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Friday, July 8, 2016

The Whispers of a River

The Whispers of a River        

Southern Oregon waterways are among the region's best assets

If a river could talk, it would speak of rapids and small cataracts, of meadows where cattle and deer graze amicably, of cities and small communities, of rugged cliffs and gorges carved over millennia, of hills in verdant hue. The river might tell of humans who float its surface, some in boats, kayaks or rafts, others using no watercraft. The Umpqua River would make special mention of veterans finding peace and healing after the chaos of war.

But it would take people to describe the accommodations while traveling the river--lodging either luxurious or rustic, a tent on the beach or a sleeping bag under a starry sky. These folks would describe the food they enjoyed along the way, gourmet or down-home, and tell of sipping wine or downing a beer while recounting their adventures on the water.

All this and more speak to the rivers of Southern Oregon. The following stories fill in details. In reality, though, reading about a river is a poor substitute for experiencing it. So read on, and then plan your own adventure. You won’t regret it.


Source One Serenity

Healing waters

“By participating and being part of nature, our source, we can help our healing waters heal our wounds.”

-Rusty Lininger 

“On multiple occasions, I’ve brought someone to our river. With rod in hand, they came to my ‘church.’ Waist deep in clear waters I guide them in reading the current and selecting their fly. After a few casts I’m no longer there, no longer part of their moment. Time and memories are no longer relevant. With the river in charge, I leave them in prayer. My part is done.”

-Rusty Lininger

A non-profit corporate entity (currently in the midst of the filing process), Source One Serenity, provides veterans with comprehensive programs centered on fly-fishing.

The thoughtfully designed programs enable veterans to experience mindfulness and serenity, helping to reduce stress and anxiety associated with PTSD. Rusty Lininger, founder of Source One Serenity, is a veteran of two deployments in Iraq, who found his own healing through fly-fishing. After moving back to Oregon, Lininger set in motion his dream to help other veterans by being a fly-fishing guide, a teacher, or just a friend.

Specifically, Source One Serenity offers all-inclusive fly-fishing retreats and workshops in tying flies, casting, and fly-fishing on the Umpqua River. Fly-fishing is known to provide a calming environment, evoke a relaxation response, reduce stress, and improve sleep quality. Lininger’s ultimate goal is to establish a permanent retreat for their programs with yurts for accommodations, in addition to a fishing yurt for special workshops.



Not To Be Missed

Klamath Basin rivers

Story by Lee Juillerat

Southern Oregon's amazing network of rivers extends east of the Cascades. In Klamath County, several rivers are known for fishing, boating, and whitewater rafting, including the Klamath, Williamson, Wood, and Sprague, while Lake County features the Chewaucan.

"What gets overlooked is the Klamath River,” says Darren Roe, owner of Roe Outfitters, the Klamath Falls based guide service that offers fishing, kayaking, whitewater rafting, and other outdoor adventures in southeastern Oregon, along with the Rogue River. He adds, “It's one of the top fisheries in the world, but not too many people know that.”

The Upper Klamath River is best known for its frothy whitewater, including a legendary seven-mile section that features Class four-plus and five rapids. The series of raucous rapids begins with Caldera, south of the John C. Boyle Dam in Klamath County, and eventually calms before reaching Copco Lake in Siskiyou County. “After Caldera, it turns into seven miles of wild, challenging rapids,” Roe says.

Roe also says fishing along the Klamath, in the several mile section below the Boyle dam and Caldera, is especially under-appreciated. During several spring outings, he says he and clients have routinely caught upwards of 100 rainbow trout an hour. “There's nobody down there. It's off everyone's radar.” He notes, “There's great morning and evening fishing. They eat dry flies.”

Roe terms the more easily accessible Wood and Williamson as "phenomenal" rivers for fishing and recreational boating.

The Williamson River begins about 40 miles northeast of Klamath Falls and weaves nearly 100 miles through the Klamath Marsh National Wildlife Refuge and Collier Memorial State Park before emptying into Upper Klamath Lake. It typically lures fly fisherman from around the country and world angling for rainbow trout that commonly measure 20 inches and longer.

"The Williamson is pretty doable," Roe says. "Almost anyone can float it."

