white waterology

McKenzie River Rafting

Introducing the Mckenzie River

I​ would consider the Mckenzie River as my home waters. Old-growth firs with deciduous trees sprinkled in to add color throughout the year. This pristine river is the perfect shade of blue reflected in its headwaters that originate from Clear Lake. This 90-mile long river offers something for everyone. You can various species of fish throughout, slow meandering sections, and wild and frothy waters for those looking for some excitement. 

In 2020, a fire burned alongside this section of the river. It is sad to see so many of the homes gone. Yet, the vegetation is starting to grow back, homes are being rebuilt, and this river still has not lost its beauty. Some of the landmarks are gone, but I am confident they will be rebuilt. The folks that live up the canyon are tough-minded and pioneering individuals. 

Mckenzie River review

This River Review will focus on the stretch of water between Finn Rock boat ramp and the take-out at Helfrich Boat Landing. This 10 mile stretch of water is a popular section for anglers, kayakers, and rafts. There are a couple of rapids to be concerned with: Brown’s Hole and Marten Rapid. I will provide details for both of these in this River Review. 

You can float this section in a few hours but can also be extended, making stops along the way. My favorite stop, and usually our lunch spot, is across the river from Eagle Rock. It has a lovely park-like setting. The fire burned this spot, but I was able to stop and still enjoy the view of Eagle Rock from the river bank. Still worth the stop. 

Eagle Rock

Logistics

Transportation & Shuttle

Highway 126 runs along the Mckenzie river, making it easy to figure out transportation. Since it is a 10 mile stretch of river, you will need to figure out how to shuttle your car to the take-out. I have seen folks carry a bike with them and ride back to the put-in. That is certainly one way to do that, but I recommend you use a shuttle service, either a buddy of yours or a professional. I have done that quite a few times where I am on the river with a few friends. We will leave one car at the take-out, head to the put-in, and float. 

I will hire Mckenzie River Shuttle to shuttle my truck down when I am guiding or don’t want to hassle with the buddy system. They do a great job and only charge $25.00. They have a Facebook Page, but the easiest way to schedule them is to call: 541-912-0044. I had called them when I was on the river, and they still could take care of things for me. 

The put-in: Finn Rock

Finn Rock boat ramp is located off of Quartz creek rd. If you are coming from Eugene, you will turn right onto Quartz Creek Rd. and drive over a bridge that will take you directly to the boat ramp. 

Mckenzie River boat ramp

There are plenty of parking spots, but if the parking lot is full, you can park on the other side of the bridge. In 20 years, I have never had to do that, but I have seen cars parked over there, so I know it happens. There are two primitive boat ramps there, and they tend to fill up quickly in the Summer. Don’t worry, though, because everyone is pretty easygoing, and you won’t feel too much pressure to launch. If you want to avoid the crowds, I recommend putting in before 10 am or after 3 pm. 

There is also excellent fishing both downstream and upstream of the boat ramp. I have caught quite a few fish waiting for boats to clear out. Swing soft hackles or a dropper rig near the river bank if you fly fish. I have also seen spin fishers pull quite a few trout out of the large eddy on the roadside of the river. 

On the Mckenzie river

The first couple of rapids

There isn’t much to worry about for the first couple of miles. You will have a small riffle right away that starts river left and pulls to river right. Nothing major, but enough to remind to be alert. It then is calm until you hit a long rock garden. If you know how to read a river, you have little chance of being stuck. There isn’t any danger here, just bruised egos if you get stuck. The typical run is river middle to start and work your way towards river right towards the end. 

Next up is Mamma’s pies rapid. It is a decent size wave train. I try to hit it right down the “V” and then pull back on my oars to slow the boat down. This causes the most water to pour over the front of the raft. In high water, this rapid can be a serious ride. In low water, it is still fun, but you might have to shift the crew to the front of the boat to make it exciting. 

After those two, you have a fun surf wave called Clover point and a small Class 2 rapid called Eagle Rock Rapid. Both are easy to navigate and are fun to run. If I am guiding, I will typically pull over at Clover point and try and get my crew to surf the waves. Plenty of kayakers will do the same thing. Eagle Rock is also the place I pull off for lunch. 

Conclusion

Please email us for the final section of this article. We cover the last rapids, both Brown’s Hole and Marten Rapids, and how to run them. We also provide a compact PDF for you to bring with you on the river and each rapid and rest stop pinned on a Google Earth file for you to use. Completely free! Just email us, and we will send it your way. 

All Forward, 

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