History of the McKenzie Drift Boat can be traced to the very river that
bears its name. As early as 1910, Fishing Guides began running the McKenzie
River and they found the need for a more durable boat than the 20' scows
used at the time. By the 1920's the first light board (spruce) and batten
riverboat was being plied in Oregon Rivers such as the Rogue and McKenzie.
These boats were smaller and lighter than traditional boats and proved
Torkel Gudmund 'Tom' Kaarhus, an early Eugene, Oregon resident had developed
skills necessary to make fine furniture and boats. His love of fishing
drew him to the McKenzie River and ultimately to boat building. In fact,
as a planer at a Eugene lumber mill it was he who milled the spruce
planks for some of the first light board and batten boats. In the 1940's
'Tom' Kaarhus built and sold the first square ended style McKenzie Drift
The early McKenzie
River Drift Boats began a transition at the hands of guide and boat
builder Woodie Hindman. Woodie became interested in the McKenzie, its
fishery and the boats. Woodie's boat building career began in 1935 under
the tutoring of Kaarhus. By 1941 Woodie had built his own shop in Springfield,
Oregon and began building boats full time.
It is believed
Woodie's 1939 trip to the Snake River led to a new design, the 'double-ender.'
This design became Woodie's boat of choice. The boat's popularity was
tied to its functionality. It was a charm to row due to the accentuated
rocker. It would pivot on a dime. This boat sports the most extreme
rocker of the early McKenzie's. Its crescent lines are lovely. As Woodie
noted in one of his diaries, the lines had a purpose: "
the crescent shapes of the waves
". This boat became the choice of
many Oregon River Guides in the 1940's.
In 1946 Woodie
modified the double-ender. He removed the up river bow and replaced
it with a small tombstone type rear transom. Oregon River Guides at
this time, being tired of rowing the lower stretches of the Rogue and
Umpqua rivers asked Woodie built a double-ender with a small transom
so they could hang a motor off the transom to move more quickly through
the slow tide waters. It was this boat that set the standard for all
subsequent McKenzie Style Drift Boats. It also resolved questions and
debates about which end of the boat was the bow and which end was the
Today the McKenzie Drift Boat is made out of many different materials,
Wood, Fiberglass and Aluminum. Wood, it's beautiful lines, glides quietly
through the water, yet requires yearly maintenance. Fiberglass, though
durable and quiet, is heavy, which can help keep the boat from swaying
and yaw in windy weather. Aluminum, though noisy, requires little maintenance
and proves very maneuverable in rough water.
and durability of this boat is remarkable. Able to maneuver through
rocky rapids and cut through high river waves, the McKenzie Drift Boat
is the standard for all Oregon River Fishing Guides.
Some information provided in part from
Thanks to Roger Fletcher