Sections of the Williamson are also easily doable for people in kayaks, canoes, and paddle rafts. It's possible to put in at Spring Creek at Collier, which quickly merges with the Williamson or downstream at a Klamath County park near Chiloquin. Takeout possibilities include the Williamson River Store (which rents kayaks and canoes and provides a shuttle service to the county park) or to continue to Upper Klamath Lake and take out at various county parks along the lake.

A local favorite for easy paddling is the Wood River. Most people start at Jackson Kimball State Park, the Wood's headwaters, and floating to the Wood River Day Use Area. A car shuttle can be arranged, although some people leave bicycles at the day use area and pedal back to Kimball to retrieve their vehicles. Roe tells of seasoned travelers who regard the Wood the most pristine, scenic river they've ever visited.

"It is world class," Roe says, who insists the overused term truly applies to the Wood. "People just don't know it's there." When he hosts river trips, Roe begins by taking participants on a short hike to the river's originating springs.

Less visited because of its remoteness is the Sprague River, which meanders 75 miles near the eastern Klamath County communities of Bly, Beatty, and Sprague River before flowing into the Williamson near Chiloquin. Because much of the lower river's shores are privately owned, Roe says access for fishing is best done on its upper sections. During the spring, sections of the Sprague east of Chiloquin offer challenging whitewater. By summer, the river is generally gentle enough for easy floating in canoes or kayaks.

Further east, the Chewaucan River flows 53 miles in Lake County from its beginnings near the Gearhart Mountain Wilderness. Depending on the season, the Upper Chewaucan can offer bouncy whitewater, but the upper river is mostly favored for its rainbow trout fishery. About a mile before it reaches the community of Paisley, the river transforms, creating a gentle section that serves as a popular after-school or after-work swimming hole.

Roe Outfitters offers a variety of fishing, mostly gentle kayaking, and more exciting whitewater trips. "Most people have no idea of what we have here," Roe says.

Roe Outfitters




A River Way of Life

Galice Resort offers comfort, adventure, and memories

Story by Lynn Leissler

Galice Resort, one of the Rogue River’s most popular and recognized resorts, is a 20-minute drive west of Grants Pass. When you think resort, however, put aside visions of posh. Instead, think of rustic cabins and all around comfort—the best way to experience the river.

Thirty-five years ago, owner Debbie Thomason’s parents wanted a new venture, a place where people could go and simply enjoy life. Someone overheard their conversation and said he knew just the place. Soon, the Thomasons were owners of what was then Galice Store, built in 1945. Louis Galice’s 1858 gold discovery had led to a town, and the old schoolhouse serves as a community hall today.

Anyone wanting to float the Rogue River between Hog Creek and Grave Creek, the 14-mile stretch right before the wild and scenic section of the river, is welcome to put in or take out at Galice Resort. If you want someone else at the oars, Southern Oregon’s largest day rafting company offers guided or do-it-yourself raft trips, with a choice of paddle or framed rafts, or inflatable kayaks. The resort can accommodate one to 250 people for anything from a getaway to company parties, reunions, birthdays, and wedding receptions (Thomason is licensed to officiate at weddings). Guests may use a year-round shuttle service to and from the airport, to river destinations, and for rafters’ vehicles. Nearby hiking trails are available for landlubbers.

If you choose to stay, you have year-round options: quaint cabins, the RiverView House (sleeps 16), or the Galice House Lodge (sleeps 20). Seventy employees of all ages keep the operation going. An onsite store offers supplies, clothing, and souvenirs. Many families make the resort a destination year after year and into succeeding generations.

When hunger strikes, the restaurant serves killer breakfasts, big hamburger lunch platters, dinners, specials, and homemade desserts. Oregon microbrew beer and wine are available, as well as cocktails. Some folks come by just to eat or have a drink and enjoy themselves on an expansive deck overlooking the river. Guests may enjoy entertainment Wednesday and Friday through Sunday, when all ages hit the dance floor.

Their banner says it all: “Galice is just Galice until you add the people and then it becomes the EXPERIENCE.” Thomason urges folks to be part of that experience. Observing people before and after their trip, she notes, “The river changes everything.” It’s a feeling you carry with you long after the adventure is over.

