The Only Way to Get into the Wild: Rogue River Jet Boat Tours

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Oregon’s Rogue River jet boat tours provide visitors with a rip-roaring ride up the Rogue. Two outfitters provide the spins and fun as you travel the scenic Rogue, but only one continues the original tradition of carrying the mail. This same outfitter, Jerry’s Rogue River Jets is also the only tour company permitted access into the wild scenic portion of the Rogue.

When choosing an outfitter, you’ll want to match your travel interests with the operator, since each offer a different and unique experience. To get you started, here is a review of our trip with Jerry’s Rogue River Jet Boats. Then, keep reading for info on an alternative experience onto the Rogue River.

Rogue River Jet Boat Tours, Continuing a Fine Tradition

If you’ve ever gotten frustrated because an Amazon Prime package got delayed, here’s a fact that might make your blood boil. Prior to 1895, settlers, trappers and other residents living along the isolated Rogue River could wait weeks for parcels and letters to arrive at the nearest post office in Wedderburn. Mail then had to travel overland by mule to outposts located along the river.

But in 1895, Elijah Price had a brilliant idea. Why not use navigable waterways to transport mail. Rowing directly upstream would be faster than traveling over hill and dale and would keep rural residents more connected.

However, the United States Post Office, didn’t easily agree. Price was forced to make repeated requests and become the proverbial fly in the ointment before the good old USPS finally relented and granted him a one-year trial.

Fortunately for residents along the river, the man had grit. He broke out his 18-foot rowboat and began transporting mail up the river, free of payment. It took him four days for each run, but he proved that mail delivery by water was far more efficient than the rugged climb through the mountains.

His determination and spirit are rewarded today as mail delivery continues up the Rogue to rural outposts via Rogue River jet boats.

Delivering the Mail Aboard a Rogue River Jet Boat Tour

Skimming over the river in as little as ten inches of water, it’s hard to envision Elijah Price plying the oars of a single rowboat to make the weekly mail run up the Rogue River. It’s even harder to envision the overland trek by mules that preceded Price’s initiative.

Jerry’s Rogue River Jets is the only tour operator allowed on the wild portion of the Rogue. Consequently, they are also the only designated mail carrier.

Our tour started at the dock on scenic Route 1 along Oregon’s coast, where passengers were sorted into jet boats. The air coming off the ocean was cool, even on a sunny August morning, and passengers were grateful for the scattering of wool blankets.

Jerry’s offers three tours of varying lengths from 64 miles to 104 miles, as well as a 2-hour bay cruise. All start where the warmer Rogue waters mix with cooling ocean currents. Heading upstream, even warmer drafts of air sneak in, coaxing the hardy from their jackets and enticing even the intrepid from beneath blanket cloaks.

Gliding along on a Rogue River jet boat, the captain regaled us with the history of the mail run and how the spirit of Elijah Price was later kept alive through innovation. In the 1920s, mailboats were retrofitted with model T engines to improve the speed of travel, and soon a new business was started on the Rogue. With the advent of faster travel, tourists seeking communion with the river’s wild and scenic beauty paid fares to travel with the packages and parcels. 

In 1968, The National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act offered protection to the Rogue, shielding it from development and ensuring habitat for the species that call the corridor home. For that reason, development is sparse.

As we traveled further upstream, this became more apparent as the captain stopped to point out a cabin high on the mountain slopes. While the 1968 protection act prohibits development on the steep mountainsides framing the river, property owners who held title prior to the establishment of the act are free to build as they see fit, though landowners face many challenges in transporting material and supplies for building.

The few homes on the river are lean on amenities and many lack basics, such as electricity. It becomes easier to close your eyes and imagine Elijah Price rowing his way up the currents until the captain picks up speed and the boat, barely skimming the water, makes a valiant spin in a flat and wide portion of the lake.

This was the first of many splashing wet turns. Passengers laughed and a few reached again for the wool blankets, holding them up as protection against the wet finale as the boat floated to a semi-stop. A few seconds and the engine roared to life again, taking the boat in a counter clockwise spin in the opposite direction. The result was the same: more laughter and a fat spray of water that left all aboard a little damp.

It wasn’t long before we reached Agnes, a small dock on the river’s edge and the only outpost before heading into the wild section of the Rogue. We disembarked to deliver the mail and take a short stroll. For anyone embarking on the shorter, 64-mile tour, this is where the upriver journey ends, but for us, we were ready to head into the scenic backcountry for a 104-mile roundtrip journey into the heart of the wild Rogue, a section only accessible by boat or on foot.

We Head into the Wild on a Rogue River Jet Boat Tour

While most of the Rogue River is characterized by densely wooded shoreline and climbing cliff faces, the restricted portion of the Rogue has a different feel. Mountains are taller, foliage denser, and human habitation fades away.

It isn’t long before our only companions are the other passengers of the boat and the wildlife that call the river corridor home. This section of the river offers little in the way of amenities, just a few backwoods camping sites, the kind where you throw down a tent on barely cleared ground and scrounge up some firewood to ward off an evening chill.

This section is protected by a permit system instituted by the Bureau of Land Management to protect the delicate Rogue River ecosystem from the effects of tourist overpopulation as Oregon’s tourism numbers continue to climb.

It’s a privilege to be seat on a Rogue River jet boat tour, enjoying this protected area, as a deer steps down to take a drink, oddly at peace with the river boat’s roar. It isn’t long before another bald eagle soars overhead and lights high in a tree. The boat stops for passengers to take a better look, and quiet is soothing, sweet and perfect for the soul.

