When the Willamette Valley heats up, head for the cold, clear waters of the McKenzie River in the Cascade Mountains. This beautiful river is the source of Eugene's drinking water and is known for being exceptionally clear and clean. (Some say that's why our local craft beer is so good!) The upper portion of the river is designated as "Wild & Scenic", a special preservation status that protects free flowing rivers from pollution, obstruction and overuse. Highway 126 follows the course of the river, punctuated by small mountain communities. Residents have been rebuilding from the wildfires of 2020 and appreciate when visitors stop in to shop or dine at one of the open establishments along the way.
Sign up for a seat in the raft! Enjoy the thrills of navigating the twists and turns of the pristine McKenzie River. Feel the spray from the white water, soak up the dappled sunlight on your shoulders and enjoy both the rush of the rapids and the peace in still stretches. Experienced guides provide the gear, the know-how and familiarity with the river, ensuring that your experience is pure enjoyment.
Meditate on the McKenzie River as you fish along the banks or from a McKenzie River drift boat. Catch and release upstream, or bring home hatchery trout and bass from downstream. Many of the local pro shops can set you up with the right angling gear, lessons if desired, or just point you to the best fishing spots. You can also make arrangements for a guided fishing trip — for an enjoyable experience with all the insider expertise of a local angler.
The McKenzie River is popular for kayaking but you need to be familiar with the current river conditions. Going with a guide that knows this season's flow and river features will help you avoid hidden snags, eddies and unexpected obstacles. Some of the McKenzie River lodges can also provide shuttle services to put in and take out spots along the river. Besides the refreshing McKenzie River, there are many mountain lakes that are lovely for kayaking including Scott Lake and Clear Lake.
A refreshing dip in the waters can feel great — but choose your spot carefully. The McKenzie River is very cold and has strong rapids. (Never jump in as rocks beneath the surface may be hidden.) Check out nearby hot springs for a comfortable soak.
Make it an Overnight
Linger by the McKenzie River and get the most out of your river experience by staying in a cabin, lodge or campground. One day on the water never feels like enough!