Suggestions – Rogue River Road Safety including Bear Camp Road

This page is ONLY for suggestions about safety on the roads in and around the Rogue River Wilderness. DO NOT discuss things here, just leave safety suggestions.

Many officials who work in and around the Rogue River area appear to be viewing the blog and I expect these suggestions to get wide circulation.

30 thoughts on “Suggestions – Rogue River Road Safety including Bear Camp Road

  1. From my post on Page 3, Comment 222

    My half-baked idea (and problems I see with it below): If we can have cameras for red-light runners, why not something similar at key spots off of the main road. This takes the responsibility away from people to make a call (assuming they could even get cell coverage) or actually get out of their car to fill out a paper to put in a box (we are drive-thru people on the whole). The tapes could be reviewed when someone is missing, and it should at least tell if they were on the road or turned onto a spur. Even just a few of these in the right places might work.

    People would squawk about privacy (probably even me), I’m sure, and I don’t know what kind of cost would be involved, or how you could put this up unobtrusively but…

    Joe mentioned possibly webcams on Galice Store, but also mentioned likely needing permission from ODOT/BLM/USFS.

  2. Idea from page 3 post 527, and post 546.

    I’ve poosted at the Mail-Tribune forums, but it seems to have died down over there. I have an idea for warning travelers. Back in Galice, where the road starts, they could put a stop light in that won’t turn green until another sign, an electronic message sign, flashes a warning not to go that way. Sensors in the road could be used to know when someone is waiting at the light and ensure the message is displayed. Any message can be programmed in, including some of the ideas alreeady posted here. Just an idea, probably dumb, but I felt like posting it anyways.

    Comment by dkf747 | December 27, 2006

    532 That was the idea. You can put whatever scary message you want on it, make it flash, whatever. The light would not go green until the vehicle has stopped on the sensor for a pre-determinjed length of time, long enough to have read the message once or twice. I’d be surprised if it was actually done, but I was just trying to think of a better way to scare, er I mean warn people who shouldn’t be up there away.

    538, You’re right. It would be needed on both ends.

    Comment by dkf747 | December 27, 2006

  3. Page 5, #576, Posted January 1, 2007 by Madeleine: “Lisa, good points! What about having a whole bunch of those orange reflectors imbedded in the pavement at the turnoff going right. The kind that make a terrible noise when you drive over them, just to get the attention of any driver. That would get attention to slow down and read a large sign there, not sure how the road bumps would work in the snow, though. Then a highly reflective sign such as you mentioned, before and after the turnoff. Right in the Y of the fork, there should be a reflective sign that says COAST with a large left arrow. Other words could be added when it’s closed, it could say Coast Route Closed…etc…”

  4. Another thought related to markings above at that FS23/BLM road fork – just in case a driver still takes that right, shortly after that turn onto the fork a sign stating that the road does not go to the coast might help so that the driver turns around sooner. Perhaps a little further down, another that says the same. At an intersection so notoriously confusing, people need to be given every opportunity to take the correct route, and then even a few more opportunities to correct it if they still made the error.

  5. On all north and south freeway exit signs on I5 at Merlin & exit north of Merlin, state WARNING – ROUTE TO COAST NOW CLOSED YEAR ROUND – USE HWY 199 FROM GRANTS PASS.


    PLACE LARGE AND REPETITIVE SIGNS WELL BEFORE AND RIGHT BEFORE FORKED INTERSECTION OF FS23/34-8-36 with Large Arrows clearly designating right fork as Dead End, Wrong Way, and Left Fork as FS23 to Coast and Closed From Nov. 1 to Aug. 1 due to Extreme Snow Conditions. Subject to Frequent closures and hazardous conditions AT ALL TIMES. Use at your own Risk. FOR COASTAL ROUTE RETURN TO I5 SOUTH AND TAKE HWY 199 FROM GRANTS PASS.

  7. The ODOT map is deceptive, and I would suggest a thorough review.

    Is Bear Camp Road marked in accordance with generally accepted cartography rules? Does a road with a partial gravel section that is not well maintained meet the criteria to be listed on State Maps with a solid line similar to state highways? Or should this road be shown with a grayed section for the gravel areas, similar to other mountain roads?

    Online Internet Mapping Services could be notified of the condition of this road so that it is not recommended as a scenic / year round route to the coast.

