The Map That Ray Drew

Fishing map drawn by Ray Minehan.

Fishing map drawn by Ray Minehan.

Rogue’s Roost and many other spots on the Rogue River were known for excellent steelhead and salmon, so to provide their guests with a fishing map, Nion and Phyllis Tucker hired sketch artist, Ray Minehan.  He drew a limited amount of sketches that are all numbered.  This is #22.  It is supposed that the maps were drawn in the late 30s or early 40s. The Roost had been purchased by the Tuckers as a picnic site from Walter and Alice Bowne in the 1930s.  At that time, there was only a small cabin and nothing to suggest what would become the magnificent Rogue’s Roost.  The Tuckers then bought other parcels from different landowners to complete the finished residence. Joseph Chevigny was the chauffeur and fisherman in residence.  He and my Dad used to go fishing together.  It was Joe who taught my Dad about the art of fly fishing.  The area near the Roost boasted a huge spawning bed and great steelhead fishing.  Joe created his own fly that he called the Chevigny fly.  My Dad copied it and made numerous flies that he gave to friends.  He renamed the fly, The Rogue River Special, and the name stuck.  It is still used by fishermen today. The upper left of Ray’s map shows the elegant Roost with its spacious lawn.  The main building in the center opened out to a deck over the river.  It was not unusual to see jack salmon or steelhead jumping in the sparkling water.The lower left of the map shows the result of a fisherman’s efforts: a large, tasty fish ready to be eaten.

A few comments regarding some of the places mentioned on the map: 1.  The town of McLeod no longer exists.  It was subsumed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as a visitors’ information center for Lost Creek Dam.  2.  Casey’s Camp was an extention of the original Casey’s Auto Park.  Today it is called Casey State Park. 3.  Round House(a stone house) was built by Emmett(Sno-Cat) Tucker(no relation to the Tuckers of Rogues Roost) and eventually became the famous Obstinate J Ranch until it was sold and the name changed.  4.   Beagle was a pioneer community that began in 1885 and ended in 1941 when the U.S. Army took it over to establish Camp White. 5.  Sunset on the Rogue included a gas station, store for food and fishing, and cabins.  It still exists today!  6.  California on the Rogue offered a gas station and cabins. The name has been changed, but the buildings remain.  I knew the owner during the 60s, Mr. Sullivan.  I brought a geode to him from the North Umpqua region and asked him if there could be any crystals inside.  He said, “Nah!”  When I got to the Obstinate J Ranch, I split the geode and found it full of reddish-brown quartz crystals!  7. Captain Black’s refers to what became Black Oaks.  The place currently belongs to the Donald L. Donegan family and encompasses some of the best steelhead water between Dodge Bridge and TouVelle State Park.  8.  Dowden and Hardy’s should be reversed.  Hardy Rapid Class 2+ contains an enormous hole in the middle of the river that must be avoided.  Dowden refers to Dowden Falls, today known as Gold Nugget Falls Class 3+.  Every summer rafters and kayakers float the left channel of the falls that includes two large drops, especially the last one!  The campground provides a beach with great views of the lower drop.  A great place to relax and reflect on nature’s wonders.

Robber’s Roost

Robber’s Roost near Casey State Park, acquired its name from a policeman with a sense of humor.  He was Sprat Well’s son-in-law.  Sprat was an old-timer who once owned river property from Eastin’s Rogue Haven to the Obstinate J Ranch.  The Roost was a well-known steelhead hole and nearby Pat’s Fly and Tackle provided fishermen with licenses and the required accessories.  The rapid opposite the Roost had one of the largest whirlpools on the upper Rogue.  A boat might spin around for half a minute before the river relinquished its grasp and the vessel could move on.  I knew the rapid as the Cottage Kitchen riffle, because there was a small restaurant above the Roost that I liked to frequent.  This restaurant and its co-owners, Mrs. Caroline Kelsey and Miss Allyn Goss, will be the subject of a future post.  In the meantime, please enjoy the video clip below of Robber’s Roost Rapid. The 1964 flood took the rapid away and replaced it by a mild chute.

