Introducing TouVelle State Park

TouVelle State Park on the upper Rogue River is one of the most scenic parks in Southern Oregon.  It presents a riparian environment rife with wildflowers, blackberry bushes, trees, and many kinds of birds.  As to the latter, the park is a favorite of birdwatchers, who are seen often wearing their binoculars.  Tou Velle Park has expanded to include a nature trail which hooks up with the Denman Wildlife Refuge.  Before the flood of 1955, a military bridge connected the two parts of the Tou Velle Road, which remain as isolated segments in different parts of the valley.  One of my photos shows what’s left of the bridge, a mere pylon.  At the lower end of the park,  Bybee Bridge, a double cantilever bridge, once ruled supreme, but was removed for a cement bridge that created numerous obstacles for boaters, and detracted greatly from the beauty along the shore.  The lowest ramp is recommended as easier and safer, and many boats take advantage of it.  Fishing is plentiful, but no famous holes for summer steelhead.  The park’s inhabitants also include frolicsome children, for whom a special rock dam was built so they could play in the river without danger, and dogs chasing sticks.  Below I have posted photos from Summers 2011-2012, which give a feel of the park’s activities and pleasures.

The rapid above Tucker’s: The Stair Steps

The rapid which my Dad called “The Rapid Above Tucker’s” was known locally as the Stair Steps or the Steps.  This rapid survived the ’64 flood, although it lost some of the sharpness of its drop since the river widened.  The rapid came after a series of narrow drops that were negotiated on the left, because there was a river wide bar.  Following the drops, the river turned right and the Steps began.  You followed a current on the right passing to the left of two boulders, then made your way to the center to slide over a ledge.  This was a tricky maneuver since the ledge was chock full of rocks, and you had a tight squeeze.  Once over the ledge, you needed to dodge a few boulders in the left channel, especially the last wave, which was a large hole.  The river dropped several feet from the top with the right resembling a falls.  Following immediately was a large bar with waves that tried to take you into the bank.  This was a rapid that I inner tubed many times with my sister Nancy and my cousin Gregg Turner.  It was always a challenge and great fun.  Just below was a famous fishing spot, especially for steelhead.

The Rapid Below Tucker’s

The rapid below Tucker’s was another formidable obstacle for boaters before the 1964 flood.  It began as a shallow bar, which forced boaters into a deeper channel on the far left.  As the rapid progressed, boaters had to move quickly to the right to avoid some boulders with sharp drops.  Then the bar flowing from right to left and the left drops formed steep waves, and the river went straight over an enormous hole, which had to be avoided or you would capsize.  This was definitely a rapid I would never have considered inner tubing.  However, after the 1964 flood the river widened and the steep drop was gone.  There were still some large waves, but there was no danger.  I inner tubed the post 1964 flood lower Tucker’s rapid many times without any difficulty.  When the river flowed past lower Tucker’s rapid, it left its canyon environment and spread out into numerous bars.  The change was quite dramatic.  It revealed one of the finest steelhead fishing spots on the Upper Rogue.  It was also not uncommon to see salmon spawning in August.

The reader might ask where the name Tucker came from.  Nion and Phyllis Tucker had purchased the property adjoining the rapid from Walter Bowne in the 1930s.  Rogue’s Roost, which is what the Tucker’s called their summer home(their home was in Burlingame California) was truly something to see.  It boasted a swimming pool, a large vegetable garden and it was surrounded by magnificent trees.

More On The Highway Rapid

My Dad recalls the Highway Rapid: “The real problem was you would come down in a westerly direction, and the whole river would slam into the bank of the highway and then make a right angle turn. The force of the river would actually pin boats against the bank, and many of the guides would just pull the boat around.  Where it made its major right angle turn there were large boulders to dodge, and the river was very swift.  The waves were very high, and the river would smash into the bank,and create crazy currents.  The guide told my father and I to get out, and he would pick us up below.  He rowed a wooden boat right through, but some of the guides just roped their boats through there.  Below that rapid you came to the Ditsworth’s place, and I used to fish for steelhead in there.

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.