    Ang As others have suggested, a thorough review of the road signs also needs to be followed up on with definitive improvements to the signage.

  8. All state highways have a number, and are labeled as such. Most, if not all, are also drawn as a red line (if not divided).

    I haven’t driven from Galice to Agness, but my impression from all the discussions is that it is paved the whole way, even if it is single lane in places. So the unnamed road is properly marked as a simple black line (‘paved road’). Note that there are other roads in this area that have gray (gravel)sections, such as the one that heads south from Galice (FS25?), and the one that heads north from Agness to Powers (FS23?).

    There are many other roads in this area that are partially paved or all gravel, and are not shown on this map. That includes the BLM maze where the Kims got lost. Some use the term ‘Bear Camp’ to refer to just the through route, others to the whole complex, and some to parts of this maze.

    In theory ODOT could increase the number of road categories beyond the 5 they use, adding for example, a ‘bad paved road’. But to be consistent they would have to reclassify many roads on the map. Plus what is bad, say for a 40′ RV, might not be a problem for a nimble SUV. What is fine in the summer may still be usable in the winter at lower elevations, even if blocked by snow at the higher ones.

    As it is, the labeling of Agness-Galice is relatively unique. I can only find about a half dozen roads that are marked as closed in ‘winter’. One is in a National Park (north access to Crater Lake), another is a state route. I know from experience that those are not the only roads in Oregon that are blocked by snow. The popular loop through the Lakes area SW of Bend does not open until June (most years) – and that is good two lane paved. A loop through Steens Mth doesn’t open until July.

    A map, at this scale, can provide only so much information. The balance between keeping it simple for tourists, yet informative others is tricky. I just read of a controversy in Georgia, where they tried to simplify the state highway map by omitting some 500 small towns. Not surprisingly, those towns objected.


  9. I have ODOT maps, 2001 and 2003. I noticed a couple of changes in 2003. Two ‘closed in winter’ notices were added in the SW. In 2001 only ‘Bear Camp’, Crater Lake and McKinzie Pass had this label.

    2003 also makes a general warning larger: “Make local inquiry of road conditions in remote areas. Some roads are impassable following severe weather conditions.”

    Also on the map: ‘Oregon allows the use of studded tires from Nov 1 to April 1’ – I take that to be a reasonable definition of ‘winter’, with local exceptions.

    Also “All roads shown on this map are passable with a two-wheel-drive passenger vehicle”. That strikes me as a reasonable criteria. They don’t though, try to include every road that is passable (especially in urban areas).

    So the state has made moves to improve the winter safety information on this map.


  10. It may be that the ODOT map does not provide enough information about this route.

    They might, for example, mark it as a pass, including an altitude. Seeing an altitude higher than Siskiyou Summit on I5 would warn a driver than if winter driving conditions apply on I5, expect them here as well. A careful map user might note that nearby Brandy Peak is over 5000 ft, so the road can’t be much lower.

    Marking, in a rudimentary fashion, some of the spurs, would also warn users that there some tricky turns on this road. The trick, though, is to add information like this without cluttering the map. A few more steams might also help, such as Big Windy.

    Portions of the route could also be labeled, for example the central FS23 part. I believe the roadside snow warnings already include the FS23 sign. Ideally snow warnings on the map and on the signs should reinforce each other, not create confusion. However, the map does not label any other forest service (or blm) roads.

    There is also a through route on the north side of the Rogue River. That too is drawn on the ODOT map, again without name. A spur off that goes to a popular camp site on the Rogue River. Stivers got lost in this area last March. Map and sign changes on one side of the river should apply to the other side as well.

    I’d also suggest toning down the county lines. I wouldn’t eliminate them, but in some areas roads run close to county lines, and the overlap can be confusing.

    Once they were lost, the Kims really needed a map with much more information. The DeLorme Atlas, Google Earth, and MS Streets and Trips all show the road, and junction, where the car was found. DeLorme shows streams, and contours. If they had a better idea of where they ended up, James might have made a wiser choice regarding walking out.

    That does suggest another road labeling idea. Mark the way out (possibly with distances) at selected intersections in the BLM maze. The Black Bar Lodge caretaker might have suggestions based on where he has encountered lost summer tourists. What would James have done if he’d seen a ‘FS23 16miles, Galice 25 miles’ sign (at the Black Bar turnoff) after walking 6 miles from the car?


