5 Reasons Why “Non-Campers” Love Helfrich Camping Trips

5 Reasons Why “Non-Campers” Love Helfrich Camping Trips

“As outfitters, we encounter a lot of potential river guests who want to experience these amazing wild places but are worried about spending a week camping in the wilderness.  The best is when these people bite the bullet and decide to go anyways.  Without fail, by the end of the the trip you hear reactions like “Wow, turns out I do like camping! This kind of camping at least!”  Our goal as your outfitter is to make your wilderness experience as comfortable and enjoyable as we can.  With the accommodations, equipment and meals we provide, we have all of the pieces in place to meet and exceed your expectations.”

– Kelsey Helfrich, Owner/Outfitter

Frequently Asked Questions About Middle Fork Camping

Accommodation:

  • Sleeping Gear: Most guests prefer to bring their own sleeping bag and pillow, but we also offer rental sleeping bags with pillows for a small cleaning fee.
  • Sleeping Outside: Our guides often sleep outside; we encourage you to pull your cot out and do the same!  The stars are AMAZING! 
  • Personal Tents: Generally, we bunk two people per tent, but private arrangements can be made for solo travelers or odd-numbered groups for an additional fee.  Our tents are also large enough to accommodate 3 or 4 guests for families that prefer to sleep in the same tent together. 
  • Accommodations for Tall Guests:  We offer extra long and wide cots for our larger stature guests by request. 

Our Food:

  • Special Diets: We can accommodate most dietary needs. We suggest reviewing our menu beforehand and bringing any specific substitute items you may need.
  • Picky Eaters: Each of our meals have multiple options for guests to choose from and our guides are great about accommodating requests.

The Shower:

  • Soap in the River: To help protect and maintain our pristine ecosystem, soap is not permitted in the river, sidestreams, hot springs or anywhere near the water.  Our shower offers guests the opportunity to stay clean and fresh without negatively impacting the river.
  • How Much Water: Water for the shower is hauled by hand in buckets up from the river, heated on the fire and mixed to the right temperature for you.  We ask that you try to conserve the amount of water you use by turning the shower on and off as needed. 

The Bar and Drinks:

  • What to Bring: We supply a variety of beverages, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic, but you’re welcome to bring additional preferred drinks. Cans are preferred over bottles for easier disposal.
  • Beverage Service: We offer our guests a beverage service (for a fee) where we will purchase and pack your extra beverages for your trip so that they are ready and waiting for you when you arrive.  

More Frequently Asked Questions: Click Here

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.

Enjoy!

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: https://www.helfrichoutfitter.com/meet-the-team/

Learn More about Jon and Kris Belozer’s company Belozer’s Whitewater Fishing: https://www.belozerswhitewaterfishing.com/

Roughing It In Style – By Bob Zagorin

Roughing It In Style – By Bob Zagorin

July 1992 – Northwest Parks and Wildlife Magazine – Written by Bob Zagorin

Picture this. You told the folks back home you were going camping for a week in “The River of No Return” Wilderness. They were duly impressed. No doubt visions of Lewis and Clark came to mind.

Now, here you are floating high and dry in a McKenzie drift boat, some twenty miles downstream on the Middle Fork of the Salmon. Every so often, you flick a fly line to break the monotony of the beautiful scenery. Around a bend in the river, camp comes into view.

This is no ordinary camp. Your guides have set up a complete wilderness kitchen. Dinner is already under way.

Better yet, someone has set up your tent — a big, beautiful tent with a full-sized inflatable camping mattress inside. A hot shower is waiting and there are even ice cubes for your cocktail. All around you is the special beauty of the Middle Fork canyon. Like you told them, there’s nothing like roughing it — in style.

The Middle Fork of the Salmon runs 106 miles through the heart of Idaho’s Frank Church “River of No Return” Wilderness. This wilderness, more than two million square acres, includes some of the most rugged backcountry in the lower forty-eight states. There are no roads and only a few landing strips and private ranches — grandfathered in 1968 when the Middle Fork became one of America’s original eight Wild and Scenic Rivers.

The river canyon itself is justly famous. From the Forest Service launch at Boundary Creek, the first twenty-five miles drop twelve hundred feet through almost continuous rock gardens. Here the river runs through an alpine forest of lodgepole pine and Englemann spruce. In high water, the strong current makes for difficult boating; in low water, there’s very little margin for error. No wonder the guides who run drift boats down this canyon are known as the very best.

The middle fifty miles meander through rolling hills covered with ponderosa pine and Douglas fir. Here are the best opportunities to flyfish for cutthroat trout. The Middle Fork is restricted to “catch and release” angling, and the cutthroat population is quite healthy. These mostly twelve-to-sixteen inch fish hit al sorts of caddis, stone, and salmon fly imitations. The fishing is good, but that’s not what makes this trip special.

