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Rogue River Navigability Study
Rogue River  
Rogue River
Grave Creek (River Mile (RM) 68.5) to Lost Creek Dam (RM 157.5)
 
In 1997 the Department of State Lands (DSL) received a request to study the 89-mile segment of the Rogue River from Grave Creek (RM 68.5) to Lost Creek Dam (RM 157.5) in Josephine and Jackson Counties.  In June 2004, the State Land Board authorized DSL to begin the study. Oregon Revised Statutes 274.400 to 274.417 set out the process for conducting navigability studies.
 
 
What’s New?             Updated April 4, 2013
 
Land Board Asserts Ownership to the Submerged and Submersible Land Underlying the Rogue River from Grave Creek to Lost Creek Dam. An appeal has been filed challenging that the State Land Board's declaration of ownership does not meet the requirements of statute and rule.  Legal proceedings are pending. 
 
On June 10, 2008, the State Land Board considered the evidence in the public record and DSL's findings and conclusions as contained in the Final Navigability Report and:
  • Adopted the findings and conclusions in the Rogue River Final Navigability Report, and
  • Declared public ownership of the Rogue River from River Mile 68.5 to 157.5.

 
The Land Board's declaration of ownership describes the nature and extent of the state's interest in the submerged and submersible land underlying the 89-mile segment of the Rogue River. 
 
Final Report 
 
 
Items presented to the Land Board for its consideration
  All documents in PDF format. 
     Land Board Agenda Item
     Appendix A
     Appendix B
     Appendix C
     Appendix D
     Appendix E
     Appendix F
     Appendix G
 
 

Study Findings
 
The following findings are based upon the agency record:
 
(1)       The Rogue River study segment has been used in a variety of ways both before and since statehood.  Among these uses include: Indian canoe and raft use; cable ferries; the transport of people and goods on boats; commercial fishing from boats; as a mode of transport for logs; and various recreational watercraft.
(2)       The use of canoes by Indians was reported by early explorers during the 1840s and 1850s at or in the vicinity of RM 79.5, 95 (Applegate River), 102 (Grants Pass) and 110.5 (Evans Creek).  An oral history taken of one of the last members of the Takelma Tribe also reports that canoes were portaged at Rainie Falls (RM 66) and “upriver of Galice Creek.” In addition, there is reference to the use of log rafts by Indians living upriver from Table Rock (RM 131).
(3)            Ferries were operated from the 1850s to early 1900s at approximately RM 81, 90, 95, 102, 107.5, 110.5, 131.5, 140 and 146.
(4)            Wooden boats were used from the late 1890s to the early 1900s to transport goods and people primarily from Grants Pass (RM 102) to various points downriver (Gold Beach at RM 0.0, Mule Creek at RM 47.5, Missouri Bar at RM 51, Winkle Bar at RM 53, and Russian Charlie Bar at RM 63).  Evans Creek (RM 110.5) was also identified as the starting point for one trip downstream.
(5)            Commercial fishing for salmon from boats was conducted during the 1890s through the mid-1930s from Dead Man’s Island (RM 101.5) near Grants Pass to Hog Creek Landing (RM 83).
(6)        Log drives were reported to have been conducted on an occasional basis and often with difficulty, from the 1880s to 1916 between various points on the upper study segment to Tolo/Gold Ray Dam (RM 125.5).
(7)             Boating recreationists use a wide variety of watercraft along the entire 89-mile study segment.
(8)            Although the general orientation of the Rogue River remains the same as it was at statehood, it has changed its course along various lengths of the study segment due to avulsion and accretion, a process which continues.
(9)       The flow of the Rogue River through the study segment was at the time of statehood likely equal to or greater than it is today.
(10)     Most of the recreational watercraft currently used on the Rogue River draw less than 8 inches when loaded with people and gear, and many 6 inches or less, and can use the study segment at a minimum flow of 800 to 900 cubic feet per second (cfs) with occasional scrapping of the bottom of the watercraft or the need to portage around some obstacles.
(11)            Flows of 1,000 cfs enable watercraft to use the water more easily, with a flow on the order of 1,400 cfs providing an even more pleasant experience.
(12)     The United States Geological Survey (USGS) has determined that the minimum average monthly flow (after withdrawals for irrigation, municipal and domestic purposes) prior to the completion of Lost Creek Dam in 1977 at various points along the study segment over various recording periods was 1,160 cfs in August at Grants Pass (RM 102).
(13)     The Oregon Water Resources Department reports:
     (a)        An 80% likelihood exists that a flow of 1,000 cfs or more would have occurred at the time of statehood at all points along the study segment throughout the year except in September at the confluence of Elk Creek (RM 152), and
     (b)        A 50% likelihood exists that the lowest flow at any point along the study segment would be 1,150 cfs in October at the confluence of Elk Creek (RM 152.)
(14)            Indian dugout canoes and some other watercraft used in the Oregon Territory at the time of Oregon statehood had a draft of 6 to 8 inches of water.  Current recreational watercraft now used throughout the study segment have the same floatability characteristics (3 to 8 inches of draft).
(15)            There is no evidence that the federal government reserved any portion of the study segment for any purpose prior to statehood that would prevent the transfer of ownership of the study segment to the state. 
 
Conclusions
 
DSL concludes that in 1859 the 89-mile study segment of the Rogue River was used or susceptible to being used in its ordinary and natural condition as a highway of commerce over which trade and travel could have been conducted in the customary modes of trade and travel at that time; and that the federal government did not reserve any portion of the study segment for any purpose prior to statehood that would prevent the transfer of ownership of the study segment to the state; and that the state has owned the land underlying the study segment of the Rogue River since statehood.
 
Furthermore, the state’s ownership extends to all lands located below the line of ordinary high water along the 89-mile study segment, unless lawfully conveyed or granted to another entity by the state since statehood and as affected by the principles of accretion, erosion and avulsion.  The nature of the ownership includes two components: fee simple title (the jus privatum) and dominion as the public’s trustee over the natural resource for public trust uses such as navigation, commerce, fisheries and recreation (the jus publicum).
 
 
Rogue River Q and A
 
DSL also has prepared a new document to answer common questions about the study, entitled Questions-Answers: Rogue River Navigability Study 
 
 
Where to find all documents concerning this study
 
To see the public input received by DSL along with other documents concerning the study, go to: The Background Page.
 
 
Questions? 
 
Chris Castelli, Senior Policy Analyst
503.986.5280 or chris.castelli@dsl.state.or.us