Tributary Whitewater – Find Your Adventure on Oregon’s Rogue and Snake Rivers

Luke Guilford | RaftRaft | Featured ArticleFeatured Article
Rafting the Wild and Scenic Rogue River. Photo Credit: Tributary Whitewater
Rafting the Wild and Scenic Rogue River. Photo Credit: Tributary Whitewater

Tributary Whitewater

In 1978, Tributary Whitewater Tours was founded by Dan Buckley when he began guiding whitewater rafting trips in California. For many years they have been sending trips down the American River, Truckee River, North Yuba River, Lower Klamath River, and the East Fork Carson River, all while spreading the excitement, wonder, and natural beauty that the rivers bring.

In March 2018, Dan sold the company to Jeremiah Copper and Eva Clerici. Copper purchased not only Tributary Whitewater Tours but also Adventure Connection. Over the next few years, Tributary acquired more companies and river permits, expanding its reach into rivers in Oregon & Idaho. In 2021, Tributary added trips along the Deschutes, Owyhee, and North Santiam Rivers.

Fresh in 2023, Tributary has begun running trips on the Snake and Rogue RiversThe Snake River is between Oregon and Idaho and runs through Hells Canyon, North America’s deepest river-carved gorge. The Rogue River runs westward through southern Oregon and the Cascade Range into the Pacific Ocean.

Taking a break from the mighty Rogue River. Photo Credit: Tributary Whitewater
Taking a break from the mighty Rogue River. Photo Credit: Tributary Whitewater

Recently, we connected with Tributary Whitewater and chatted with the owner, Jeremiah Copper. During our conversation, Copper provided terrific insight into the Snake and Rogue Rivers operations. He expressed things such as his favorite sections of each river, Tributary’s mission to deliver a personalized adventure, and all the other joys you will find on the river.

Picking Copper’s mind, he shared some of his favorite highlights of the Snake River.

“Hells Canyon [Snake River] rafting is surrounded by rocky high desert with beautiful rolling hills offering stunning relief from the river. Most homesteads out there are abandoned, but there is one that is maintained and kept up, called Sheep Creek. The creek was diverted a long time ago to irrigate an orchard and grass for livestock and they essentially have turned it into the most ridiculous green oasis that you can imagine.”

“Our second night on Hells Canyon is always at Sheep Creek. Stepping out of the rocky, desolate moonscape, and walking around barefoot on the green grass of Sheep Creek is probably my favorite thing about this trip. It’s so fun to watch people discover an oasis that nobody expects.”

The day leading up to the Sheep Creek homestead has some of the gnarliest rapids in the canyon, so your long day of charging big water ends in a magical oasis. Along with Sheep Creek being a major highlight, he mentioned the excellent fishing, hiking, Native American petroglyphs, great dinners, and of course, adrenaline-pumping rapids.

The oasis of Sheep Creek. Photo Credit: Tributary Whitewater
The oasis of Sheep Creek. Photo Credit: Tributary Whitewater

With so much to do on the Snake, Tributary ensures everyone finds their groove on the trip. Copper mentioned how each trip is tailored toward its participants.

“I’ve been on an 18-person Hells Canyon [Snake River] trip, and I have people that want to stop and see every single option along the river. I’ve also had people in the same group that just want to sit and fish all day. Then there were other people in the group who just wanted to get to camp and sit in the shade and read. It’s basically a micro example of our whole company out there because I’m able to meet each individual person where they want to be, and break people up within the trip so they get all those different experiences.” 

Tributary packs all the camping gear and food you will need throughout the trip. Occasionally, they will bring on chefs from different restaurants in the area to amp up the experience. Typically, on each trip down the Snake, Tributary will whip up a “steak night” and a fish meal that features fish caught on the river from your trip. Don’t worry if you have allergies or follow a particular diet, Tributary does its best to accommodate a variety of diets and allergies.

Regarding the Rogue River, Copper expressed his favorite things on the trip. 

“The Rogue has a section called Mule’s Creek Canyon which is one of the coolest things about this multi-day trip. It’s a big, wide area to start, that moves into this collapsed lava tube-style stretch which is fascinating and a unique section of the river.”

“In addition to our standard whitewater rafting trips, we also offer several specialty rafting trips. We do ‘Rum on the Rogue’ where we hook up with a rum distiller and float with them, rafting during the day and highlighting the spirits during the evening. We will also hook up with a restaurant and bring a chef along to cook specialty meals. We even do a number of music trips where a live band comes along with us. You get the experience of rafting with the band members and then hear them play at night.”

Following Mule Creek Canyon is a gnarly class 4 rapid called Blossom Bar. Copper describes the rush and excitement of crushing Blossom Bar and the relief of traversing it successfully.

“When you come out of Mule Creek Canyon, you hit Blossom Bar, which is the big crux rapid of the whole trip. There’s this anticipation leading up to the rapid, and then the amount of relief you get from it makes this awe-inspiring trip so special.” 

Blossom Bar on the Rogue River. Photo Credit:
Blossom Bar on the Rogue River. Photo Credit:

Each night is spent in a large tent with cots and paco pads for a good night’s sleep. There are designated primitive campsites along each river that Tributary finds for each night. If camping under the stars isn’t quite your thing, Tributary can arrange nights in lodges instead when traveling down the Rogue. Copper described the camping scene on the Snake and Rogue.

“We have super nice tents, full stand-up height tents. We use cots, and then big paco pads, so it is not like crawling into a backpacking tent and sleeping on an egg crate type of camping experience.”

