Olallie Campground is where you'll find the uppermost boat ramp on the McKenzie River; the boat ramp at Paradise Campground is approximately 9 miles downstream and is still very much in the character of the upper McKenzie. This character might be described as transitional. The river has left its headwaters in Clear Lake, traveled with frightening velocity through steep ravines and over several incredible falls. It has been briefly harnessed in a small reservoir before resuming a wild course that takes it underground for a short time. By the time the river reaches Olallie, it is a little more social, and it mellows only slightly before reaching Paradise.
That said, this is not the tame portion of the river that pushes through Springfield and Eugene. This upper stretch has a very consistent gradient that keeps the river flowing swiftly without major eddies. This is not a pool-drop scenario, and there are few major named rapids and no major hydraulics. Instead, the consistent pace keeps the river at a solid class III with the major hazards limited to rocks and snags. To have fun on this section, you’ll want to be comfortable making quick, reflexive boating decisions and catching micro-eddies.
The pace of the river slows after passing the town of McKenzie Bridge, and the character begins to transition again. Broad riffles and deep pools alternate, keeping the river gorgeous in new ways. Throughout the float you’ll see cedar, alder, Douglas fir, dogwood, and hemlock on the banks. You’ll also see houses close to the riverbanks, and some are lamentably impactful on the riparian zone, but they are easy to ignore when you are focused on the water.
On this stretch, at this flow, on this day, we had some excellent fishing. We caught and released some very healthy native rainbow trout, which is always good for the soul. Note: For more information about the river, the fish, and local conditions, contact The Caddis Fly Angling Shop at 541.342.7005.