Olallie is the uppermost boat ramp on the McKenzie River, and the section between Olallie and Paradise is easily the fastest commonly navigable portion of the river. Above Olallie the river is a wild torrent of ice-cold force, plunging over Sahalie and Koosah Falls and through the steep canyons between them, then moving underground to re-emerge into Tamolich Pool. The reservoirs that briefly harness the water quickly return it to a constant, steep riverbed that keeps the upper portions of this river moving at a brisk clip.
The run from Olallie to Paradise is a fun Class III stretch that challenges the rower or paddler with a constant pace and few eddies. Plenty of rocks offer opportunities for mid-river eddies, but you won’t find many large pools along the bank. Instead, be prepared to launch and go as the river sets you into its own rhythm. Fish Ladder, the only named rapid on this stretch, is a Class III rapid at most flows and can usually be run right, left, or through the two rocks in the center. In our case, the center line and part of the left was blocked by a fallen tree.
You won’t see houses on the banks of this stretch of river. Instead, enjoy the healthy mix of Douglas fir, cedar, alder, hemlock and dogwood looming over the thick understory of sword ferns and mosses. If you are boating in the winter, the banks of the McKenzie can feel as saturated as the river itself. Summer flows on this stretch can get a little low for all but small, personal crafts.
We enjoyed a very high fish count on the day we were out, and some were very robust native trout. Fishing on this stretch can be a challenge due to the quick and constant pace of the river, but the fish population is very healthy and the area receives much less traffic than the lower sections of the river. Contact The Caddis Fly Angling Shop at 541.342.7005 for more information about the river, the fish, and local conditions.