Galice Resort

11744 Galice Rd., Merlin




A Love Letter to the Rogue

Story by Leslee Ryerson

We have all heard stories of adventurous whitewater rafting trips down the Wild & Scenic Rogue River. I had never experienced it, so when the opportunity arose I couldn’t pass up four days of amazing whitewater rafting, starry filled nights, and gourmet food and wine, all in the hands of some of the most experienced and best trained guides on the river.

The O.A.R.S. Company, (Outdoor Adventure River Specialists) based in Angels Camp California, has been commercially hosting river tours since 1969. Their passion for river conservation and adventure led them to become the first exclusively oar-powered rafting operator in Grand Canyon National Park. They now run ecotourism adventures in Chile, Peru, Zambia, Fiji, and the Galapagos, to name a few.  

The evening before the trip, the group stayed at historic Morrison’s Rogue River Lodge. Celebrating 70 years in business, Morrison’s is set on a gorgeous five acre riverfront property. They offer fine dining and lodging accommodations from lodge rooms to suites and cabins. It’s an Orvis Endorsed Fly Fishing Lodge, with fishing classes, guided fishing trips, single and multi day rafting trips, and guided mountain biking tours. The lodge provides country style breakfasts and boxed lunches to lodgings guests.

We missed happy hour but made it for the 7 p.m. four course prix fixe dinner, which started with lobster ravioli and Oregon greens salad with cranberries, hazelnuts, and Oregon blue cheese. For an entrée, we were given the choice of rack of lamb or perfectly grilled Ahi tuna, both over parsnip mashed potatoes. Dessert was a decadent caramel cheesecake with raspberry drizzle. Needless to say, so far the gourmet trip was starting out with a bang.   

After a refreshing night’s sleep in Morrison’s clean and cozy Tuck Away Cottage up Taylor Creek, guests enjoyed a hearty breakfast before the adventure. Six guests from across the country, four guides, and myself were accompanied by chef and restaurateur Neil Clooney, chef John DeMoss, and Valley View Winery owner Mark Wisnovsky.  

The first day’s rafting did not disappoint. Departing from Alameda park, it was eight miles of fun and excitement with plenty of class II and III rapids. We got to see the infamous Rainie Falls (which is also worth hiking). Though the guests had to walk around the falls, I joined the guides in inflatable kayaks (“duckies”) down the fish ladder.

The fun continued when we reached camp as we grabbed a cold beverage and searched the beach for the perfect spot to put up our tents while the guides set up the kitchen area. Before long, the heavenly smell of bacon beignets wafted through the camp, the perfect olfactory spark to get the wine open and flowing. The Valley View Winery 2013 Anna Maria Viognier was the ideal wine to pair with the fluffy bacon beignets, drizzled with maple chive crème fraiche. Neil then fried up catfish for tacos made with small corn tortillas, cabbage, and pico de gallo. We were all a little in awe as we ate this phenomenal food on a beach beside a gorgeous river, miles from “civilization.”

The salad was crunchy baby kale, roasted golden beets, pickled red onion, spiced pecans, and lemon horseradish dressing. The main course called for the 2012 Anna Maria Tempranillo. The guests loved the big red wine, a varietal that is becoming a regional draw for the Rogue Valley. It paired well with the chicken (confit in bacon fat), crab, and seared scallops, served in an Andouille gumbo over a cheddar grit cake with pickled okra. The guests gushed over the perfectly seared scallops and said the roux rivaled the Gumbo Shop roux in New Orleans. This was a foodie’s dream—watching chefs cook and listening to them talk about the food as Mark educated about the wines 

Dessert was homemade cherry pie, baked by Neil’s wife Claire, the cherries picked by her and their two year old daughter. For added entertainment, Neil made fresh ice cream right before our eyes: cream, tempered eggs, sugar, and vanilla bean, adding crushed dry ice and whisking like crazy. In minutes we had delicious, fresh ice cream.

The weather was still warm and there was no moonlight, so the canopy of stars was brilliant and immense. The stories of the day went on late into the night as new friends were easily made, thankful for our good fortune to have such an unbelievably gorgeous day on the river.

