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McKenzie River – Paradise to Blue River

a river running through 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.

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.


Class II
Run length: 13 1/2 miles, ~ 4 /2 hours on the river

Starting at Paradise Campground is great for kayakers who want more continuous whitewater. The action begins almost immediately. For eight miles, the McKenzie really boogies, one rapid after another, after another, with few calm spots. There’s calmer water past the covered bridge at Rainbow that allows time to enjoy the scenery so look for osprey, blue heron, and other natives in this unique setting. Five miles, many rapids, and an impressive log jam later, take out is at Forest Glen Landing in Blue River.

We recommend the Tomcat Solo or Tandem on this run.


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