From left, Brodie Sullivan, Covey Baack and Jeff Baack prepare to tackle the raging Rogue River on March 31.

Trio conquers floodwaters on the Rogue

On Saturday, March 31, the Rogue River was near flood stage. Normal flow at this time of year is 8,000 cubic feet per second. On Saturday it was running more than 30,000 cfs.

That's when my husband, Jeff, called me and asked if he could go rafting with his son. I hesitated and then said, "I think it would be a good father-son bonding time."

Most people were thinking of how to stay warm and dry, but my son, Covey Baack, his friend, Brodie Sullivan, and Jeff were setting out to float the Rogue from Hog Creek near Merlin to Gold Beach — where the river meets the sea.

Covey and Jeff were rowing Sotar Catarafts and Brodie was rowing a Sotar raft. They were well prepared with dry suits, dry tops and pants, the Walrus, which is a giant rain fly, Cloud 9 pads for sleeping, sleeping bags and minimal cooking supplies and food — with Power Bars and gorp as back-up in case they were forced to stay longer. Always prepare for the worst!

All three men are experienced river rats. I wanted to say river "warriors," but my husband said "rats."

Covey has rafted, kayaked, guided and generally grown up on the water. Brodie has worked as a river guide and has years of experience. Jeff has been rafting for 30 years. They knew what they were in for. Big water. Large, downed trees, floating flotsam and jetsam, lots of rain and wind.

They were prepared for two days of hard work on the oars. But as Covey said later, "as soon as I hit that first rapid, I knew we were going to have to work for it the whole way."

Eighty-five miles of turbulent river in 11 hours of hard rowing. One night of sleeping next to the now-raging waterfall of Tate Creek, with three new waterfalls across the river.

They had a few exciting moments.

Brodie flipped the raft on a huge rapid and quickly jumped to the upside and rode through Blossom Bar and Staircase then eddied out and flipped the raft back over.

Covey hit a big rapid, and as the raft hit the front curl he flew off the raft — swimming. He scrambled back on and was again launched from his raft. He made it quickly back in again and back under control.

They were all amazed at the massive flow of water. Waterfalls were everywhere. Mule Creek canyon is an area of the river where the river boils and throws boats side to side and round about with normal flow levels. The water at Mule Creek was over the top of the usually steep-walled canyon. The entire river was boils and hydraulics. The water would roll up the sides of the canyon in seven-foot-high walls and then curl over like giant waves.

They arrived at Gold Beach dirty, wet, somewhat sore, hungry, happy and safe, already planning their next floodwater trip.

Oregon Outdoors reader Shara Baack and her family live in Medford.

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