Mckenzie River recommendations - Mountain Buzz
 



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Old 05-18-2015   #1
 
Coos Bay, 97420
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Mckenzie River recommendations

I've never rafted the Mckenzie R and was hoping for some input. I want to camp and raft from above the campground one day and below the campground the next. I drove through Paradise Camp this month and it seemed like a good place right now but was wondering how the water level holds up later in the summer. I was hoping maybe to take IKs w/experienced people on the upper section and a 14' raft on the lower section with families?

I'm not from the area, so please be specific on put in / take out locations.

Thanks, Bradd

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Old 05-18-2015   #2
 
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Portland, Oregon
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Paradise Campground is a very common place to "homebase" from. Last I heard, there was wood in Fishladder rapid, which is dangerous if you are new to the river (I've actually never run the McKenzie...). The McKenzie gets low in late summer, but it always runs.

The water is VERY cold, you may want wetsuits even in hot summer temps.

Google "Blue Pool Hike McKenzie River" for a family friendly little hike in the area.
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Old 05-18-2015   #3
 
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Bend, Oregon
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We did just what you are talking about over Mother's Day weekend, only we tent camped at Belknap Hot springs. They have 5 drive in tent camps, the rest are walk in across the river. Spaces 1 and 2 are the ones you want - the others are open to the RV park portion of the place. Our group had both spaces, and we had plenty of room for 4 vehicles, 2 of which had rafts on trailers. Nice hot springs pools, flush toilets and showers (it was Mom's day after all). You can reserve spaces on their website, but $30/night.

Paradise makes a great base camp too. Some of the camp sites are right on the river with places to tie off boats, so you wouldn't have to take your boats out of the water on the middle night if you snagged a good spot. Those spots are very popular.

We ran the 9 miles from Ollalie down to Paradise on Saturday - it's pretty much continuous class II with a couple of IIIs thrown in to up the excitement level. I didn't notice any significant wood in Fish Ladder, but at the flows we had it was a bit more technical than a typical III. I'd give a III+ right now. One boat in our party actually popped an oar in the entry and failed to make the crux right to center move in the meat of it and ended up on a rock in the picket fence in the blind far right channel. We got a little throw rope practice and pulled her off no problem. Definitely scout it from the road during the shuttle (you can't actually see the rapid from the road itself but can walk a short distance in on a dirt road near milepost 16). There aren't a whole lot of eddies on this stretch, so even at the low flows we had (a bit over 700 cfs at the Smith Reservoir outlet) we were done in under 2 hours. Bony and lots of rock dodging, but fun all the same. You won't be able to finish one beer while at the sticks unless you really chug. This upper stretch might not be runnable in rafts later this summer, but would be perfect in IKs.

There is a log across the entire river just below the Frissel launch. You can walk out on the bridge across the river there and look at it for yourself during the shuttle. It's a very easy float-under on the left side on the outside of a right hand bend. Most of the branches have been stripped off from when it fell last fall.

We did Paradise down to McKenzie Bridge campground the next day. Not quite as continuous and no class IIIs, but still beautiful and fun. Clearest water you'll find anywhere. It flattens out a little more below MB and gets more pool-drop in nature. Browns Hole and Marten on the Finn Rock to Helfrich landing are the biggest rapids, but nothing too significant.
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Old 05-18-2015   #4
 
Walterville, Oregon
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bradd B View Post
...... was wondering how the water level holds up later in the summer. I was hoping maybe to take IKs w/experienced people on the upper section and a 14' raft on the lower section with families?
The McKenzie is largely spring fed. The water takes several years to percolate through the lava so the levels should be good through the summer, even with the low snowpack. I have done many trips from Olallie to Paradise in September.

There are boat slides at Olallie (river mile 81) and at Frissell Bridge (rm 76). Paradise Campground (rm 72) has a ramp, McKenzie River Trail (rm70) a slide, McKenzie Bridge Campground (rm 67) a ramp and Bruckert Bridge (rm 62) a ramp. The next 8 or so miles below Bruckert Bridge are less interesting so I usually take out there. These sites are all free to use but many of those below Bruckert require a $4 Lane County Day Use pass.

Your plan to IK from Olallie to Paradise and raft below there sounds like a good one, at least until you have run the river once. As others have said, the reach from Olallie to Paradise is very busy.
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Old 05-18-2015   #5
 
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bend, Oregon
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I was there over mothers day weekend as well, stayed at paradise as usual but we only ran from paradise down to finn rock, the water is always cold but idk if wet or drysuits are really necessary personal preference I guess at least in the summer, the water definitely stays runnable all year its one of my favorite weekend places to go, I recommend reserving a spot online if you want one along the river, when its a bit lower you better make sure to carry a spare and tether your oars as its pretty rocky
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Old 05-18-2015   #6
Shapp
 
the grove, Oregon
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I grew up on that river. No joke, cold water, you will want a dry suit or wet suit for any out-of-boat experiences or for IK paddling, and good splash wear for in-boat (raft) protection, even in summer heat. Fond memories of paradise, pinned and lost a canoe just down from the campground a ways over 20 years ago, while whitewater paddling. Definitely hike to the blue hole. We like to camp at Mona on Blue River Reservoir. If we get some rain when you are there and Blue River is up around 200 cfs or more, run the lower couple miles at the top end of the reservoir in IKs, great class III+ run. Something positive if it ends up pissing while you are camping. Blue river gage: http://levels.wkcc.org/?f=8k1
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Old 05-18-2015   #7
Jared
 
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Dundee, Oregon
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I am really fond of The lower loop at Ollie for camping. We launch from there down one day and Paradise down the next. All great advice on here. Getting a hot dry weekend up there is magical as far as I am concerned. We also did a bridge to bridge one way hike with our kids on the second morning, it was also awesome.
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Old 05-19-2015   #8
 
Coos Bay, 97420
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Thanks for the great feed back. Just what I was hoping to hear, except the year around cold water part. I assumed it warmed up a bit since the pics I've seen show people pretty lightly dressed. So is it so cold that swimming isn't all that fun???
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Old 05-19-2015   #9
 
Walterville, Oregon
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Originally Posted by Bradd B View Post
So is it so cold that swimming isn't all that fun???
How much fun is swimming in the ocean off of Coos Bay? Water temperature in the upper McKenzie is usually in the mid 40s to mid 50s, a little colder than the ocean.
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Old 05-19-2015   #10
 
NIMBY, Oregon
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It does warm up (<50) in August below the South Fork, but the Olallie section stays below 45 year round. I lived on Horse Creek and the warmest I saw that was 42 in late August.

I have run a few commercial trips on the Upper McKenzie and there is a running joke about the water being this cold...

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