The Rogue River’s Blossom Bar Rapid: A Blend of History and Thrill

The Rogue River’s Blossom Bar Rapid: A Blend of History and Thrill

The Rogue River is a beloved destination for multi-day river expeditions, drawing adventurers from around the world every year. Since 1968, it has been one of the original eight Wild and Scenic Rivers, celebrated for its exhilarating rapids, unique fishery, fascinating side hikes, abundant wildlife and rich history.

The Legendary Blossom Bar Rapid

At the heart of the Rogue River’s allure is Blossom Bar Rapid, one of the most well known rapids in the west. Its reputation is well-known, with numerous tales of triumph and tribulation shared among river enthusiasts. A Rich Historical Landscape

Blossom Bar’s history is as rugged as its waters. Initially, an unnavigable boulder maze, the rapid posed a significant barrier to early river travelers, compelling many to carry their boats around it. Nearby, gold miners established operations, leaving remnants that hint at the area’s bustling past. In the 1930s and 1940s, efforts to tame the river for navigation saw the use of dynamite to clear pathways through rapids, forever altering the river’s flow. Among the river pioneers who undertook this daring task was Dave Helfrich, whose contributions significantly shaped the river’s present-day landscape.  Check out Dave’s story about dynamiting Blossom Bar here.

Blossom Bar’s Namesake

The naming of Blossom Bar pays homage to the natural beauty surrounding it, inspired by the Western Azalea’s fragrant blooms that adorn the canyon in spring. This area, rich in biodiversity, reflects the unique ecology of the Siskiyou Mountains.

Experiencing the Rapid in a Drift Boat

Navigating Blossom Bar in a drift boat introduces an entirely different dynamic to confronting this rapid. Known for their agility and maneuverability, drift boats offer a markedly smoother ride through the tumultuous waters. This advantage allows boaters to expertly weave through the boulder-strewn rapid, making the experience less about battling the water and more about gracefully dancing with it. The design of these boats, optimized for river running, coupled with the skill of seasoned rowers, turns the journey through Blossom Bar into an exhilarating ballet of precision and fluidity.

Today, Blossom Bar stands not only as a testament to the raw power of nature but also as a monument to human ingenuity and the unyielding spirit of adventure. The rapid’s blend of natural beauty, historical richness, and the thrill of navigation continues to captivate the hearts of those who traverse the Rogue River, making every trip through Blossom Bar a memorable experience of its own.

Shootin’ Blossom – Dynamiting Blossom Bar Rapid on the Rogue River

Shootin’ Blossom – Dynamiting Blossom Bar Rapid on the Rogue River

Dave and Dick Helfrich, Editor Roger Fletcher

Blossom Bar is a Class IV rapid on the Rogue River. It is called ‘Blossom” because of the wild azaleas that dominate the flora in that immediate area. In the last seven years Blossom has taken seven lives. A notorious rock garden that once required portaging boats and equipment, is navigable today by skilled oarsmen. Blossom Bar was opened by the early guides with the use of dynamite. Blasting Blossom was sometimes done surreptitiously, and sometimes openly, with U.S. Forest Service tacit approval. It was always dangerous (Editor).

I think I told you logging is the most dangerous profession, and I came through my logging years with nothing more than a broken toe. If I did anything more dangerous than logging, it mighta been shootin’ Blossom.

Dick, you broke up some rocks yourself, but you did it different, without dynamite.
Dick: Yeh, back up there at Rainie. As we were lining the boats around Rainie Falls, Red Keller told me that kinda depending on the rock, you can move them with a sledge hammer. If you see that it has veins or striations in it, and you can hit the rock just right, and it’ll break apart. You want to put on some eye protection. Do you remember those bad ones at the lower end of the chute we were hitting our boats on several times? We hit ‘em with a sledge hammer.

