History of the Rogue River

The Rogue River is located in southern Oregon and flows for 215 miles before emptying into the Pacific Ocean at Gold Beach. It originates in the Cascade Range’s Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness at Boundary Springs, which is located within the Crater Lake National Park.

Settling the Rogue River Valley

The first settlers to arrive in this region were trappers and fur traders seeking pelts. They named the area “River of the Rogues” after the Native Americans that refused to give up their homes without a fight. Between 1836 and 1856 there were numerous bloody battles between white settlers and the native Shasta, Takelma and Rogue River tribes. However, the area saw a huge influx of settlers following the passage of the Donation Land Act in 1850, which gave couples 320 acres, and single white men 160 acres, if they lived and cultivated the land for at least 4 years. The area was flooded with thousands of additional settlers in late 1851 when gold was discovered on the Rogue. Over $70 million worth of gold was panned from the Rogue River.

Eventually, the Native Americans were defeated and sent to live on reservations. Settlers farmed the valley, which has a mild climate and allows for a long growing season especially for fruits and nuts.

Zane Grey (1872-1939)

Zane Grey's Cabin on the Rogue RiverZane Grey was an author of adventure novels and stories, many of which covered the rugged Old West. Grey exhibited a love for the outdoors and writing from a young age. He began writing and published his first magazine article and novel in the early 1900’s. Grey’s love affair with the West began during his honeymoon in 1905. Throughout his life, he traveled for part of each year to adventurous locations such as the Rogue River, where he kept a cabin that he built himself on an old mining claim. This cabin is still standing on the banks of the Rogue. He was an avid fisherman and no doubt enjoyed the steelhead, salmon and trout fishing on the Rogue River. During his life, he authored over 90 books and was a regular contributor to Outdoor Life magazine.

Takelma

Battle Bar on the Rogue River was named for a major battle between Colonel Kelsey's cavalry of the US Army and the Takelma Tribe during the Rogue River Wars in 1855-56. The Takelma survived on salmon, deer, elk, and beaver in addition to harvested acorns from both the Oregon white oak and the California black oak. They lived in homes dug partly into the earth similar to the Klamath, Shasta and Modoc peoples.

With the opening of the Oregon Trail as well as gold rushes in northern California and later in eastern Oregon, the Rogue River Valley soon filled with miners and settlers consuming natural resources that the Takelma survived on, including entire forests of oak trees. The two groups co-habitated for less than four years. In 1856, the surviving Takelma were sent to live on reservations on the rainy Oregon coast and lost much of their culture and language as they interacted with different tribes.