About McKenzie River

From Eugene - Springfield, drive scenic Highway 126 east into the rugged Cascade Mountains and discover seven charming riverfront communities tucked in along the McKenzie River.

The famous Wild & Scenic McKenzie River is named for Scottish explorer Donald Mackenzie who enthusiastically traversed this watershed in the early 1800s. The Oregon Trail brought settlers to the region starting in 1843. Gold was found, but lumber and livestock later became the primary industries. 

In the 1870s the McKenzie River's hot springs and fishing lodges started to draw tourists, and this increased when the road was paved in the 1900s. Cruising the scenic routes became a popular pastime, and in the 1930s the Civilian Conservation Corps built the Dee Wright Observatory along a former 1860 wagon route over the lava beds (Hwy 242).

McKenzie River Drift Boat

The drift boat is the centerpiece of recreation for the riverfront Cascades communities. In the 1920s Prince Helfrich and Leroy Pruitt crafted the famous McKenzie River Drift Boat. They refined an open-water dory for improved maneuvering in river rapids, launching a design that is still used today.

The McKenzie River Drift Boat is recognizable by its wide, flat bottom, flared sides, flat bow and pointed stern. The rower faces downstream. For that authentic Northwest boating experience, several river guides offer fishing excursions using the McKenzie River Drift Boat.

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