Along the way, dozens of tributaries tumble into the main river. By the time Big Creek enters, the Middle Fork has at least tripled its flow. Then all that water gets squeezed into a narrow gorge — the “Impassable Canyon.” The last twenty-five miles include dozens of class three and four rapids with famous names like “Rubber,” “Redside,” and “Porcupine.”

Oregon outfitter Dave Helfrich has been running trips on Middle Fork since 1948; 1992 will be his 44th season. His dad, Prince Helfrich, was a Middle Fork outfitter (starting in 1940) before him. Dave’s brothers, Dean and Dick, have also worked the river, and his son, Ken, is considered one of the best boatmen in the Northwest. Chris Olsen, the guide in charge of the camp and kitchen, has been a professional on this river since 1960.

That experience is evident on the river as these highly skilled boatmen take speial care to insure a “safe and sane” experience. While private rafters, who have never seen the river, crash on through the big rapids, the Helfrich crew, with hundreds of trips under its belt, still stops to scout.

If there’s no substitute for experience on the river, it is something to savor in camp. If your idea of wilderness cooking is hot dogs over a campfire, you will marvel at the full scale outdoor kitchen that mysteriously appears each evening at camp and then disappears each morning after breakfast.

Actually, there is no mystery. A fully loaded pontoon boat floats on ahead of the Helfrich party and arrives at the campsite about 2 p.m. With the help of a “swamper,” usually a youngster learning the ropes, Olsen has three hours to set up camp.

The kitchen includes a Dave Helfrich-designed modular, upright propane stove with three burners and a full-size griddle. Not all the cooking takes place on the stove, so the kitchen also includes fire pans. All fires in the wilderness must be fully contained in fire pans, and all the sahes must me carried out of the canyon on each trip.

And, the, there’s cooler after cooler filled with food. All the meat and vegetables are fresh and almost all the baked goods are made from scratch. here are the highlights of a typical dinner menu for a six-day trip including five evening camps:

Day one — New York strip steak with fresh green salad, fresh vegetables, dutch oven biscuits, and strawberry shortcake with whipped cream.

Day two — Fried chicken made from whole fresh birds, skinned and quartered on the river, cole slaw, fresh broccoli, dutch oven corn bread, and spice cake for dessert.

Day three — Fresh Idaho trout, dutch oven baked potatoes, fresh green salad, fresh zucchini, french bread, and ice cream and cake.

Day four — Two-rib pork chops, corn, salad, dutch oven yeast bread, and a fruit salad.

Day five — Cornish game hens, four-bean salad, dutch oven biscuits, and cheesecake with raspberries and whipped cream.

By now, you may be wondering how they can keep all the meats and vegetables fresh for a week in the wilderness. Well, here’s how. On the third day, Helfrich flies in a thousand pounds of supplies, including three hundred pounds of ice, to an old airstrip in the canyon. That also explains the ice cream for dessert that night. Usually the guests are so impressed they help carry the supplies from the landing field to the pontoon.

You may have also noticed that almost every meal features dutch oven baking. If nothing else, you will leave the Middle Fork with memories of this baking technique, which originated on the great cattle drives of the Southwest. Woodie Hindman, an early guide and one of the developers of the modern McKenzie-style drift boat, brought the dutch oven style from Texas to Oregon in the ’30s.

The “oven” is a cast-iron or aluminum pot with legs so it doesn’t smother the coals below. The lid is concave and gets covered with coals. In fact, Helfrich recommends that 80 percent of the coals go on top. Dave built the two dutch ovens his outfit uses and a special round fire pan to hold them.

One of the favorite dutch oven breads is the hard-crusted, yeasted “jackass” bread. Apparently, this recipe originated from the early sheephearders. They would dig a hole in the ground in the morning, put their dough in it, go off to tend their flocks, and come back in the evening to fresh, warm bread. Don’t ask me where the “jackass” came in. It’s possible that after baking all day, only a jackass could bite through the resulting hard crusts.

The dutch oven is also featured at breakfast. You haven’t lived until you’ve had dutch oven cinnamon rolls, with fresh coffee, in the wilderness. But, then, I forgot about the fresh buttermilk pancakes with their secret ingredients, Coors Light. Dave says it makes them rise. I think I better book another trip.

About the author: Bob Zagorin spent the last fifteen years as a journalist in western Oregon and became well known during the last nine years as the outdoor reporter, senior reporter, and assistant news director with KEZI-TV in Eugene. During his years as a journalist, he won numerous awards for outdoor reporting. He is currently executive director of Oregon Guides and Packers.

Published in Northwest Parks and Wildlife Magazine in July 1992

Click here for Dave Helfrich’s famous buttermilk biscuit recipe:

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