We stayed in Gold Beach an extra day for a shot of adrenalin. Jerry’s Jet Boats got great reviews from others and gets great reviews from us. The fact that the weather was perfect only added to the joy. The Rogue River is wide, but mostly shallow. Jet boats, which use jets of water to propel them, can run in as few as six inches of water, are perfectly suited for such a location. The river is running higher these days as the snow melt runs down the mountains, but we were hardly aware of the rocks right beneath us as we skimmed over the waves. The Rogue has a 12mph current at the moment, but the jet boat engines are so powerful, our upstream speed was enough to give our hair a good tangle.
The jet boat season began today May 1 and we got a 25% discount for being early in the season. Jerry runs three trips in the summer with as many as twelve boats out at a time doing trips of various lengths. Today there was only one boat and we did the longest - a 104 mile trip. It sounded like a long journey when we booked it, but the river was so varied, interesting and just plain fun, the time flew by as we flew down the river.
Our captain was the grandson of the original Jerry, who began running these airboat trips in the 1950’s. The grandfather had eleven siblings, who all made their living from the river one way or another. As we zipped along, we heard stories about their lodges burning down, bankruptcies, canneries that came and went. He showed us the spot by a waterfall where he had sprinkled his mother's ashes. It felt like the Rogue was his own personal river.
The first twenty miles we slalomed between many recreational fishing boats who were looking for Chinook salmon. They are only allowed to keep the fish with a notch in their fins which indicates that they were released by the hatchery rather than bred wild. It didn’t look like they were catching much yet, but the bright blue sky and warm temperatures made just being on the water such a pleasure. Our captain was very careful to aim our powerful wake away from the fishing boats, but our engine noise probably didn’t help.
Every so often when the river was wide enough and the breeze in the right direction, he suddenly twirled us around 360º. The spray evaporated quickly in the bright sunshine and we never got cold even though the water is 54º at the moment. We saw numerous lodges and picturesque cabins nestled into the trees. Eventually we got past the section with roads and those cabins had been built solely with supplies brought in by boat. They had to supply their own water and electricity. One cabin owner had mounted wheelbarrows to car engines to help him haul it all uphill. The last twenty miles were truly remote and wild. Zodiacs make float trips from this area and it takes them three days to do what we did in about an hour. One group of boaters graciously mooned us as we went by. The wild section had the best rapids. Riding rapids in a jet boat is a vastly different experience than riding them in a zodiac. On float trips the tipping danger is much higher and you have to paddle like crazy. On the jet boat our biggest concern was wiping the water droplets off our sun glasses after every series of rapids.