  11. ODOT MAP

    Problems/Concerns and Recommendations


    1. color scheme
    2. county line symbology
    3. warning box/arrow/text symbology
    4. lack of road names in critical areas
    5. lack of critical information, inclusion of less critical information/map purpose

    1. Color Scheme

    There is a very liberal use of the color red. Red is a dramatic color and is good for warnings. However, highways, wilderness areas, warnings, and text are done in this color on this map. This liberal use of the color red diminishes the effect of the red color for warnings.

    2. County line symbology

    I did not notice a symbol for county lines in the legend. However, by looking at the map I noticed county lines were similiar to the symbology for unpaved roads, which are the same color with a slightly lower line weight. These two factors (lack of symbol in the legend, and similiarity to unpaved roads) leads to the possibility of confusing county lines with unpaved roads.

    3. Warning Box Symbology

    As mentioned the use of the color red over the entire map for highways and scenic areas already diminshes the warnings, which are red and pink. In addition, the text appears to be pink. This detracts the eye from the box, which is a red line, and the arrow which is also a red color. In addition, the slim, red, curved arrow attached to the warning box blends with the other red lines that signify wilderness areas. The arrow is also very small.

    4. Lack of Road Names in Critical Areas

    There are no road names on what “appears” to be main routes between Grants Pass and Gold Beach.

    5. Lack of Critical Information/Inclusion of Less Critical Information/Map Purpose

    Map readers may not realize the extent of logging roads and other consfusing roads in forest areas, the road map does not depict conditions accuratley in forest areas. A map at the scale of an entire state cannot include the detail neccessary to navigate a forest area, especially if there are not names on the road that are included on the state highway map. Also the inclusion of some unnecessary information may be taking away space for necessary material. Some camping areas, some topo information, some roads, some recreational areas on the map may not be neccessary for safe highway navigation in the state if it takes away from the general usefulness of the highway map. This is a highway map and the general purpose of the map should be highway navigation.


    1. Color Scheme

    There are a lot of colors to choose from besides red and green (the dominant colors on this map). It would be good to change, or phase out the use of red for general purposes on this map (ie. wilderness areas, highways, camping areas or related text).

    2. County Line Symbology

    Include counties in the legend, or get rid of counties on the map. Counties are not neccessary to highway navigation. Change color of line so it is not so similiar to unpaved roads.

    3. Warning Boxes/Arrow/Text

    Change the color of warning boxes, text and arrows. (or, if you change the color scheme of the entire map, keep them red — and make the text red too). The text of the warning is different from the color of the outline of the box and the arrow. Make all three colors the same (text, arrow and outline of box). Make it different from the color that outlines wilderness areas (at this time they are both red).

    In addition to the color changes, make the arrow that the warning points to (usually the road) a straight arrow instead of curved. Make this straight arrow slightly larger in line weight than it is currently, also increase the size of the end tip of the arrow.

    Make sure the placement of the text box is not ambiguous, and is sitting in open space so that the box is not mistakenly representing a different road or line (like a county line).

    4. Lack of Road Names in Critical Areas

    Include road names for all routes shown on map.

    5. Critical Information and Map Purpose

    This is the most difficult point. Several possibilities and recommendations.

    A. In all forest areas, in small text, indicate that travellers should see a USFS map for detailed information (or whatever agency maintains detailed maps of that area) if the ODOT map cannot accuratley portray the detail of dangerous topographic and seasonal weather elements in that area, or complicated logging road networks.

    B. Another possibility is to greatly simplify all camping areas, topo information and wilderness areas on the map and produce two state maps — one that is highway map (with more space created for warnings and detalied highway info and road names, also with an text to indicate where to get maps with more detail), and one that is a highway map with extra wilderness and forest area information.

  12. Mapper, Angela, et. al., something like this:

    perhaps 1/4 mile past the famous fork? And again 1/2 mile past? And again 1 mile past?

