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This Rogue Was Made For Rafting: Interview With A Raft Guide

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Mike Slagle and a group of happy rafters. Credit: Orange Torpedo Trips


Known for the Rogue River tumbling through the region, and the tourist attraction it catches in its currents, local rafting companies have been enjoying a particularly high water mark this year, with record numbers of visitors and tourists. The Messenger caught up with Mike Slagle with Orange Torpedo Trips in Merlin, who has been riding the Rogue River for nearly 50 years. Yes, since, oh, about the time of Woodstock (the first one!).

Rogue Valley Messenger: This rafting season has obviously been stellar compared to the past couple of smoky summers. How has that difference impacted your business and what else about this season stands out to you?

Mike Slagle: I believe that our day trip numbers are up due to the better conditions. The past two years affected our day trips much more than the multi day trips. This season has been terrific in terms of weather and water conditions. 

RVM: What is the ratio of locals versus out-of-towners that your business serves? 

MS: On our multi day trips we probably have 90 percent of our guests from out of the area. They are almost unanimously in awe of the area and its natural beauty. On the day trips and rental business, we have a higher percentage of local guests.

RVM: Orange Torpedo Trips and White Water Cowboys have been around a long time (1969 for Orange Torpedo). What is the difference between the two, and what changes has the company had to make over the years? How do you think have those changes have influenced local recreation and tourism? 

MS: Orange Torpedo Trips is our guided trip business. White Water Cowboys is the raft rental and shuttle service. Over the years both companies have improved and standardized their equipment. On the guided side, we have seen a change from almost all inflatable kayaks to a mixture of kayaks and paddle rafts. This has been a good change because it allows more families and “less adventurous” folks to experience the river.

RVM: What do you think the future of rafting on the Rogue River holds?

MS: I think the future of rafting on the Rogue River is good. We have a number of outstanding outfitters that run good trips. As long as we can keep the skies clear of smoke, I believe the rafting industry will thrive.

RVM: In your opinion, what is the best run on the Rogue? 

MS: In my opinion, the best run on the Rogue is the Wild Section from Grave Creek to Foster Bar. Once you drop in to Grave Creek Rapid, it is like you are 10,000 miles away from civilization. I have done this run close to 700 times and it never ceases to amaze me.

RVM: What is your favorite rapid, and why?

MS: In a kayak, Mule Creek Canyon. It is long and fun and feels like an amusement park ride that just happens to have world class scenery. In a raft, Blossom Bar. There is a great feeling of accomplishment getting a paddle raft through the maze of rocks that make up this rapid.


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