The McKenzie River is one of western Oregon's most beautiful streams, as well as one of the region's most popular whitewater rafting trips.
Flowing through the McKenzie Valley from its headwaters at Clear Lake, high in the cascades, the McKenzie is a swift, spirited stream. Float with the McKenzie's lively current and you may feel as if you're flying over the riverbed — the water is that clear. Thick fir forests, mild yet enjoyable rapids and easy accessibility are a few of the river's other charms. We offer trips on two sections of the upper McKenzie (beginning at either Paradise or Olallie). Boat either and you will see the McKenzie at its best.
The McKenzie River originates at Clear Lake and flows 90 miles west to where it joins the Willamette River just below the town of Coburg. Along the way it flows through layers of volcanic rock. Just above the town of Blue River is Wolf Rock: Rising almost 1,000 feet, it is said to be the largest rock monolith in the state.
The McKenzie region is also known for the hot springs that rise from deep underground. Natural springs, heated by geothermal activity, flow to the surface in several locations. The most well-known are probably the commercial development at Belknap Hot Springs (where a lodge is located) and Terwilliger Hot Springs, an undeveloped site near Cougar Reservoir.
The McKenzie's winters are wet and mild, with only occasional snowfall. Summers are often hot and dry with an occasional rainfall via thunderstorms. This mild climate supports an unusual variety of vegetation, especially evergreen trees.
These waters have been renowned for fishing since the late 1800s. Spring Chinook salmon, winter steelhead, and summer steelhead are the most important anadromous fish runs. The most abundant native species of trout include rainbow, cutthroat, and bull trout.
The wildlife species in the region are many and varied with over 250 species found here. Deer, elk, coyote, mountain lion, bobcat, beaver, black bear and scores of other mammals inhabit the watershed. Also found here are a wide variety of bird life including hawks, owls, osprey, peregrine falcon and bald eagle.
Our McKenzie 2 day trips typically launch at Olallie. Half day trips typically launch at Frissell-Carpenter, while our one day trips usually launch at Paradise. All trips meet at Blue River, and all of these runs are on the upper McKenzie, which features numerous class II rapids and an occasional class III drop as well. For the most part this is a relatively mild whitewater trip, although the McKenzie's steep and swift flow creates rapids that are more lively than their class II ratings lead you to expect.
In addition to lively whitewater the the McKenzie's offers extraordinarily clear water, exceptionally lush forest scenery, excellent fishing, and beautiful camp sites.
Half Day trips
Morning half day trips meet at 9:30 AM* and afternoon half day trips meet at 1:00 PM*. In either case we meet at the Forest Glen Boat Landing in Blue River.
One and Two Day trips
We meet at 10:00 AM* at the Forest Glen Boat Landing in Blue River.
Look for a vehicle sporting the O.R.E. logo. Our lead guide will answer questions and help you prepare for your trip. Then -- for one day trips -- you will park your car then board an O.R.E. van for the 20 minute ride to the launch point. For half day trips you will follow our van in your car to McKenzie Bridge (our half day trip take-out point) then board our van for the ride to launch point. For 2 day trips you will follow our van to our camp then board our van for the ride to the launch point.
Once we arrive at our launch site our lead guide will conduct a safety orientation. We'll then all board rafts and be on our way downstream.
One and two day trips include a stop for a riverside lunch between noon and 1 PM.
We typically arrive at our take-out point around 1:00 PM (1/2 day morning trips), around 4 PM (1/2 day afternoon trips, full day trips), and around 3 PM (day two of two day trips).** Your car is here, so your will be free to be on your way at your leisure. On our 2 day trips we typically arrive at camp on day one at about 3:00 PM.
* Please plan your drive carefully so as to arrive at our meeting place on time. Our guides will attempt to wait for you if you are running late, but circumstances typically do not allow them to wait more than 20 minutes. If you miss your intended trip we will most likely not be able to provide a transfer to an alternate trip, and we are unable to provide a refund for missed trips.
** Many factors influence our timetable, including water levels, winds, and the needs and preferences of our guests. Please consider these times approximate.
- The services of our professional guides and staff.
- Transportation to and from our meeting place.
- A hearty lunch on our one day trips, and all meals from lunch on day one through lunch on day two on our two day trips. Meals are freshly prepared by our guides from the highest quality ingredients. Special dietary needs may be accommodated with advance notice.
- Durable, professional quality rafts and river running equipment, including U.S. Coast Guard Approved lifejackets.
- Waterproof river bags for your personal gear.
- Camp chairs (on two day trips).
Half Day trips
Morning half day trips meet at 9:30 AM, and afternoon half day trips meet at 1:00 PM at the Forest Glen Boat Landing in Blue River. We'll make our shuttle arrangements there, before going to the launch site. Please have your breakfast (or lunch, in the case of afternoon trips) before we meet.
One and Two Day trips
We will meet at 10:00 AM the day of your trip at the Forest Glen Boat Landing. We'll make our shuttle arrangements there, before going to the launch site.
Take Oregon Highway 126 east from Interstate 5 in Eugene, about 35 miles to Blue River. Forest Glen Boat Landing is across the highway from the "McKenzie River Family Practice" clinic, just outside the town of Blue River.
Shuttle specifics may vary by day and by group size. In most cases you will park your car at the raft take out point, and O.R.E. will transport you to the launch point in a company van.
For day trips you will simply need to bring only your own clothing, sunglasses, hat, sunscreen, a change of clothes and a water bottle. For two day trips you will also need to bring toiletries, a sleeping bag, pad and tent, and clothing for the evening and following morning. (Tents, sleeping bags and pads are available for rent from O.R.E.)
A complete list of what to bring is found here. You will receive a copy of this list when you sign up for your trip.
Fishing on the McKenzie is typically very good during summer months for native rainbow and cutthroat trout, as well as summer steelhead. If you would like to fish you will need an Oregon fishing license, which may be purchased at Oregon sporting goods stores or online at the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife's web site.
Hotel and resort options abound, both in Eugene and along the river itself. If you're from out of town you can stay anywhere in the Eugene area and still be reasonably close to the river. Good options along the river itself include the Eagle Rock Lodge B&B(541-822-3630) and Belknap Hot Springs Resort (541-822-3512). C’est La Vie Inn, an award-winning B&B is under an hour drive. For a traditional motel consider the Sleepy Hollow Motel in the town of Blue River (541-822-3805).
Numerous campgrounds are found along the McKenzie River. We recommend Paradise Campground in particular. For reservations call 877-444-6777.
Nearby recreation options include hiking, waterfalls, golfing, hot springs, mountain biking and more.
Guests sometimes ask whether it is appropriate to tip their guide. Tipping is optional, but if your guide did a great job then feel free to thank him or her with a gratuity. The amount is up to you, but tips between 8% and 20% of trip cost are customary.
Gratuities are customarily presented to your paddle raft guide on day trips. Gratuities are customarily presented to the Lead Guide on two day trips, and will be shared equally among all guides on those trips.
- Mild (but lively) whitewater.
- Flows thru exceptionally lush forest.
- Extremely clear water (but very cool).
- Great camping and hiking nearby.
- Very good fishing
- Nearby hot springs and trails.
- Near: Eugene
- Trip Length: Half, 1 and 2 days
- Meeting Times: 9:30 & 10 AM, 1 PM
- 2020 Season: April - September
- Trip type: paddle rafting (oar raft by request)
- Whitewater Rating: II+ (novice)
- Suggested minimum age: 6