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Rogue River Flows Through the Years Under Multiple Names

Southern Oregon’s Rogue River has had several names.

One Indian name for the river was Trashit. A lieutenant aboard the U.S. Navy’s 1841 exploratory Wilkes Expedition referred in his diary to the Rascally River, and early French trappers called it La Riviere aux Coquins, French for Rogue River. For a short time it was known as McLeod’s River, named after an early explorer.  The Territorial Legislature renamed it Gold River in 1854, but reversed itself a year later.  It’s been the Rogue River since then.

Pioneer historian Orvil Dodge favored the idea that Rogue was a corrupted spelling of the French word for red: rouge.  He said a French vessel arrived years before the Americans, named the river the Rouge after its muddy waters flowing into the sea, and the American pioneers misspelled and mispronounced it.

The reference book Oregon Geographic Names dismisses the idea that Rogue is Rouge mispronounced.  The publication refers to early French explorers and British trappers who called it the “River Coquin,” incorporating the French word for rogue or rascal to describe the wild river.

The Rogue by any other name would still flow as sweet.

Sources: McArthur, Lewis L. Oregon Geographic Names. 4th ed. Ann Arbor, Mich.: Edwards Brothers, 1974. 626-27. Print;

"Rogue River Local History." Oregon River Experiences. Oregon River Experiences LLC, n.d. Web. 20 Aug. 2015. http://www.oregonriver.com/rogueriverhistory.htm; "Rogue River (Oregon)." Wikipedia. 7 Mar. 2015. Web. 20 Aug. 2015. .

Kernan Turner is the Southern Oregon Historical Society’s volunteer editor and coordinator of the As It Was series broadcast daily by Jefferson Public Radio. A University of Oregon journalism graduate, Turner was a reporter for the Coos Bay World and managing editor of the Democrat-Herald in Albany before joining the Associated Press in Portland in 1967. Turner spent 35 years with the AP before retiring in Ashland.