The Upper Rogue River

Recently, Jer and I escaped the city to the wilds of the southern Cascades, following the Rogue River from Grants Pass east, up toward Crater Lake, where the Rogue has its beginnings at the edge of the Crater Lake National Park. We didn’t get that far east (most of Crater Lake is still closed with snow) but we did get beyond Prospect to the Union Creek Resort Lodge, a quaint old resort area with cabins that seem to date from the 1920’s. Our cabin had all mod cons (including heat!), although the shower never got warm enough to actually use. But it was right by the Rogue River and so I spent one day painting by myself, while Jer explored and photographed in the car. The weather was absolutely clear and almost warm, perfect for painting.

The river meanders a bit through the middle Rogue Valley and is very pleasant as it moves upward through farms and pastureland, but at some point, it turns turbulent — and impressive. This was the first view we had of it as a fast-flowing force to be reckoned with:

It only got better, although I was limited mostly to seeing what was easily accessible by car. Jer did some waterfall hiking and found areas he raved about.

One waterfall, of Mill Creek, a Rogue tributary, goes under a beautiful arched bridge. The water was clear with the most fascinating tints and shades of green and blue:

I did four plein air paintings, 2 at the Rogue Gorge (a wayside park). The park has a paved path along a lava-lined gorge — astonishing. The power of the River equaled or exceeded the power of the lave through which it pushed its way, roaring and bounding and leaping. The third photo above is from that area. At the Rogue Gorge I painted a wide spot in the lava beds where the river apparently changed course in the 1990’s during a big flood and so spat and swirled through old bits of lava-pocked rock. I also painted its narrowing and picking up speed and force just after that wide frothing spot, something like the third photo.

The last photo, above, is at Natural Bridge, few miles downstream from Union Creek, where the raging water disappears into a lave tube and then gets spewed out again. The main exit of the water can be seen in that large green flow at the center top of the photo. I painted that, and then another a bit below it, from the same spot on the path.

I haven’t had a chance to live with the paintings long enough yet to see if I captured anything of the subtle colors encapsulated in the frothing and forceful water. If they stand up to scrutiny, you’ll be sure to see them here soon.  There was a lifetime of learning to paint that kind of water, just in the Rogue Gorge and Natural Bridge. Two days was but a tingle on the tongue. –June

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4 Responses to The Upper Rogue River

  1. Lia says:

    You’ll like Gold Beach! I do. Be sure to eat at Anna’s By the Sea (which is not actually on the ocean) if you get a chance. That gnarly road from Galice to GB is scary in the summer and I would think No Fun at All in the winter/spring. Be careful!

    Let me know when the Boundary Springs trip is… I’d love to join you.


  2. June says:

    We had spectacularly good weather, particularly as everyone said it was the first they had seen the sun since October:-) On Saturday I did have four layers and gloves to paint in, but it wasn’t uncomfortable. The Rogue Gorge blew me away — it was almost impossible to stay in your body (in that zen sense of conscious distance between self and other) what with the smells of the forest and water, the sound (roar, chuckle, gurgle, holler, roar some more) and of course, the movement and light and energy of the water through those lava beds. I’ve never seen lava of that strength and depth tamed by water, but it certainly felt like the water was in charge — and having a good time being the force.

    Once my hip is done and fixed and tidied up, I want to go to the Boundary Springs, just to see where it all begins. We are reading the Roger Dorband book which is totally seductive (and of course have Ellen Bishop as our back-up). Our next adventure will be the lower Rogue, although I’m not sure I’m up for that road through the Coast Range. We did that once and I swore never again. On the other hand, I hate to miss it. Greedy, that’s my problem

    At the very least, I’ll paint at Gold Beach, while Jer progresses up the Rogue to Agness. But I’m scheming…..


  3. Lia says:

    I of course meant “relatively *good* weather” above. 🙂


  4. Lia says:

    I’m glad you guys had (relatively) weather for this trip! Isn’t the Rogue amazing? I’m familiar with all those places, except that I’ve never stayed at the Union Creek Lodge. I’ve been to Becky’s restaurant, across the way, for pie and sandwiches plenty of times, though!


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