Fishing is a common activity on both trips throughout the season, but as fall creeps in, the trips can shift towards more of a hunting/fishing focus. Copper details what the late-season trips can look like.

“We switch from trips that focus on rafting to hunting and fishing charters around mid-September. We run 20-ft aluminum drift boats that fit around 2-3 people, and instead of the casual family fishing, we’re fishing and hunting focused, with hunters walking alongside the banks shooting chukars. During these trips, we’re setting up super high-end canvas walled tents each night. We have heaters, lights, and great meals, nothing’s really skimmed on.”

Fishing the Snake River with Tributary Whitewater. Photo Credit: Tributary Whitewater
Fishing the Snake River with Tributary Whitewater. Photo Credit: Tributary Whitewater

Chatting with Jeremiah Copper, we truly understood his main focus, that each trip delivers an adventure filled with passion and enthusiasm for the outdoors. This belief has been engraved in Copper since he experienced his first rafting trip as a kid, and now he and Tributary Whitewater strive to spread that same joy to everyone.

For a better understanding of the two rivers featured in this interview, we have included a brief description of each with a few pictures as well. More information on each river and their trips can be found Tributary Whitewater’s website.

The Snake River

The Snake River is between Idaho and Oregon. Photo Credit: Tributary Whitewater 
The Snake River wiggling between Idaho and Oregon. Photo Credit: Tributary Whitewater

The connection between the Snake River and humans can be traced back over 11,000 years. While most of those years were probably not spent sending huge rapids and getting pinballed by rocks, the Native American tribes like the Shoshone and Nez Perce utilized the area’s abundant resources for survival. The annual salmon run was heavily relied on by the Nez Perce, while the Shoshone thrived in the plains, partaking in the fur trade.

Tributary Whitewater begins its journey down the Snake River in Halfway, Oregon, just a few hours from Boise, Idaho. From there, the adventure sets off for a 4-day/36-mile tour of the longest tributary of the Columbia River. Expect this beginner-level trip to charge gnarly class 3 rapids from May through September.

Finding some shade and much earned relaxation along the Snake River. Photo Credit: Tributary Whitewater
Finding some shade and well deserved relaxation along the Snake River. Photo Credit: Tributary Whitewater

Like Copper mentioned, those four days will be packed with hiking, swimming, fishing, relaxing, and soaking up the sun. Despite the name, Hells Canyon is a playground for everyone; kids as young as 7 are welcome to hop on board. Bring your hunger for adventure and food, as Tributary supplies three fresh and wholesome meals each day. Each night will be spent camping under the stars in the remote wilderness.

Snake River Trip Features

  • Impressive petroglyphs from Native American tribes
  • Animals such as bighorn sheep, bald eagles, whooping cranes, and grizzly bears
  • Great fishing for bass, trout, sturgeon, and steelhead
  • Chukar hunting trips starting in late September
  • Jump on board for a Women’s Wellness Retreat trip
  • Endless stargazing
  • Jet boat ride back upstream to Tributary’s outpost

The Rogue River

Floating down the Rogue. Photo Credit: Tributary Whitewater
Floating down the Rogue. Photo Credit: Tributary Whitewater

Oregon’s third-longest river drains from the peaks of the southern Cascade Range near Crater Lake and runs to the Pacific Ocean at Gold Beach. The Rogue River Valley was a hub during the Gold Rush in the 1800s. Gold-seekers moved north from California, searching for gold along the Rogue. The gold rush in the valley faded during the late 1860s, allowing the lush, green valley to recover after the miners stripped the land of its timber and even diverted water for their mining ditches. Unfortunately, this was only the beginning of large-scale industrialization on the Rogue. Shortly after, commercial fishing depleted the native chinook and coho salmon populations.

Eventually, the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act was signed into law in 1968 by President Lyndon B. Johnson. At the time, the Rogue River was one of eight under the act’s protection. This designation protects the river from becoming dammed, developed for gas and minerals, and otherwise impeded. As of 2018, there are 209 rivers protected under the act. The Oregon Wildlands Act added an additional 56,100 acres of federal land to the Wild Rogue Wilderness.

Ending a day on the river sharing stories, jokes, and memories. Photo Credit: Tributary Whitewater
Ending a day on the river sharing stories, jokes, and memories. Photo Credit: Tributary Whitewater

Tributary Whitewater begins its adventure down the Rogue in Merlin, southwest Oregon. From there, the trip sets off for a 4-day/42-mile tour of the Rogue through the Klamath Mountains. Expect this beginner to intermediate-level trip to charge gnarly class 3-4 rapids from May through October. Expect to spend your days fishing, relaxing, swimming, charging rapids, and hiking while ending the day camping under the stars. Similar to the Snake River, kids as young as 7 are welcome to join the adventure.

Rogue River Trip Features

  • Dense coniferous forests containing over 3,500 different plant species
  • Bald eagles and osprey soaring overhead
  • Gnarly rapids and relaxing flats
  • Excellent fishing for chinook and steelhead
  • Beautiful hiking
  • Delicious meals to feast on

The Snake and Rogue Rivers are packed with stoke for a multiday escape into the outdoors. If these two rivers don’t sound like your jam, check out the entire list of rivers Tributary Whitewater runs, as they excel in finding a great experience for anyone. Although Tributary is one of the largest outfitters in the west, it’s quite spread out, allowing for smaller groups on each river, leading to a personal experience for all.

Let's go boating! Photo Credit: Tributary Whitewater
Let’s go boating! Photo Credit: Tributary Whitewater

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