First River Rafting Trips | An OTT Guide Series | Junebug | The Wild & Scenic Rogue River

First River Rafting Trips – Series

River guides are notorious storytellers. And whether they be true or tall, the stories we tell about the river are a part and reflection of our own story. They are a part of who we are and who we will be. So, in this spirit of storytelling and in homage to rivers everywhere, we’ve asked our guides to recall the first river they paddled and to tell the story of that experience. 

For this, our first installment, OTT guide Jon Angstadt (A.K.A., Junebug) reminds us of the cyclical and transitive nature of rivers, connecting his earliest memories of rafting the Lower Rogue with his father to his first year of commercial guiding with OTT on Idaho’s Lower Salmon River. 

Generations on the River

By Jonathan Angstadt

A Young Junebug Espies the Camera on a Trip down the Wild & Scenic Rogue River

It’s intoxicating, the aroma. It fills my nostrils, now thousands of miles away, in a different land, words foreign to my English saturated ears.

I close my eyes and see the sun. It burns my lips. I reach forward, tiny hands clasping the bowline, “aim for the wet ones!” I shout to my dad. His expert movements guide to the raft toward a rather large hole. It breaks violently over the bow, causing a sputtering from my mouth as I exhale water. The Lower Rogue River, Wild and Scenic, violent and beautiful, captivating, and of course, nostalgic. It was the first injection of the river in to my veins, the start of an addiction. 

His muscles strained, the double oar turn, perfect ferry angle, locked facial expression of focus, tongue pressed against his lips. I watched my dad. I noticed the slightest movement, the sudden change in tone as he taught my brothers how to handle the oars. I grew up on this river. It wound in my brain as I lay in Portland, the noises of the city frustrating my senses. The sound of droplets of cool green water slipping from the oar blade, plinking into the water with rhythmic succession. The paralyzing yet invigorating sting of frigid creek water as I flailed playfully at its mouth. How curious it was to me: the sudden warmth given by the Rogue after a dip in these creeks. I had seen the world for a mere six years, aware only a couple of them. Now I was alive. Truly, this time, holding the oars, my dad watching attentively. 

I push now, moving a large orange raft, the sun sucking away the last bit of moisture from my cut-off jeans. Always with the repetitive nature of rowing, I think of my father, the mirror image hard to deny. His guidance kept me on the river, his teaching unseen, unknown, but now a part of my nature. I leave the Rogue now, and live among the waters of the Salmon. As our rafts crest the last large rolling wave of Lower Whitehouse rapid, I smile, seeing Whitehouse Beach. I can almost see him now, his Dolphins jersey hidden by an old yellow life jacket, a Japanese diving knife attached firmly above his heart. Underneath large glasses, his eyes determine whether we stop or continue. I take a double oar turn, and propel the raft toward shore, all the while, my tongue pressed firmly against my lips–focused and happy.