    Comment by RodneyG | January 16, 2007 |

  13. Interesting reading after the Kim search came to a final sad find, after locating the mother and two girls. What the Monday Morning Quarterbacks are forgetting, is that the Kim’s were responsible people, back in SF, but not in the wilds of Oregon. As an example, they stopped at the Visitor’s Bureau in Wilsonville, picked up the ODOT map and were told to exit at Hwy. 138 or Hwy. 42. And, they could have turned off for the ocean, also, at Hwy. 126. All three roads are excellent roads! I’ve been down that road twice, since Christmas, and noticed the large green highway exits, indicating ocean to the west, which is as plain as day. When you’re traveling with two small babes and your wife, responsible moves are and should be taken. Unfortunately, they both decided for some reason or the other, to drive all the way south, to the Merlin-Galice exit, which doesn’t have a sign indicating anything about the ocean going that way. Thus, they made their first major error, besides not turning off at the three exits north of this one. On this road, there are yellow road signs, showing that there are unfavorable conditions ahead. When they got to Galice, there is another yellow sign, showing the way to Bear Camp Road, but warning drivers of unfavorable conditions. Hello there! Are we listening? Then, they proceeded in a snowy night, with boulders on the road that Kati got out of the car, and moved…and continued westward. More big-time errors on both of their parts–not only James, but Kati’s, too! As you can see, I’m not Monday-Morning Quarterbacking, but just stating the facts of this very sad scenario that these two adults made. To think, if they had gone straight ahead, on I-5, for another five miles or so, they could have turned off on another legal highway–199–to drive to the coast, through Grants Pass. You’ve got to ask yourself why they made the decisions that they did, IF they were acting in a responsible manner that evening. And, finally, driving farther west on this road, where there were three more yellow BLM gates that they passed through, why they continued forward, when others were going out, after getting their Christmas trees. It just doesn’t make sense as to what they did, that’s all there is to it! The rest we know, but…this, above, needs to be reckoned with, by Kati, sorry to say.

  14. A simple ‘No outlet’ sign on the BLM branch should be sufficient. I don’t think tourists in these woods are any dumber than ones wandering around suburbia.


  15. I have modified my rendering of the earlier sign suggestion. I have included the words “NO SERVICES”, as I believe that simply saying “NO OUTLET” and “NOT A THRU ROUTE TO COAST” leaves the possibility that there might still be services. The inclusion of “NO SERVICES” should close this hole. The sign could obviously be expanded to include the word “WARNING”, which I have removed for now.

    I also took the liberty of adding a couple (battery-powered) flashing lights, just for good measure.

  16. Forest Service 19 near Oakridge (off OR 58) has an interesting sign:
    ‘Not maintained for snow or ice’.

    That could be a useful addition to Bear Camp.

    Part of why Kims did not retreat or try to drive out while they had the chance was that they thought a snow plow or ranger would be along. A sign like this might have made it clear(er) that they were on their own, and needed to proceed with greater caution than if they were on a state maintained highway.


  17. I’m sorry none of the suggestions regarding warning outsiders about Bear Camp Road have been put into effect. I, a 63-year-old woman from Colorado driving an Outback, took Bear Camp Road on Monday, June 11, because on my map it was marked as a regular paved road and looked like a good shortcut to TuTuTun Lodge. I turned off at Merlin but saw no warning signs of any kind about road conditions. It was an exhilarating white knuckle trip that took 2-1/2 hours. The only reason I kept going was I would meet an occasional car/trucks with rafts coming from the other direction, suggesting it was possible to get through to Agnes. I’m glad I met the challenge, but wouldn’t do it again. ODOT PAY ATTENTION!!!

  18. “…It was an exhilarating white knuckle trip that took 2-1/2 hours. …”
    Great fun for you, I’m sure though an adventure best undertaken with a little advance warning and preparation. Maps and signage each have to be improved. Can you post a citation showing the exact map on which you were relying and how you obtained that map?
    “… The only reason I kept going was I would meet an occasional car/trucks with rafts coming from the other direction, suggesting it was possible to get through to Agnes. …”
    I think the sporadic traffic as well as its being Summer rather than Winter made things more of an adventure than an exercise in survival skills but at age 63 you wouldn’t want any dehydration troubles either.

  19. There are a number of signs related to snow, which a summer time driver is likely to ignore. They do, though, give an indication that this is going to climb in to the mountains.

    I drove this route on Memorial Day. On page 10 I comment that I have driven steeper, narrower, and curvier roads, but they were not paved. And the Peavine detour does live up to its name, even more so than the well known Grapevine grade in California.

