Hiking to the birthplace of the Rogue

Boundary Springs, the headwaters of the Rogue, is where the river begins its 215-mile rumble to the Pacific Ocean. On its way west, it passes through a series of Oregon’s Jackson County communities — Union Creek, Prospect, Trail, Shady Cove, Gold Hill and Rogue River — before slicing past Grants Pass, Galice, Agness and Gold Beach. The river’s flow increases from tributaries, including Ranger Springs in the Sky Lakes Wilderness, along with Bear Creek and the Applegate and Illinois rivers.

But the Rogue begins at Boundary Springs, just within the northeastern section of Crater Lake National Park. The Rogue’s waters don’t spring from Crater Lake. According to geologists, Boundary Springs is fed by snowmelt that seeps into a labyrinth of underground lava fields that collect and eventually exit from the main and smaller springs.

The Rogue doesn’t begin as a trickle, but as a true tumbling river. Zane Grey, the Western author whose books included the “Riders of the Purple Sage” and “Rogue River Feud,” reportedly described the Rogue as “a river at its birth.”

The hike to the Rogue’s birth place begins from the deceptively named Mount Mazama Viewpoint between mileposts 18 and 19 along Highway 230. There are no views of Mazama, the mountain that-was. It was Mazama that literally blew its top about 7,700 years ago and created Crater Lake.

Helpfully, one interpretive sign shows how Mazama’s explosion compares with other eruptions while a second explains how the volcanic upheaval would have “vaporized” anyone seeing the event from the viewpoint.

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