Today we hit the Rogue River on a Hellgate jet boat. It’s warm and sunny, a perfect day to get wet and from all we’ve heard about the jet boat tours, we’re in for a soaking! The jet boats are a big deal in Grant’s Pass Oregon. They offer multiple versions of a tour up and down the Rogue River in areas rated Class I & II rapids through the Hellgate Recreation Area. We’re going for the 4 hour boat tour and Champagne brunch.
After loading up on sunscreen, charging the GoPro and heading out to the riverfront, we can’t wait to hit the docks.
The Hellgate Jet Boat company has about 10 boats, carrying roughly 60 people on each trip. Seating is bench style, but it doesn’t feel crowded.
We’re on one of their newest boats, the Summer Run II – which implies there may be a Summer Run I. This one is 36 feet long and has 3 inboard/outboard water jet motors pushing us at roughly 1200 horsepower at speeds 40-45 mph.
That’s it for the technical specs! As we get under way, it feels fast and very smooth until we hit areas of rapids. Then things get bumpy real quick!
And then our boat captain does those spin-around things resulting in a sheet of water over the bow and most of the passengers. But it isn’t too bad getting a little wet in the heat of the day.
We get to see a lot of water fowl along our route too – geese, with their little goslings paddling along behind them, lots of ducks and farther down the river we happen upon a real treat! The captain points out a Bald Eagle in a tree to our left and we watch as it pounces on a fish in the water, then struggles to lift it off the river and over to the bank to feed on it.
Later, we head into the narrow river canyons of Hellgate, with granite cliffs that tower over our heads. Again, the captain points out a large Blue Heron perched on a cliff top to our right and later another closer one on the rocks to our left. He slows the boat so everyone can get some pictures.
Before we actually get to the rougher area of rapids, some of the other Hellgate jet boats meet us returning from their earlier morning tour down a couple miles beyond where we will turn around. The captains exchange honks and jibes as we cruise past. Passengers wave and yell “happy Mother’s Day” back and forth to each other. You don’t even need to be a mother to feel appropriately honored today.
Then we turn around to head back to the docks at the OK Corral restaurant where we will have our brunch – which is beginning to seem like very good idea right about now!
The OK Corral is a pretty big covered open air restaurant. It’s a healthy walk up from the river through long green lawns and lots of trees. We only have a short wait in line before we’re directed to our tables to match up with our reserved place settings.
We end up across from new friends Laurie and Randy, Grants’ Pass locals who apparently do this tour fairly regularly. It turns out they are transplants, also from Southern California.
Brunch goes down easily with Champagne Mimosas and lots of fun stories swapped across the table with other fellow boaters seated at the long picnic tables around us. There’s no shortage of food – scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, biscuits and gravy and even coffee cake.
Before too long, we’re amply fortified for the more harrowing trip back. Makes sense don’t you think? Fill everyone up with food and booze and then do donuts and wave jumping on the way back!
It’s loads of fun though. We get wet, the women and kids scream, but everyone ends up with a great adventure to take home with them.
Thanks to everyone from Hellgate Jet Boats for a fun day on the Rogue River! Oh, and Happy Mother’s Day!