Rogue River (Oregon)

Rogue River
Water exiting a hole in a riverbank forms a smooth rounded mound surrounded by churning rapids. Evergreen trees hang over the water.
Exiting a lava tube below Natural Bridge
Name origin: Coquins (rogues), used by early French visitors to the region to describe the local Native Americans (Indians)[1]
CountryUnited States
CountyKlamath, Douglas,
Jackson, Josephine, and Curry
CityGrants Pass
SourceBoundary Springs in Crater Lake National Park
 - locationCascade Range, Klamath County, Oregon
 - elevation5,320 ft (1,622 m) [2]
 - coordinates43°3′57″N 122°13′56″W / 43°3′57″N 122°13′56″W / 43.06583; -122.23222 [3]
MouthPacific Ocean
 - locationGold Beach, Curry County, Oregon
 - elevation0 ft (0 m)
 - coordinates42°25′21″N 124°25′45″W / 42°25′21″N 124°25′45″W / 42.42250; -124.42917 [3]
Length215 mi (346 km) [4]
Basin5,156 sq mi (13,400 km2) [5]
Dischargefor near Agness, 29.7 miles (47.8 km) from the mouth
 - average6,622 cu ft/s (188 m3/s) [6]
 - max290,000 cu ft/s (8,212 m3/s)
 - min608 cu ft/s (17 m3/s)
The Rogue River flows from near Crater Lake in Oregon to the Pacific Ocean at Gold Beach. A small part of its watershed extends into northern California.
Map of the Rogue River watershed

The Rogue River (Tolowa: yan-shuu-chit’ taa-ghii~-li~’,[7] Takelma: tak-elam[8]) in southwestern Oregon in the United States flows about 215 miles (346 km) in a generally westward direction from the Cascade Range to the Pacific Ocean. Known for its salmon runs, whitewater rafting, and rugged scenery, it was one of the original eight rivers named in the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968. Beginning near Crater Lake, which occupies the caldera left by the explosive volcanic eruption of Mount Mazama, the river flows through the geologically young High Cascades and the older Western Cascades, another volcanic province. Further west, the river passes through multiple exotic terranes of the more ancient Klamath Mountains. In the Kalmiopsis Wilderness section of the Rogue basin are some of the world's best examples of rocks that form the Earth's mantle. Near the mouth of the river, the only dinosaur fragments ever discovered in Oregon were found in the Otter Point Formation, along the coast of Curry County.

People have lived along the Rogue River and its tributaries for at least 8,500 years. European explorers made first contact with Native Americans (Indians) toward the end of the 18th century and began beaver trapping and other activities in the region. Clashes, sometimes deadly, occurred between the natives and the trappers and later between the natives and European-American miners and settlers. These struggles culminated with the Rogue River Wars of 1855–56 and removal of most of the natives to reservations outside the basin. After the war, settlers expanded into remote areas of the watershed and established small farms along the river between Grave Creek and the mouth of the Illinois River. They were relatively isolated from the outside world until 1895, when the Post Office Department added mail-boat service along the lower Rogue. As of 2010, the Rogue has one of the two remaining rural mail-boat routes in the United States.

Dam building and removal along the Rogue has generated controversy for more than a century; an early fish-blocking dam (Ament) was dynamited by vigilantes, mostly disgruntled salmon fishermen. By 2009, all but one of the main-stem dams downstream of a huge flood-control structure 157 miles (253 km) from the river mouth had been removed. Aside from dams, threats to salmon include high water temperatures. Although sometimes too warm for salmonids, the main stem Rogue is relatively clean, ranking between 85 and 97 (on a scale of 0 to 100) on the Oregon Water Quality Index (OWQI).

Although the Rogue Valley near Medford is partly urban, the average population density of the Rogue watershed is only about 32 people per square mile (12 per km2). Several historic bridges cross the river near the more populated areas. Many public parks, hiking trails, and campgrounds are near the river, which flows largely through forests, including national forests. Biodiversity in many parts of the basin is high; the Klamath-Siskiyou temperate coniferous forests, which extend into the southwestern Rogue basin, are among the four most diverse of this kind in the world.


A river cascades over a rock ledge about as tall as a person and rushes rapidly downstream through the woods.
The upper Rogue rushes toward Rogue River Gorge near Union Creek, Oregon.

The Rogue River begins at Boundary Springs on the border between Klamath and Douglas counties near the northern edge of Crater Lake National Park. Although it changes direction many times, it flows generally west for 215 miles (346 km) from the Cascade Range through the Rogue River – Siskiyou National Forest and the Klamath Mountains to the Pacific Ocean at Gold Beach. Communities along its course include Union Creek, Prospect, Trail, Shady Cove, Gold Hill and Rogue River, all in Jackson County; Grants Pass and Galice in Josephine County; and Agness, Wedderburn and Gold Beach in Curry County. Significant tributaries include the South Fork Rogue River, Elk Creek, Bear Creek, the Applegate River, and the Illinois River.[9] Arising at 5,320 feet (1,622 m) above sea level, the river loses more than 1 mile (1.6 km) in elevation by the time it reaches the Pacific.[2][3] It was one of the original eight rivers named in the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968, which included 84 miles (135 km) of the Rogue, from 7 miles (11.3 km) west of Grants Pass to 11 miles (18 km) east of the mouth at Gold Beach.[10] In 1988, an additional 40 miles (64 km) of the Rogue between Crater Lake National Park and the unincorporated community of Prospect was named Wild and Scenic.[11] Of the river's total length, 124 miles (200 km), about 58 percent is Wild and Scenic.[10][11] The Rogue is one of only three rivers that start in or east of the Cascade Range in Oregon and reach the Pacific Ocean.[12] The others are the Umpqua River and Klamath River. These three Southern Oregon rivers drain mountains south of the Willamette Valley; the Willamette River and its tributaries drain north along the Willamette Valley into the Columbia River,[12] which starts in British Columbia rather than Oregon.


The United States Geological Survey (USGS) operates five stream gauges along the Rogue River. They are located, from uppermost to lowermost, near Prospect,[13] Eagle Point,[14] Central Point,[15] Grants Pass,[16] and Agness. Between 1960 and 2007, the average discharge recorded by the Agness gauge at river mile (RM) 29.7 or river kilometer (RK) 47.8 was 6,622 cubic feet per second (188 m3/s). The maximum discharge during this period was 290,000 cubic feet per second (8,200 m3/s) on December 23, 1964, and the minimum discharge was 608 cubic feet per second (17 m3/s) on July 9 and 10, 1968. This was from a drainage basin of 3,939 square miles (10,202 km2), or about 76 percent of the entire Rogue watershed.[6] The maximum flow occurred between December 1964 and January 1965 during the Christmas flood of 1964, which was rated by the National Weather Service as one of Oregon's top 10 weather events of the 20th century.[17]