It was a chilly fall morning in 2018 as we pushed off from the launch at Graves Creek on the wild and scenic section of the Rogue River. While every one of our annual Rogue trips is special, this one was “extra special” as it marked the 50th Anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act which was signed into law by President Johnson in 1968. The Rogue was one of the original 8 rivers inducted into that protected status and we invited the crew from the PBS station in Portland to join us on the trip as we celebrated the wild and scenic Rogue and the guys who came before us.
In total, there are roughly 215 rivers in the United States with the Wild and Scenic designation. While it gives them an extra measure of protection, there is always someone challenging that protection with a new idea or a plan to commercialize or exploit them. Dams,Trams, Casinos, Mining Rights, any one of them would make our Wild and Scenic Rivers “less wild”. What I have learned from researching them, scouting them, boating them, and “connecting” with them is that they are still vulnerable – every single one of them.
I row a handcrafted wooden drift boat that I built about fifteen years ago in Oregon. It’s taken me to over a hundred of the Wild and Scenic Rivers which includes some of the most treacherous and remote rapids in North America. I’ve had river adventures for two lifetimes. The boat is a little weathered and worn but it can still turn heads as it threads its way through rock gardens, “S” curves, boiling eddies, and crazy rapids. Not many wooden boats run our North American rivers these days – mostly rafts, aluminum or fiberglass drift boats or kayaks run the rivers. Newer materials, easier maintenance, more stable, not as breakable. Lots of reasons to switch from wood.
And that’s what appealed to the OPB crew about our trip – we have a diverse mix of boats – everyone in our crew has a unique preference and each boat “suits” the rower perfectly. Some row colorful rafts and some row metal boats, some row catarafts, others row kayaks and some of us still row wood boats. We are all connected to the Rogue and each other by our passion for river running in wild places.
For the full video and story, visit: https://www.opb.org/news/article/oregon-rogue-river-classic-wood-boats-wild-scenic/
I still run a wood boat because it connects me to river running’s past – when boats were made from local trees and built with bare hands. It’s those river pioneers and the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act that make it possible for a group of guys like us to experience the river pretty much as it was a hundred years ago. I row a wood boat because it reminds me that the wild and scenic rivers I run are just as fragile as the boat I row and I love that. It’s nostalgic and poetic and for me it’s a perfect fit.
By Greg Hatten:
Exploring National Parks and Wild and Scenic Rivers in a vintage Toyota Land Cruiser and a handcrafted mahogany drift boat. Authentic adventures can be found at: findyourparkinawoodenboat.com