The next morning we woke up to fresh coffee, fruit, and French toast with real maple syrup. Camp was easily packed up and we headed out for a 10 mile float. The day was thrilling, hitting the Wild Cat, Russian, and Black Bar Rapids, including Horseshoe Bend––a huge S curve in the river with lots of rolling waves. We stopped for swimming and jumping off rocks, as well as some fun creek exploration at Big Windy Creek, with a rock slide down a steep face into a deep pool of cold creek water.   

We saw a river otter with a lamprey in its mouth and lots of Canada geese, ducks, bald eagles, and osprey. We even witnessed butterflies puddling on the banks to drink.

As I floated in the water, experiencing the seclusion (the wild and scenic section is only accessible by boat, foot, or air) I couldn’t help but think of the history and bravery of those who had discovered, shaped, and lived here so many years ago; from the Native Americans to the miners, fisherman, and traders, who haphazardly created many of the rapids we navigate today.

Another interesting thing you can only see by foot or boat (the airstrip is no longer used) is Zane Gray’s personal cabin. He wrote many novels while staying in the tiny shack, and legend has it that it was actually a love nest for his mistress. When “pilgrims” come to the famous cabin, they can leave a heart shaped rock to mend their own broken heart, in homage to Zane’s spurned wife.  

Our final stop that day was Middle Upper Missouri Camp, where we helped unload gear, set up tents, and sat down to a cool glass of delicious Rogue White, a crisp blend of seven white varieties. We anxiously awaited the amazing appetizers: bite sized pork belly topped with peach slices and roasted with an open flame. The Rogue White was also delicious with the Caesar lettuce wraps—made with imported Spanish white anchovies, fried breadcrumbs, and roasted garlic aioli topped with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano 

The Rogue White continued to shine for bacon wrapped barbecued shrimp with Rogue Creamery smoked blue cheese slaw and micro arugula. For the main course, Valley View’s Anna Maria 2012 Syrah was poured to compliment the melt in your mouth, braised beef short ribs sitting on a pillow of wild mushroom risotto (beech and king trumpet mushrooms), house pickled fennel (a Smithfields specialty), and preserved lemon gremolata. As an added treat we also had a newly released 2013 Anna Maria Applegate Valley Zinfandel. Dessert was irresistible peanut butter chocolate cheesecake and caramel sauce paired with 2009 Anna Maria Port.  

This was some of the most fabulous dining you could possibly ask for. The ability to make these gourmet meals with just a camp stove—getting better results than many restaurants do in a commercial kitchen—was phenomenal.

Day three took us through gorgeous Mule Creek Canyon, over the slightly treacherous Coffee Pot rapid, and over the sketchy Blossom Bar, our guides skillfully avoiding the dreaded picket fence, which is a man made rapid whose purpose was to make the river somewhat more navigable by boat.

The final night we made camp at Half Moon Bar. With no idea what to expect for dinner, we all agreed on how could it get any better than it had been? But chef Clooney outdid himself, pulling a hat trick.

Dinner three opened with a giant board of incredible cheeses and house made charcuterie. We enjoyed pork and beef landjägers, duck breast jerky, duck prosciutto, olives, cashews, and house made orange vanilla marmalade that went best on a crunchy Sunstone Bakery cracker smeared with Cypress Grove Humboldt Fog (Chevre with and edible layer of vegetable ash, that looks like you’re eating beautiful, creamy layer cake) or the Cypress Grove Purple Haze (Chevre with lavender and wild fennel pollen). For harder cheeses there were smoked gouda, Rogue Creamery sharp cheddar, and Parmesan from the night before. Everything was being scarfed down while politely sipping a 2014 Anna Maria Chardonnay; an excellent, barrel-fermented Chardonnay that is loaded with flavors of pear, pineapple, and vanilla toast.  

Next came a wedge salad with guanciale (fried cured pork cheek) and toasted Oregon hazelnuts with a jalapeño ranch dressing. The flavors and textures were amazing together—cool crunchy lettuce with a little heat on top and salty pork cheek. Especially with the Chardonnay, it was all umami.