Another time I had the ax in my boat. There was a group ahead of us with aluminum boats, and they hung up near the top of the fish ladder. They let out the rope and their boat got crosswise. The current couldn’t make it around it. It was just lodged there. We were waiting to line through there. I could tell they needed help. So Steve Schaefers and I walked down there and I took that axe with me. The rock was on the north shore and it had those striations in it, so I began to hit that rock. The third time I hit it a big chunk broke off and it released that boat. They had a hold of it and they got through there. But some of those rocks were like sandstone, and many are volcanic, but some of them we were able to move.
Ya know, Dave, an interesting dynamite story was when Dean and I put in on the Rogue with a group in November. It was the year that BLM was widening the trails. We had lunch and went through the next rapid, and we began to fish. Way up the hill on the right BLM was working on that trail. All of a sudden, someone came down the hill running, hollering, “Fire in the hole! Fire in the hole!” We were right down below them.

That stuff went up in the air. There wasn’t anything we could do but watch. I mean, there were chunks the size of a softball, and a lot of smaller pieces. One of them hit the deck of my boat. It probably wasn’t any bigger than a marble, but it dented it.

We went on down to Black Bar Lodge. The crew that had been doing the blasting was staying at Black Bar also. The official in charge of the crew came down to visit with us. He was apologetic. He told us that they weren’t expecting any boats, and so they didn’t post any signs on the river. This was probably in the early 70s. We were staying in Black Bar the first night. That was pretty scary.

Well, let me tell you about “scary.” It wasn’t long after Everett Spaulding and I started boating together, that Everett wanted to shoot out Blossom Bar on the Rogue. A friend of ours by the name of Frances Russell had a cabin up there at Brushy Bar. He said, anytime you want to use that cabin, go right ahead. So we decided that we’d take our two powerboats and our wives, and we’d go up there. I agreed to help Everett with Blossom. I had all this experience with dynamite, using it in the logging business and all. I knew how to handle dynamite.

So I bought six boxes of powder. In those days you could pull your pickup in front of the place, say I need six boxes of 40 percent, throw them in the back of the truck, and drive home. You can no longer do that. If you’ve got a box of powder in your car, you’ve gotta have flag cars and everything else.

After we settled in at Francis Russell’s, the two of us took a run upstream to Blossom Bar in Everett’s powerboat. We were gonna improve that channel. These were great big boulders the size of a pickup truck, and there was one in particular that was in the way. I wanted to move it to the south. So I loaded up a big charge, about 20 sticks. Everett edged me up there so I could hop off on that rock. My plan was to drop the charge on the north side of the rock. I could ease that nest of dynamite attached to a sack full of rocks, using a pole, down the upriver side, so the current could hold that dynamite right next the that rock. I had three different caps and fuses, triple. I didn’t want to take any chances on something not going off. So I had triples. These were the kind of fuses that you light, and when it comes to the other end, the cap blows up. You can’t use that kind anymore. You have to use the kind that you touch off with electricity.

Anyway, I figured out how to keep those things reasonably dry in plastic bags with black tape and grease, stuff like that. I put 20 sticks in that charge and placed it where I wanted it. I was all ready to go. Spaulding was in his boat, and he said, Light “em and let’s go. So I lit ‘em. They had 10-foot long fuses, so theoretically they’d burn for 10 minutes. I’m getting ready to jump back in his boat, and when I looked, there was Spaulding trying to start his motor. He was trying to get that motor running, pulling on that cord, pullin’ on it, and pullin’ on it, chokin’ it, and pullin’ on it. And here I was, standing on that damn rock with 20 sticks under me in the middle of the Rogue River, with a life jacket on. I was a good enough swimmer that I could jump in and swim on down there, or I could wait and see if Everett got the motor started. Or, I could jerk the charge out of the dynamite. That’s what I ended up doin’. I got a hold of those fuses and I gave them a big jerk, and jerked them all out.

Everett finally got that motor started. I loaded up another 20 sticks and put ‘em in there. This time I said, Everett, keep that damn motor runnin’. I lit the charge again and we headed back down to the head of Devil’s Stairway and watched it go off. When the explosion went off, that rock disappeared. It absolutely disappeared. There was nowhere to find even a piece of it. That blast created a real geyser goin’ in there in the air.

We had Deke Miller helpin’ us up there too, Deke Miller from Paradise. He had his 30/30, and he walked up the trail ahead of us. He said, if anybody is comin’ down the river, I’m gonna shoot a couple of signal shots. But fortunately, at that time of the evening, nobody was comin’ down the river.

