Taken from the May 2024 edition of The Chat, by Pepper Trail.

Many of you are doubtless aware of the problem of commercial jet boats on the Upper Rogue River. A private business operating out of TouVelle State Park has had significant negative impacts on fish, wildlife, and recreational users on the river. Longtime RVAS member Bob Hunter has taken a leading role in fighting this inappropriate activity, and provided the following summary of the issue:

Historically, the Upper Rogue River has been a place to peacefully recreate and enjoy nature and the outdoors. There are many public lands that abut this section of river, including TouVelle State Park, Denman Wildlife Area, and SOLC’s Rogue River Preserve. This area has been a safe haven for fish and wildlife, and has been a popular area for RVAS members to birdwatch and enjoy the outdoors. There was previsouly only minimal private jet boat use above the Table Rock Road bridge.

This all changed however, when a private jet boat tour company (Rogue Jet Boat Adventures) started operating out of TouVelle State Park in 2015. Initially, there were only a few trips a day with one small ten passenger boat.

However, the number of boats (currently 3), the size of the boats (one 31’ feet long that can carry 25 passengers), and the number of trips has increased over the years. These boats are just too large for the river, travel too fast, are extremely noisy, throw large wakes, increase river turbidity, contribute to bank erosion, and dislodge huge amounts of aquatic vegetation. Their operation in the Upper Rogue River has created unsafe conditions for river recreators, increased user conflicts, disrupted traditional river uses, impacted park users, impacted users of adjacent public lands, impacted private landowners, impacted water quality and the river, and disturbed fish and wildlife.

This would not have occurred but for Oregon Parks and Recreation Department’s (OPRD) inexplicable allowance of one private business to seasonally co-opt a portion of TouVelle State Park to operate a commercial jet boat tour business, all at the expense of park users and the broader public interest. OPRD has ignored its own surveys that show the public doesn’t support this use, but has continued to allow commercial jet boat operations out of the park without a permit. OPRD’s current justification is that the business is just like any other regular park user.

Under current regulations, we can expect new jet boat tour operations to crop up in different sections of the Upper Rogue River over time. We can also expect that the use of personal jet boats will also increase, especially now with the advent of the new mini-jet boats that can go just about anywhere. They have already been observed going from TouVelle State Park all the way to Cole Rivers Hatchery. The negative impacts caused by the current commercial jet boat tours have demonstrated the need to take action to not only protect the Upper Rogue River from its operations, but to protect the Upper Rogue River from the impacts of other potential future commercial jet boat operations and the proliferation of other jet boat use in the Upper Rogue River.

A state process to address the jet boat issue is currently underway through the Oregon’s Kitchen Table, a statewide community engagement nonprofit. Pepper Trail will be contacting them to see how RVAS and its members can get involved.

What You Can Do

You can help by letting the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department and Commission know you oppose the commercial operation of a jet boat tour business out of TouVelle State Park, and letting the Oregon Marine Board know you support restrictions limiting the use of watercraft over 15 horsepower in the Upper Rogue.

e-mail for OPRD Director Lisa Sumption: lisa.sumption@oprd.oregon.gov

e-mail for OPRD Commission: denise.warburton@oprd.oregon.gov

e-mail for Marine Board: Jennifer.cooper@boat.oregon.gov

To get more involved contact the Upper Rogue Guardians: uppperrogueguardians@gmail.com

YouTube video on this issue: youtube.com/watch?v=q5BgjzuoJQ