    Do you recall seeing the sign that says this route is not recommended for trailers? Despite the fact that shuttle drivers regularly pull raft trailers over this road, it is an indication that the road is narrow and curvy. I believe some Colorado passes have similar warnings (such as Independence). Some California state highways expressly prohibit trailers over a certain length because of their curves (Sonora Pass comes to mind).

    Another sign that caught my attention on an Oregon backroad was ‘Variable width road ahead’. This was on Carberry Road that runs from the south end of Applegate Reservoir to the town of Applegate. More commonly I see warnings to the effect: ‘single lane road with turnouts, proceed with caution’.


  20. Variable width road is somewhat bland and would perhaps be interpreted as being solely of interest to large commercial vehicles rather than automobile motorists about to be faced with single lanes but two-way traffic.

  21. This 25mph sign on Galice Access Rd should also give an indication that this road is not a freeway:

    I don’t recall seeing this when I drove the route in May, however I was paying more attention to the new sign Roper placed.

    I wonder if there is a way of clearly conveying the fact that it is going to take you nearly 3 hrs to drive the 60 miles to Gold Beach. The 25mph sign gives some indication of this. Eventually GPS units might be able to give a realistic estimate of travel times. It takes some skill and experience to make such estimates from state level maps.


  22. Actually, I think those smaller rectangular signs that are often at the botton of the sign depicted are the ones that are informative. So its not the ‘Windy Road’ but the ‘next thirty miles’ that conveys the message. 25 could be one curve or something but a clear statement of next umpteen miles would convey significant information that the driving was not going to be a picnic.

  23. I chuckle when I encounter a S curve sign (next 3 miles) half way through a winding mountain road. I ask myself, what were the previous 10 miles? straight?

    A S curve sign with a big ‘next 30 miles’ under it might catch the attention of some drivers.

    But often it’s not the steepest and curviest parts of the road that are most tiring, but the unexpected curves toward the end. For example on the drive to Gold Beach, the part after Agness is 2 lane and generally level since in follows the river. But it has nearly as many curves as the mountain part, along with a number of pavement slumps.

    Even OR 42 can be tiring if you drive it with the wrong expectation. It doesn’t climb very high, but still has to follow a river valley. I imagine the same can be said for the highway to Crescent City which winds along the Smith River.


  24. More details on the signs and more signs on Bear Camp Road. Permits should be required to drive during the winter months.

  25. People never stop looking for new ways to feel the thrill and excitement they are longing for. Rogue rivers may be dangerous to most of us but these attracts thrill seekers. They want to experience the adrenaline rush. There is no problem with that as long as they have enough experience and they know what to do in case something goes wrong. It would be best if they are equipped with all the necessary protective gear and that includes heavy-duty eye-wear to help them see better as they ride the crazy currents of the river.

  26. dumb question but does anyone live along this road,? If not just close it for the winter. If it is needed than make sure all side roads are closed off from nov1 to march 15.At least than they have to stay on main road such as it is,during the winter. As for signage how about WARNING ENTER AT OWN RISK. ROAD NOT MAINTANED IN WINTER.(DONT GO HERE DUMBASS OPTIONAL)

  27. one sign I saw that gets your attention is ROAD CLOSES BEHIND SIGNS EXCEPT LOCAL RESIDENTS. ROAD NOT MAINTAINED IN WINTER.and in bright orange letters.ENTER AT OWN RISK NO SERVICES AT ALL.

  28. Opening and closing gates is an annoying nuisance.
    Main road is difficult to determine at times, the side road is often more appealingly deceptive.
    Main Road, side road, skidded off the road, whatever… the important point is: Rugged Terrain with No Motorist Services or SnowPlowing: Carry Complete Survival Gear.

    Then whether it is misadventure along a side road or whatever, its a question of having been warned and of being prepared. Leave an Interstate Attitude behind when entering The Outback. Just tell people that its the outback.

  29. How about billing the people needing rescue for the costs of the search and rescue operation? For example, there is a state law in New Hampshire that charges people for rescue if their need for rescue arose from negligence, and I’d say ignoring warning signs to avoid this road would qualify as negligence. Given the frequency with which people get stuck on this road, I think word would get around pretty quickly once the sheriff’s offices of these two counties start handing people bills going into the thousands of dollars.

    BTW, I noticed Google Maps will not route you on Bear Camp Rd between Merlin and Gold Beach, although Yahoo and MSN Maps still will.

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