Takelma Gorge Rogue River: Naming Therapy Falls

Back in 1988 or so, my brother, myself another guy, Mike  and a friend of ours, we’ll call him Doug, put in at the natural bridge park on the upper stretch of the rogue river. This run from natural bridge to river bridge (aka Takelma gorge) had been pioneered the summer before. It’s a 7 mile stretch of the Rogue that is very different from the mild-mannered lower sections  many river runners know and love.

natural bridge rogue river
put in for natural bridge

Takelma gorge is full of solid class 4 and one class 5, filled with nasty undercuts and unpredictable log jams. It’s run fairly routinely now, but back then we were pioneers.

We were following Doug through the rapids because he and Mike had been down twice before.

It was a great day in early July. We didn’t know Doug too well, and Mike not at all, but they were nice guys and  competent boaters. Doug, though seemed kind of off. He was quiet and kept shaking his head and staring up into the blue sky. His eyes were red as if he hadn’t slept in days. There was something about him that just wasn’t right.

Since we didn’t know him  well, we didn’t know if this was his normal function or not, so we kept our thoughts to ourselves.

About a third of the way down the run is a rapid called, “therapy falls.” This is its original name. I hear boaters also call it knob falls. It’s a nasty 20 foot spigot waterfall that was (it’s changed since) very difficult to line up with and boof. Of course, like most rapids on this stretch of river the falls hadn’t been named yet. It was on this day that it got its name.

We got out of our kayaks above the falls and went down to take a look. Not only was the drop impossible to line up on, but it looked like the water sliced deep and came up in a roiling boil deep beneath an undercut bank on river right.

Since the entry was so choked with wood you couldn’t generate any speed and simply jump or boof your kayak off the lip. You’d simply drift over it with no speed and you’d get stuffed deep and probably come up underneath the ledge, if at all.

My brother, myself and Mike looked at it for 10 minutes and started walking back to our boats for the easy portage on the left. When we got back to the falls, Doug was still earnestly staring into the maw, studying it. Was he actually contemplating running the nasty thing?

We asked him and he said he was gonna do it, he’d looked at it twice before and this time he was gonna run it. We were surprised, it simply looked incredibly risky.

We tried to talk him out of it, but finally he shook his head and said, “You know I got home from work last night at 1AM, walked into my room and found my girlfriend of 2 years fucking my best friend.” We stared at him, oh shit, that’s what’s been going on with this guy.

He pointed at the falls, “I really feel I need some therapy and this bitch is just the thing.”

We sat down with him and talked about what a shitty deal he’d gotten, but it wasn’t worth dying over. Besides if he had a death wish we didn’t want to be the ones tasked with accommodating him. He finally acquiesced and walked around the falls. Of course from then on that falls has been dubbed, therapy falls.

I’ve heard it’s run routinely now because the entrance cleared out and you can actually get a good boof off the lip. I’m sure it’s given out plenty of therapy lessons since that hot July day though.

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