The main course was pan seared Chinook salmon, caught upstream just days earlier. It might have been the wine talking, but we discussed the irony of the situation—the salmon that passed through the very waters we were sitting by just days earlier was now being enjoyed over a bed of house made fresh pappardelle carbonara with house cured belly bacon, fava beans, and pea shoots. The sprinkling of pan fried, crunchy noodles on top are what separate the true chef from us mere mortals. We savored it all with a 2013 Anna Maria Pinot Noir and a very special Pioneer Label  2011 Tempranillo. Dessert was Strawberry Shortcake, with hand whipped cream Chantilly and house made chocolate sauce (the chocolate wasn’t necessary, but obviously we were not dealing with amateurs).  

While savoring our very last course and sipping Rogue Gold—a dessert blend of white wines, perfectly balanced with bright acidity and sweetness—it was serendipitous that we spotted a black bear not 150 yards out of camp. No trip in the Wild and Scenic would be complete without a bear sighting. Our guides knew how to properly take care of the food at our camp as to not draw him in any closer, keeping us perfectly safe.

Being our last night, we opened a few more bottles of wine than the previous nights. There was still no moon, just the candle light from the votives on the long dinner table, and the infinite stars above. The goal each night was to stay awake for a shooting star.

The next day we reluctantly got out of bed, knowing that we only had ten more miles of river to float. The delicious eggs benedict prepared by the river guides made it that much more bittersweet. It was overcast and cooler than before, so we opted to ride in the big rafts. Splashing rapids and more breathtaking scenery were present as the river widened the closer it got to the ocean. We had lunch on a high rocky beach next to a beautiful waterfall with a pool full of salamanders and a turtle sunning itself on a rock.

It was a little cold and wet when we said some goodbyes at the Foster Bar take out. We were still regaling stories on the winding trip up Bear Camp road on the way back to Morrison’s Rogue River Lodge. Some were dozing, all were smiling.

I’m sure the visitors who flew across the country to see what we have in our own back yard are still talking about this epic adventure.

Neil Clooney is the chef and owner of Smithfields Restaurant in Ashland. He brought with him Cordon Bleu trained chef, John DeMoss, owner of Northwest Pizza and Pasta. The wines were provided by O.A.R.S. veteran adventurer Mark Wisnovsky, bringing a generous selection of wine from the oldest winery in Southern Oregon—Valley View Winery. Guest writer Leslee Ryerson is a chicken at heart who won’t let the risk of life and limb get in the way of a good meal or a great glass of wine.


Morrison’s Rogue River Lodge

8500 Galice Rd, Merlin








Smithfields Restaurant and Bar

36 S 2nd St, Ashland




Cypress Grove



Rogue Creamery

311 N Front St, Central Point




Valley View Winery

1000 Upper Applegate Rd, Jacksonville




The Rogue River Rats

Story by Emery Garcia

The Rogue River offers fun and excitement for just about everybody, just ask the Rogue River Rats. For over 30 years this group of disabled children and adults have taken on the river by storm for a long weekend of rafting, camping, splashing, and dancing. This inspirational and uplifting journey offers many a chance to get out of group homes, off of wheel chairs, and into the splendors of nature to prove just what they are capable of. Free to participants, the event is led by a dedicated crew of volunteers who take care of the huge list of logistics, while organizations and benefactors cover the cost. This summer the River Rats had one for the record books, check back with Southern Oregon Magazine this fall to be a part of the fun.


Momentum River Expeditions

Starting out in 2003, with a van, three guides, two rafts and more rivers than guests, Pete Wallstrom desired to reinvent the way river trips were run. Today he owns Momentum River Expeditions, offering adventures that range from mild to heart pounding, from "Wow! I can't believe we just did that!" to jaw-dropping beauty enjoyed by three generations of family and friends.

The most difficult thing may be in making a choice between the many available offerings. All of Momentum’s guides have a minimum of eight years experience leading river trips locally and across the world. And all meals are homemade and feature local and organic produce and all camping gear is included.

There are many rivers to choose from, most right here in Southern Oregon, so you may have to take two trips, or maybe four. Perhaps it will become a yearly adventure. From a half-day to nine-day trip, children through seniors, large groups or small, Momentum can accommodate an adventure that is sure to produce smiles and life-long memories. They feature trips for first-timers and families with young children all the way to some of the most adventurous trips in the world.


Momentum River Expeditions

3195 E. Main St., Ashland



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