McKenzie River, Springfield, Eugene, Coburg
Known for its cold, crystal clear waters the Class II-III McKenzie River hosts whitewater thrill seekers, world class anglers and nature lovers. Spring-fed in the Cascade Mountains, the river flows through a half dozen mountain communities to Springfield and Eugene. The McKenzie River is 90 miles (145 km) long and includes a South Fork. Drive the scenic river corridor along Hwy 126. There are three dams on the main stem and two covered bridges.
The river was named for Scottish explorer Donald Mackenzie, nicknamed "Perpetual Motion," who enthusiastically traversed this watershed in the early 1800s. Today, the sparkling pure waters of the river are the primary drinking water source for Eugene. More than 12 miles of the upper McKenzie are designated as "Wild and Scenic."
People are drawn to the McKenzie River for its outstanding river rafting and idyllic fly fishing. Paddling these crystal clear waters is a must! Each year the river changes, impacted by nature and weather, so going with a local guide who knows this season's submerged obstacles, rapids and eddies is important.
The McKenzie River drift boat is the centerpiece of recreation for the riverfront Cascades communities. In the 1920s Prince Helfrich and Leroy Pruitt crafted this famous boat recognized by its wide, flat bottom; flared sides; flat bow and pointed stern. They refined an open-water dory to improve maneuvering in river rapids with the rower facing downstream. Their successful design is still used today. (An excellent source of information on the McKenzie River drift boat is Roger Fletcher's "Drift Boats & River Dories: Their History, Design, Construction and Use".)
Charge Martens Rapid in your kayak, cast for steelhead from a drift boat, or hike or bike along the riverbank on the McKenzie River National Recreation Trail (MRT). Many also visit the McKenzie River region to soak in nearby hot springs, go forest bathing, birding or forage for mushrooms.
Connect with professional guides and gear shops to plan your McKenzie River adventure. River rafting can be mild or wild, depending on your requests, and some offer fishing trips in classic McKenzie River drift boats. Local guides can can also help you determine which permits and licenses you will need, where and when to fish, and what bait and flies to use.
Oregon law requires each person in a boat to have a life jacket. All children 12 and younger must wear their life jacket in the boat. Experienced river folks know life jackets save lives — but don't work unless you wear them — and that applies to good swimmers, non-swimmers, expert river guides and first time rafters alike.
The McKenzie Fire and Rescue and the McKenzie River Guides Association coordinate a free Life Jacket Lending Program. Nine locations along the McKenzie River loan out life jackets in a variety of sizes to all who need them during the summer season.
The nonprofit McKenzie River Trust acquires property along the McKenzie River for the purpose of preservation and conservation of clean and vibrant watersheds for future generations. They provide site tours, volunteer opportunities and educational sessions.
In support of McKenzie River Trust, Oakshire Brewing commits 1% of their flagship Watershed IPA sales to the trust. Clean water is essential to craft beer and Oakshire Brewing chose Eugene for brewing in part because of the good water flowing from the McKenzie River.
The McKenzie River Discovery Center is restoring historic hatchery ponds and developing an educational center on the river. They are focused on the region's cultural history, local ecology, geology and hydrology.
The McKenzie Community Partnership works with the communities along the river to support infrastructure, community cohesion, and economic and environmental resiliency. Recent projects have been directed at protecting the purity of the McKenzie River through updated wastewater management.
One of the appeals of the McKenzie River region is the riverfront lodging. Cabins, lodges and campgrounds grace the river corridor, so whether you tuck in at night in a rustic fishing cabin, a luxurious bed and breakfast or in a tent under the stars; you'll hear the music of moving water flowing past. Some accommodations have river views, some have porches facing the river and some have just a short hike to world class fishing.