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So You Want To Play On A River?

 by Shellie Bailey-Shah


Family-Friendly Trips 

Indigo Creek Outfitters is run by Will Volpert and his wife, Julie. Volpert grew up immersed in the river culture. His parents, who are outfitters in Idaho, took him on his first river trip when he was 6 months old, and the river — any river — has been in his blood ever since. Indigo Creek is particularly committed to getting families out onto the water. “Being on the river creates an adventure that everyone shares,” Volpert says. “Our hope is that every family that joins us gets to experience these authentic moments together and that it’s something they look back on as one of their favorite memories.” 

Indigo Creek runs half-, full- and multiday rafting trips on the Rogue (minimum age: 6) and Upper Klamath rivers (minimum age: 12). Some trips can be combined with beer- or wine-tasting tours. The company also offers kayaking and floating trips on the Rogue, plus stand-up paddleboard rentals.


Unique Challenges

Orange Torpedo Trips’ history on the Rogue River dates back to the late 1960s, when it first introduced the idea of inflatable kayak trips. While the outfitter does offer oar and paddle rafting, guide-supported inflatable kayaking is at the heart of the business. “When one paddles an inflatable kayak, they decide to paddle out into the current and take their boat down into the whitewater,” explains managing partner Erik Weiseth. “Ultimately, it creates an intimate and unmatched experience with the river that paddlers remember for their entire lives.” 

Orange Torpedo offers half-, full- and multiday trips on the Klamath, North Umpqua and Rogue; in general, the minimum age is 5 years old. If you’re an avid hiker or trail runner, check out the raft-supported Rogue River Trail trips


Remote Exploration

As a boy, owner Zach Collier spent his summers working with his father at Boy Scout camps, where he led overnight kayaking excursions. Later he left his life as a teacher to run Northwest Rafting Company. “I love floating down wild rivers and sleeping under the stars at night,” Collier says. 

NWRC runs multiday rafting trips on the Illinois River and expedition-style kayaking trips on the Chetco River — both through the rugged and remote Kalmiopsis Wilderness. “You get to visit beautiful canyons that very few people step foot in,” says Collier. “I personally think these are the most beautiful rivers in the world.” The outfitter also offers multiday excursions on the Rogue River and specialty rafting trips with a focus on bluegrass music, gourmet food or yoga; the minimum age for trips is 7 years old.

Malone Springs, Upper Klamath Lake. Photo: ROE Outfitters
Malone Springs, Upper Klamath Lake. Photo: ROE Outfitters

Quiet Waters

Real Oregon Experience specializes in guided kayaking tours in the Klamath Basin on Malone Springs (minimum age: 5), Spring Creek (minimum age: 5) and Wood River (minimum age: 10) — all rich in bird species and other wildlife. These pristine waterways are perfect for families with kids, in particular. “Kayaking on calm water is a great way to introduce kids to some independence on the water,” says co-owner Jen Roe. “Kids are getting a good look at the world around them in a way that they don’t see every day.” Families can combine their water time with ROE’s nine–zip line, tree-to-tree canopy tours for an entire day of adventure. Or paddlers can explore on their own with kayak and stand-up paddleboard rentals, delivered to various flat-water locations.

In addition, ROE has been leading fly-fishing trips on the legendary Klamath, Rogue, Williamson and Wood rivers for more than 30 years. Steelhead, cutthroat trout and redband rainbow trout await! Or if it’s your first time out, let ROE’s friendly guides show you the ropes on a rod-and-reel trip to Fourmile Lake or Lake of the Woods (minimum age: 4). You’ll have a trout — brook, brown, lake and rainbow — or kokanee on the line in no time.

Shellie Bailey-Shah is travel writer who has the distinction of having visited all seven continents, but she favors her home state of Oregon. She lives with her husband and sons in Portland and has logged thousands of miles behind the wheel of the family’s RV.