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McKenzie River – Olallie to Paradise

a waterfall going over a body of water

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.

The navigable reach of the river begins at Olallie Boat Launch, 11 located miles east of McKenzie Bridge at Olallie Campground.

There are seven public boat launches located between Olallie Creek and Blue River. The Forest Service manages Olallie, Frissell, Paradise, McKenzie Bridge and Bruckart launches. No fees are required to use these launches.

Launch sites on the Upper McKenzie River are generally primitive. They are at Ollalie Campground (milepost 13), Frissell Carpenter (MP 16), Paradise Campground (MP 54), McKenzie Trailhead (MP 52), McKenzie Bridge Campground (MP 49), and Bruckart (MP 45). The first two are east of the Highway 242 cutoff, thus the milepost change.

Several campgrounds that also include day use picnic areas are located along the river corridor.


Difficulty: Class II-III
Gradient: 55 ft/mi

Run Length: 8.5 miles

The upper portion of the McKenzie River is popular for fishing, rafting, drift-boating, and kayaking.

This section of river offers continuous class II-III whitewater and great scenery. Always check at the put-in and take-out for notices about wood. The run is mostly read and run with one rapid that should be scouted on your first run down.

Mile 4(Fishladder Rapid): To scout this class III rapid pull off the highway at mile post 16 and take a short walk to the river. This rapid is also easy to notice from the river. Once you float under the power lines the river will take a sharp left turn and you will arrive at the top of the rapid. Enter this drop right of center and work left.

Mile 8.5(Take out): Take out at Paradise Campground on river left. If this section is to short you can take out at any of the many boat launch or campground areas further down river.

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