Brandy & Fish Hook (Agness, Oregon) 04-Jun-2021

Those who have been fortunate enough to raft the Rogue or Illinois Rivers, or backpack these river’s namesake trails, have likely experienced Bear Camp Road. Also dubbed Forest Road (FR) 23, this narrow, twisty – but paved – road runs between Galice on the Rogue River, over the mountains, to Agness, near the confluence of the Rogue and Illinois Rivers, not far from the Pacific Ocean. It’s not open year-round, but in the summer, it’s the quickest way back to the Rogue Valley from a take-out at Foster Bar or trail’s end at Oak Flat. It was still closed when we did our trips on the Rogue and Illinois this year, so an extra two hours or so were added to our returns from these trips.

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Rafting Oregon’s Illinois River IV 24-Apr-2021

We had gone all out yesterday to get within two, rapidless, miles of the take-out at Oak Flat. Which is also where the Illinois River Trail ends. So we got a somewhat leisurely start and were rowed on out. Momentum’s van and trailer arrived not too long after we did and it didn’t take long for the guides to get everything loaded. The bad news was that the Bear Camp Road was still closed and we’d have to return via Highway 199 – which added about two hours to our drive. The good news was that it was only pouring rain along the coast, not inland. Rebekah got dropped off in Grants Pass, us in Medford, and the rest continued on to Ashland. We were home by 6:00PM, just in time to keep our adorable new cat – Sofie – from trashing another ball of The LovedOne’s yarn stash. She is temporarily my cat when things like this happen. 🙄

Breakfast at Horse Sign Creek
Our campsite just above the creek
Horse Sign Creek
Looking down river from the beach at Horse Sign Creek
Just a little farther
The take-out at Oak Flat
Bringing a raft up
Almost loaded
It was comforting to look back and see that it was raining where we HAD been…

A highly technical river like the Illinois was a completely different experience from the ones we’d had on larger rivers like the Colorado, Snake, and Salmon. This smaller, but highly convoluted, water was more intense and exciting and intimate than bigger waters and it was a privilege to be able to experience it. Running the Green Wall would have been a plus but not doing so didn’t detract in the least from what was, for me at least, exactly the trip I’d anticipated. After hiking the trail, I wanted to see the Illinois up close and that’s exactly what happened. The scenery – although a little scorched – is wonderful. And the startlingly clear water, with its various undulating shades of greens and blues, is absolutely amazing. Despite the drought, the side creeks were running well and almost all were decorated with colorful pink Indian Rhubarb. A bald eagle also made an appearance. It also didn’t hurt that we were a small, experienced group on a river that we had all to ourselves. In sum, it was a truly magical trip.

But we owed the positiveness of this experience to the professionalism, skill, and experience of our four guides. There are also really good, affable people – and good cooks. This is our second trip with Momentum and we remain impressed that this small, local company can attract such skilled and personable people. So much so that we’re scheduled (thanks 🙄 to last year’s virus debacle) to hike the Rogue River with them next month!

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Rafting Oregon’s Illinois River III 23-Apr-2021

This section of the Illinois contains eight named rapids, including the famous Class V Green Wall. If yesterday had been a wet, but easy, day, today was expected to be a hard and wet day. We prepared for the ordeal ahead with meditation and stretching.

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Rafting Oregon’s Illinois River II 22-Apr-2021

The run from Pine Flat to South Bend, where we would camp tonight, has several rapids, but no named ones. That said, two of us (me included) managed to get shot out of our raft when it collided head-on with the side wall in one of the rapids. I was expecting to have to ride the waters to the eddy below the rapid but Jonathan managed to pull both of us back aboard fairly quickly. Still, it was a character building way to start the day. 😳 And it did clear up any lingering personal hygiene issues. 🙄

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Rafting Oregon’s Illinois River I 21-Apr-2021

Oregon’s Illinois River stretches some 56 miles (90 km) from its headwaters east and south of Cave Junction, Oregon to its confluence with the Rogue River near Agness, Oregon. The Wild and Scenic Section of the Illinois flows through a steep canyon for 29 miles (46 km) between Briggs and Nancy Creeks. This section features 150 rapids, of which 11 are Class IV and one is Class V. It is reputed to be the most remote, inaccessible river segment in the continental United States. Compared to the bigger rivers we’ve rafted, the Illinois is a very technical one, with a great deal of skill (the guides, not ours) required to weave through its boulder-strewn rapids.

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Lower Rogue River Trail (Agness, Oregon) 10-Oct-2018

Lower Rogue River Trail Agness Oregon

Hiking trails follow Southern Oregon’s Rogue River for approximately 100 of the 215 miles it runs between its source at Boundary Springs (near Crater Lake National Park) and the Pacific Ocean at Gold Beach, Oregon. Some of these trails are much hiked, others are almost unknown. We’d hiked all of them except for the Lower Rogue River Trail (USFS #1168) which follows the river for 12 miles from Agness, Oregon to near Gold Beach.

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Illinois River Trail (Kalmiopsis Wilderness) 16/17-Apr-2016

Illinois River Trail


2020 Update: The Siskiyou Mountain Club has now repaired and restored the #1161, which was damaged by wildfires and landslides.  They also restored the Florence Way Trail #1219A, which had been impassable for a decade or more.

In 2015, we backpacked the justifiably famous Rogue River Trail from Grave Creek to Foster Bar and had a wonderful time doing so (Rogue River Trail).  As I was researching that trip, I kept coming across references to the Illinois River Trail (USFS #1161; but the sign at the trailhead says #1162) as a worthy adjunct to the Rogue trail.  The western end of the Illinois River Trail was designated as a National Recreation Trail because of its outstanding scenic qualities and the Illinois River itself was added to the National Wild and Scenic River System in October 1984.

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Rogue River Trail (Southern Oregon) 27/30-Apr-2015

Rogue River Trail Oregon Grave Creek Foster Bar

There are numerous good hikes in Southern Oregon but the premier backpack – and probably the best known – is along the Rogue River National Recreation Trail from Grave Creek to Foster Bar. It’s been on our “to do” list for a long time and when we saw four days of mostly good weather in the forecast, we went for it. Descriptions of how to access the trail and what’s along it are numerous – we found the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) detailed trail log to be reasonably accurate and helpful. We arranged with Morrisons Rogue Wilderness Adventures (Merlin, OR) to drop us at the Grave Creek Trailhead, store our truck on their lot, and then shuttle it around to Foster Bar when we came off the trail – they did a great job and it was well worth it to not have to worry about having our car clouted.

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