I think we shot it two or three more times in there to get rid of some rocks. I’m not sure if we just ran out of dynamite, or we were satisfied with the job that we did, but when we finished Blossom was runnable with an empty drift boat. But there was still a rock stickin’ up down there that was still a problem. But we went on ahead and ran Blossom on our next trip. In the meantime, Wooldridge, Briggs or Pritchett came in there and shot that one rock that was still in the way. Blossom hasn’t changed since then, except the normal highwater stuff washing in a few more boulders, or washing out a few boulders.

Ya know that one great big rock in the middle up there that you pull in behind before doing the chute? It’s moving downriver a little bit. Each time we have a big flood that boulder gets nudged downstream a little bit. That passage is narrowing where you come down there with your boat. We used to come through there with the boat and you could slip through sideways. You won’t fit through that way now. You come down there now, you get all prepared, and then have to push through that little hole.

I think if I had to choose which profession was the most dangerous, logging or shooting Blossom, I’d have to say, shooting Blossom with Everett.

Buttermilk Biscuit Recipe

Buttermilk Biscuit Recipe

If you have ever been on a multi-day Helfrich trip, you have most likely enjoyed the family recipe for dutch oven buttermilk biscuits. These biscuits are a fluffy, flavorful, delight that make any meal amazing. Top them with butter and jam or honey, make a biscuit sandwich or enjoy as the base for strawberry shortcake — you really can’t go wrong with any option.

Guests have been asking for the recipe for these biscuits for years so we have finally decided to share.


Guide Spotlight: Kris Belozer – Outfitter, Guide & Family Man

Guide Spotlight: Kris Belozer – Outfitter, Guide & Family Man

Raised on the banks of The Deschutes River, Kris Belozer grew up learning about the river from his dad, Jon.  Jon founded Belozer’s Whitewater Fishing in 1984, and began bringing his only son to work with him when he was 2 years old.  With a gear boater as a babysitter, Kris learned the ins and outs of the outfitting business and developed his love for boating and fishing.  He began running a gear raft at only 8 years old, a drift boat when he was 10, and by 18 he was guiding full-time.  When he wasn’t on the river, Kris was also lucky enough to join his dad and grandfather on countless hunting and trapping endeavors.  Whatever the season, you could find him outside exploring nature.

While his love for his home river would never fade, he began exploring other rivers in his kayak when he was in his teens.  His love for kayaking would consume him for much of his young adult life, and would have him chasing waterfalls all over the Northwestern U.S., Canada, and South America.  Kris began working for Helfrich in 2011, taking guests down the Middle Fork, Main Salmon and Rogue Rivers.  Working for Helfrich has not only given him invaluable experience as a fishing guide, but has provided him with many life-long friendships and unforgettable memories.  

In 2017, Kris’ life changed for the better when he married his wife Jordan and they bought their first house together in Maupin, Oregon.  Soon after, they began raising a family and now have two children: Kolter, 5 and Perry, 3.  The family works together to run Belozer’s Whitewater Fishing in the summers, and enjoys fishing and hunting in Oregon and Montana during the rest of the year.  Their most cherished memories are piling in Kris’ drift boat to spend time together fishing and camping on the river, and going hunting as a family.  Perry is showing signs of having a thrill for whitewater like her dad, as she tends to scream “weee!” through every rapid.  Kolter on the other hand loves fishing, and also takes pride in his knife skills that he gets to put on display during hunting season.  

Though Kris feels most at home on the water, he spends his winters guiding bird hunters in Central Oregon.  He’s developed a love for training his dogs and watching them work in the field, and looks forward to his days off so he can chase wild birds around the high desert. 

Kris spends his fall season working on the Wild and Scenic Rogue River with the Helfrich Crew, guiding guests steelhead fishing and introducing them to the wonders of the Rogue Canyon. Between guiding on the Deschutes, the Rogue and guiding bird hunting in eastern Oregon, Kris has developed a successful career of outfitting and guiding while also finding a great balance between work and family.

Kris looks forward to seeing new and returning fishing guests each year, and hopes to see you out on the water!

Read Kris’s Guide Profile and Meet the Rest of the Team:

Learn More about Jon and Kris Belozer’s company Belozer’s Whitewater Fishing:

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