Jerry’s Rogue River Jet is the only tour operator permitted to operate on the protected 12-mile stretch of the river. After skimming several rapids and stopping to view a few of nature’s creatures, our upriver Rogue River jet boat tour ends at Blossom Bar Rapid.

A short break here includes climbing steep stairs and walkway up the cliffside to feast on snacks offered from a small restaurant before heading back down the Rogue again. Since our tour, Jerry’s Rogue River Jets has started offering a barbecue meal as part of this tour experience.

About Jerry’s Rogue River Jets

Jerry’s Rogue River Jets has been taking passengers on daily mail runs since 1958. The company offers three tours up the Rogue:

  • 64-mile round trip ‘Historic Mail Route” tour: Take a Rogue River jet boat to the outpost of Agnes on one of several daily mail runs. Tours include a stop just short of the halfway point in the town of Agnes. A barbecue lunch here is included in your tour. After lunch, guests on this Rogue River jet boat tour will return to the base port again. Guests on this tour will experience more of the nature of the Rogue with some spins and turns sprinkled throughout.
  • 80-mile round trip ‘Express Whitewater Excursion’: Focused on spinning and cruising the rapids, this tour incorporates whitewater fun with scenic viewing on the open section of the Rogue. This 4.5-hour tour includes stops at either Singing Springs Resort in Agnes or Cougar Lane Lodge for a barbecue meal. Adventurers on this tour can expect more whitewater fun and less of the nature experience of the mailboat tour.
  • 104-Mile round trip ‘Wilderness Whitewater’ tour: The extended tour is the only one to enter the protected wild portion of the Rogue and is probably your only way to experience this section without a canoe, kayak or your own Elijah Price row boat. Tours include 2 stops along the 7-hour journey, both in Agnes. Barbecue lunch at the Cougar Lane Lodge is also included.

Rogue River Jet Boat Tours: An Alternative Experience

Since our trip up the Rogue with Jerry’s Rogue River Jets, a new operator has joined the jet boat scene. Rogue Jet Boat Adventures amps up the whitewater fun with added options for river-loving enjoyment.

Jet Boat Tours include:

  • 3-Hour Discovery Tour: This Rogue River jet boat tour combines 2 hours of spinning white water adventure with a one-hour stop at Discovery Park Island, the operator’s paradise for water lovers. Here, guests may purchase food and beverages at Ole’ Chinook Bar & Grill or participate in a variety of water activities including paddle boats, stand up boards, inflatable boats, canoes, inner tubes, and fishing poles for fishing bass from the docks. Life jackets are available for swimmers or anyone wishing to use the floating aqua park, but water sporting equipment requires a rental fee.
  • Discovery Park Experience: Travelers wishing to enjoy the thrills of jet boating without the extensive time commitment required by other more nature-based tours, will enjoy the Discovery Park Experience. This Rogue River jet boat tour incorporates 25 minutes of jet boating with a 2 hour and 45 minute visit to Discovery Park Island. Guests visiting Discovery Park Island will enjoy:
    • Private pavilion rentals
    • Shaded canopy rentals
    • 40-acre swimming and recreation area
    • Sporting equipment rentals, including: Tubes and fishing poles (bass, blue gill, perch) for $5. Paddle boats, paddle boards, and kayaks for $10, and canoes for $15
    • AquaGlide aquapark, featuring a floating and climbing gym with slides into the water.

All Rogue Jet Boat Adventures tours begin at Touvelle State Park: 8601 Table Rock Rd. Central Point, Oregon 97502. Guests will be asked to pay a state park mandated parking fee of $5 a vehicle.

It’s also important to note that there is no signage within the park to lead you toward the jet boat tour operator. The best advice is to look for a large gravel parking lot to the left after entering the park. From here, it’s easy to find the water’s edge where staff is waiting to get you on your way.

Which Is Better: Rogue River Jet Boat Tours or Rogue Jet Boat Adventures?

Deciding on a Rogue River jet boat tour operator depends on the type of experience you wish to have. Travelers seeking a nature-based experience sprinkled with a few spinning thrills will appreciate the adventures offered by Rogue River Jet Boats.

However, if you’re more interested in taking a jet boat for a spin and enjoying the freshwater spray, Rogue Jet Boat Adventures offers tours more suitable to your preferences.

While both operators provide a fine family experience, parents of active children will appreciate the chance to burn off some energy at the Discovery Park Island offered by Rogue Jet Boat Adventures over the longer, more educationally based tours provided through Jerry’s. On the other hand, nature loving children will thrill at the chance to see a variety of critters in the wild on any of Jerry’s tours. We’d recommend taking your Rogue River jet boat tour early in the morning when animals are most active.


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Kathleen Hesketh

Kathleen is a travel agent with Mickey World Travel, a platinum level Authorized Disney vacation planner, where she helps people discover the magic of a Disney vacation and other travel destinations. She is also the chief author and editor for Seconds to Go - a travel blog where she shares experiences from traveling the U.S. with her daughters. Kathleen has been a professional writer for more than a decade, helping businesses craft compelling content to advance organizational goals.

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Kathleen Hesketh and Ali Patton, mother daughter travel bloggers

We're Kat and Ali, a pair of mother-daughter travel bloggers exploring the U.S. We're sharing our experiences, tips and insights to help you more easily get out and explore the beautiful landscapes and places of this nation.


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