March/April, May/June, North America, Travel Guide

Guide to Woodrat, USA

Tuesday 18 February, 2014
The best days are post cold frontal. Photo: Nick Greece

The best days are post cold frontal. Photo: Nick Greece

Excellent flying in wine country – one of the LZs is at a winery!


This Southern Oregon site is the main flying site of the Rogue Valley Hang and Paragliding Club and is home to the internationally known Rat Race paragliding competition.

Woodrat has two launches and a main landing field plus several other landing fields, all within a short distance of each other. During the summer conditions can be very reliable, and most days are flyable.

Mid Launch has two launch slopes: one facing south-west and the other north-west. The south-west launch is a wide grassy slope and is often used for launching into glass-offs, especially when the wind at Top Launch is too strong. The north-west launch requires laying out on the gravel road surface and performing a flat slope launch toward a steep drop off.

The glide ratio from Mid Launch to the main landing field at Longsword Vineyard is about 9:1! Another landing, the Fiasco Winery, is about an 8:1 glide from Mid Launch.

Top Launch has two gravel launches, one facing west and the other north. The glide ratio from here to the landings is between 4 and 6 to 1.

The peak of Woodrat Mountain blocks southerly winds and may conceal evidence of rotor over the launch area. In fact, south winds may give the appearance of light cycles coming up either the west and/or north launches. Know the forecasted winds aloft, and be especially wary if there’s any significant southerly component. Some pilots check winds above launch by releasing a helium balloon on days with potential south winds.

The best conditions have west, north-west, or north winds. The day or two after the passage of a cold front can be especially good. Spring flying conditions vary but include some of the best days of the year. Summer has consistent high-pressure conditions. Early to mid autumn is consistently good. Winter offers sled rides or boaty flights around the mountain.

Because of the influence of the Pacific Ocean, summer days can be stable and inverted at 1,250m and 1,850m. Watch for turbulence around these levels.

April to June is best, although it’s flyable every month of the year.

Top launch: 1,162m
Mid launch: 880m
Landing: 500m

The site was pioneered by hang gliders over 30 years ago, and there’s an active hang gliding scene.

Make the short XC to Longsword Winery and claim your free glass of wine. Or fly 18km east to the LZ in Talent and claim your free beer if Donato is home.

Don’t fly in strong south or east winds because of large-scale rotor. The site is also often directly under a convergence zone of colliding Applegate and Rogue Valley winds. Take care in these conditions.

Valley winds may increase rapidly on summer afternoons and during pre-frontal conditions. Surface class E airspace for Medford, Oregon begins 8km east of launch. Stay under 6,000ft (1,850m). Finally, there’s sensitivity around some of the landing zones – check in with the locals before you fly.

The Crash Pad is pilot friendly and a bit of a local institution. Friendly and relaxed you can see the windsock on launch from the garden. Email woodratcrashpad@gmail.com.

The Crash Pad at Woodrat

Alternatively, camp at the Cantrall-Buckley campground on Applegate River or stay in Jacksonville and Medford.

Kevin Lee at www.thermaltracker.com

It’s the great American outdoors – river rafting is a good option. Nearby Jacksonville keeps its pioneer heritage and looks, or check out Ashland.

Fly to Rogue Valley International-Medford Airport with United or Delta and then hire a car. The site is 18km from Interstate 5.

RVHPA membership is required to fly Woodrat. Arrange day membership at the Ruch Country Store, a mile from the main LZ, and find out more at www.rvhpa.org before you visit.

• Got news? Send it to us at news@xccontent.local

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