Organized hang gliding got started in the Rogue Valley under the tutelage of Jeff Van Datta and Doug Hildreth, who provided leadership and knowledge to others who wanted to learn to fly.
Enthusiasts formed the Rogue Valley Hang Gliding Association in 1977, now known as the Rogue Valley Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association. They held their first Starthistle Fly-in that same year. Starthistle is a spiky plant that can pierce jeans, jackets, flight suits, shoes and gloves. “If you haven’t picked ‘em out of your hide yet … you will,” pilot Bill Shaw writes on the association’s Website. The region has two world-class flying sites, Woodrat Mountain near Ruch, Ore., and The Whaleback near Weed, Calif. Woodrat Mountain is recognized nationally by hang and paragliders. First used in 1978, the site soon became a popular and safe environment preferred by pilots. More than 30 years later, the mountain still provides a launch site for paragliders from around the United States. Long flights to Hilt and Weed, Calif., and Grants Pass have been reported. Today, thistle-free landing sites include several wineries in the Ruch area.
"Woodrat Mountain Site Guide." RVHPA. Rogue Valley Hang Gliding & Paragliding Association, 2014. Web. 24 May 2014.