Rogue’s Roost: Paradise In The Wilderness, Part 1.

When I think of Rogue’s Roost, I am issued once more through the gates of childhood into a pristine and untainted world.  This was a world of heady aromas, incredible beauty, the substance of dreams.

Rogue’s Roost was the summer residence of Phyllis deYoung Tucker, part of a family that owned The San Francisco Chronicle.  Her main home was in Burlingame, California, an area known for wealth.  I knew her as an old lady with a bright smile, a certain elegance in her gait, who often wore a broad-rimmed hat.  She loved to walk through her garden, which was pungent with the smell of carrots and point out her favorite flowers.  The path continued to a rocky outcropping overlooking the river.  These rocks marked the coveted steelhead hole of her chauffeur, Joe Chevigny.

The swimming pool below the main Roost was a troublesome affair.  Sharp flagstones lined the edge of the pool and caused one man to require stitches.  I knew it only as a place to frolic in the summer, accompanied by her grandson, Nion Tucker, named for Mrs. Tucker’s husband.

Rogue’s Roost was located off of Highway 62(Crater Lake Highway) about one mile SW of Laurelhurst State Park.  My father said to look for a sign that read N. Tucker.  When I saw the sign, I knew we would begin to descend through a lush forest, ending up at the moss-covered Rogue’s Roost.  Evelyn Ditsworth Walls, whose family settled in the Laurelhurst area in the late 1880s, gives a detailed and poetic description of this special road and of the area of Rogue’s Roost:  “The road from Crater Lake Highway down to the Roost went through a large, weighted gate, which could be opened without the driver getting out of the car by pulling on a three-foot wooden handle cantilevered to the weights at the hinged side of the gate.  The road wound down the mountainside through virgin forest carpeted with moss where lady slipper orchids and lamb’s tongue bloomed in the early spring…  The road looped around a hairpin curve, alongside the irrigation ditch and across a bridge with rustic seats on each side before plunging down the last steep hill and around the final curve.  Then the road leveled off through the landscaped grounds with a croquet court on one side of the road and a deck tennis court on the other.

The landscaping was quite informal with flagstone walks among the big trees and rockeries with coral bells, columbine, maidenhair and sword ferns.  Near the river there was a natural carpet of different kinds of moss and lichens covering the ground and the large river boulders.  I especially remember the exceptional beauty of the area in the early spring, when all the new growth would be bursting forth in its many shades of green, and again in the fall, when all the autumn shades of russet, red, and gold would emerge following the first nippy nights.  The many dogwood trees and vine maple bushes provided bright spots in the undergrowth both in the spring and fall.”

Going Back To The Stair Steps Rapid.

Just a short distance below scenic Laurelhurst State Park, off of old Highway 62, there was a clearing in the woods, which let you see down to the Rogue River.  As a child, my father sometimes took me and Grandpa Johnny there armed with a pair of binoculars to gaze down at the canyon.  I remember looking at an intimidating rapid, which Dad called “the rapid above Tucker’s”, but was known to the natives as the Stair Steps, because the river flowed over a series of ledges before it dropped into a large hole.  Just below it was The Whirlpool, a rocky bar that went into the bank, creating a large eddy of swirling water.  People used to park their cars off of ’62, and walk down a narrow path to fish there.  The beginning of The Whirlpool could be seen from the clearing.

I never knew that some years later I would be floating those same rapids, often carrying some curious passengers.  The years I spent floating from Laurelhurst State Park to the Obstinate J Ranch(rafting or inner tubing)were probably the happiest years of my life.  In 1979, the Lost Creek Dam was built, which buried those rapids forever, creating Lost Creek Lake in its stead.

The brief video below shows our view of the Stair Steps in 1961.  The rapid was considerably more difficult then, because the left channel was narrower and less forgiving.  The 1964 flood made the river wider and the rapid easier to navigate.  Nevertheless, this was the only rapid that I pulled to shore on the right to scout.  You had to locate a series of boulders to know where to drop over the main ledge into the left channel, or you could have difficulties.  Sliding over the ledge required some technical skill.  However, I’m not sure I could have inner tubed the 1961 version of the Stair Steps.  The 1964 flood took away rapids such as Tucker’s Plunge, Jackson Falls(which were not possible for inner tubing), and made rapids like Casey, Trail, Upper and Lower Obstinate J, Robber’s Roost much easier.  Some people believe that the flood was nature’s way of showing that the Rogue River was becoming an old river, with the widening of its banks.  Be that as it may, there is no denying the impact of the 1964 flood, and the changes it wrought.

Gone, But Not Forgotten

The rapids of the Rogue River that once flowed freely before Lost Creek Dam was built are gone, but not forgotten.  Laurelhurst State Park was once the beginning of many an exciting river adventure.  A beautiful waterfall fell over a cliff into the river, and the gravel road came right up to the river.  Rapids such as the Stair Steps, the rapid below Tucker’s(the summer retreat of the Tuckers of Burlingame, California), and the sheer pristine beauty of the canyon, made the river journey something special.  Let’s not forget the numerous spawning beds, and great steelhead fishing.  For braver souls, to begin your journey at the confluence of the North and South Forks meant almost a half mile of continuous rapids as they cascaded down the canyon.  One of the most famous, Whitewater, is shown below due to the courtesy of river guide, Bob Pruitt.  The Y-Rapid was the last major obstacle before the covered bridge, and the entrance to Laurelhurst State Park.  When I was in my teens, I took many raft trips and inner tube trips from this Park.  Oh, those wonderful memories!  For individuals who want to know more about the Laurelhurst area, please read my:  Laurelhurst:  Lost Community of the Upper Rogue.

White Water Rapid on the Rogue River. At low summer flows, the canyon becomes one long rapid with lots of rocks to dodge.

White Water Rapid on the Rogue River. At low summer flows, the canyon becomes one long rapid with lots of rocks to dodge.