOLD HILL TO ROGUE RIVER

This relaxing eight-mile jaunt contains no major rapids but plenty of scenery, despite its proximity to Interstate 5.

The river knifes through a small gap below historic Rock Point Bridge, then tumbles past Valley of the Rogue State Park before easing along into Coyote Evans Park at Rogue River.

ROGUE RIVER TO GRANTS PASS

Another fascinating float, now that Savage Rapids Dam is gone. The first public put-ins below the former dam are Pierce Riffle and Chinook Park. The float to Baker Park, Riverside Park or Schroeder Park isn’t dangerous, but a fun, close-by float with two or three small rapids. It’s a good choice for beginners or those with time constraints because shuttles are short.

Beginners should avoid a good-sized wave near the Parkway Bridge. It’s a popular spot for winter kayakers.

GRANTS PASS TO HOG CREEK

This 15-mile section is full of access points and interesting rides. From May to September, it’s also full of large jetboats, mostly during Hellgate Jetboat Excursions’ dinner trips from 4 to 9 p.m.

Popular access points are Schroeder Park, Lathrop Landing, Whitehorse Park, Mattson Park, Griffin Park and Robertson Bridge.

HOG CREEK TO GRAVE CREEK

Most boaters float half this route in one day, with Ennis Riffle a good takeout for the first half and a good put-in for the second half. On the first section, the trip through Hellgate Canyon is memorable, followed by Dunn Riffle and Indian Mary Park, a nice lunch spot.

The bounces are bigger from Ennis to Grave Creek, with Galice Chute, Chair Riffle, Almeda and Argo topping the charts. The Galice Store offers food, beverages and other supplies.

GRAVE CREEK TO FOSTER BAR

The famous Wild Section of the Rogue offers numerous Class 3 rapids and an occasional Class 4.

This is a completely different trip than the ones upstream, because of the solitude, the bigger water and the even better scenery. It also requires a $10 permit between May 15 and Oct. 15.

Grave Creek Rapids and Grave Creek Falls greet floaters right away. Only experienced boaters should tackle Class 5 Rainie Falls. Some choose to line their boats and raft down the fish ladder on the right, while experienced floaters may take the middle chute. Kayakers can easily walk around the falls on the left bank. The steep falls on river-left aren’t recommended, except for experts.

Tyee, Wildcat, Russian, Upper and Lower Black Bar, Horseshoe Bend and at least a half-dozen lesser known rapids fill up the first few hours.

Popular sights along the next stretch include Zane Grey’s cabin at Winkle Bar and the historic Rogue River Ranch, which includes a small museum and archeological site.

Ominous Mule Creek Canyon with its Narrows, boiling Coffee Pot whirlpool followed by highly technical Blossom Bar Rapids truly get the adrenaline flowing. Other good-size rapids include Solitude, Clay Hill and Tacoma.

While most people camp in designated campgrounds along the way, some arrange accommodations in lodges, including Black Bar, Marial, Paradise, Half Moon Bar, Clay Hill, Wild River and Illahe.

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