The Obstinate J Rogue River Float 1962

We stayed at the Obstinate J Ranch from 1961-1979.  Our cabin was called Steelhead Point, and abounded in mosquitoes, and yellow jackets, which entered whenever we opened our hinged door.  Below us, the Rogue River flowed through a wonderful trout spot, and below that, there was an interesting rapid, which ended in a large hole and several steep waves.  The rapid disappeared after the 1964 flood, and I remember Obstinate J co-owner, George Pearson, driving his tractor in the middle of the river in a vain effort to bring the rapid back.  But the memories remain:  cooking barbecues along the river, finding my first calcite crystals lodged in a basalt boulder, watching numerous eddies twirl struggling leaves, starry, clear nights, Saturn Rock, beyond which you dared not go, and the many floats down the lower rapid.  In the video below, Dad rowed Grandpa Johnny, my sister Nancy and me through the rapid.

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.

Remembering Martha P.”Pat” Brooks: A Personal Tribute

I first knew Pat when my family stayed for a summer vacation at the Obstinate J Ranch in 1961.  We liked “Steelhead Point” so much that we returned every summer until 1980, when we built our own home on Rogue River Drive.  Although Pat came from an elite eastern women’s institution, Smith College, she had no difficulty adjusting to life on a ranch in Southern Oregon.  In fact, she loved her horses, cattle, and especially her two poodles.  I remember Pat calling out:  “Dragon!  Gagette!”, and the poodles would come running out of her house, and jump into her pick-up.  And when she was on the road, she was not known for dawdling.  She may have set a speed record going up and back from Hwy.62 to Persist, a 38 mile scamper.  In spite of that, time was not something sacred for her.  Dinner was when she made it, and she was known for being late and forgetting to call people.  Yet, she never missed a board meeting when I was Director of Medford Education International and had an adept mind at preserving details.  Pat had an encyclopedic knowledge of Rogue Valley events.  She belonged to many organizations and often helped support them.  She also had a great love of family and a great pride in her children and grandchildren’s achievements.  Pat was a strong individual that many relied on in good times and bad.  She possessed a winsome, yet knowing smile.  Her young, vibrant voice was often heard throughout the valley.  But now as I look across the darkening hills, there is an uneasy silence…

Tubing The Upper Rogue River, Part 1.

IMG_0574IMG_0573IMG_0417IMG_0379IMG_1186In tubing the Upper Rogue River, the floater has more choices, because of the recent removal of Gold Ray Dam and Savage Rapids Dam.  Basically, you can tube from below Lost Creek Dam to Gold Ray Rapid, and from Gold Hill Park to Graves Creek without too much difficulty.  High water creates some large holes, which should be avoided if possible.  Since the tube can only take a curler of a certain height, anything above that height will result in a swim.  Places to watch out for include the long rapid near the former Obstinate J Ranch, which is full of turbulent eddies, cross currents, minor reversals, and rocks.  This rapid is about 1/2 mile below Casey State Park.  Over the years, many, many people have gotten stranded or have tipped over in this rapid.  Rapids such as the one above Rogue Elk Park acquire considerable force as does Horseshoe Falls just above Rattlesnake Rapid.  Twin Bridges Rapid just above Valley of the Rogue State Park should not be taken on the left, because of sharp, rocky ledges.  It is wise to get out immediately on the left below Gold Ray Rapid since an irregular wave through a broken weir at the right occurs very soon, and Bitterman Falls, Gold Nugget(Hayes, Dowden) Falls, and T’lomikh Falls are definitely not for tubers.  The photos above include one of drop below Casey Rapid,  two of Rogue Elk Rapid; and two of Twin Bridges Rapid.  Photo below is Casey Rapid.IMG_1187