An adventure to take your breath away

Outfitter Evan Wills of River Trail Guides, making it look ”matter of fact” in the notorious Brown’s hole. PHOTOS PROVIDED

An old friend saved a quote from a book he once read. Touched by the words that reminded him of his first whitewater trip, he had them written in an old style script on parchment paper. Nicely framed, they hang on his living room wall and go something like this…
”… It will take your breath away, first calmly drifting but then you hear it and then see it. You pour over the edge of the calm water, a rush of spray hits your face, as you feel the raft dipping and rocking in the waves. Balancing, leaning and maneuvering, working with the current you pass the torrent. And suddenly you realize, the most exciting and terrifying moment in your life has just happened, and then you go back for more.”
As with my buddy, that pretty well describes the introduction to whitewater rafting my wife and I had. Encouraged by some friends we all booked with a professional outfitter as a party of six for two days of rafting that included a lunch. The guided trip was convenient, included all the gear, and we always felt safe while on the river. The trip was flawless from start to finish.
Our party of six were part of a larger group but were together in our own raft with a fun guide. The professional, well-trained guides just instilled confidence with their display of skill in the rapids and teamwork at lunch, which was fresh and delicious. We helped paddle the raft in the class III+ rapids that were exciting, big and bouncy. All in a beautiful mountain setting and well worth the relatively modest price and then some.
To our good fortune we have the McKenzie River, one of our state’s top destinations for whitewater boaters right here in Lane County. The McKenzie Valley itself is rich with year-round recreational opportunities but the warm weather that comes every summer shifts the attention of many to the river. I will tell you that we have some of the top raft businesses with some of the best safety records in the state right here in Lane County and they are now in daily operation, catering to whitewater enthusiasts from all over from all over.
The opportunities are plentiful, and for a first family raft trip I always recommend a licensed guide or outfitter. There are many that operate on the McKenzie and some are available year-round. Booking a trip is easy, and the state of Oregon monitors the river businesses very closely and responds to complaints and violations swiftly and soundly, so professionalism is common throughout the industry. Levels of accommodation will vary but most McKenzie businesses work hard to provide a fun and safe trip.
A Google search of ”McKenzie River Whitewater Rafting” will return you a number of McKenzie rafting businesses. I also like to look for a local guide and outfitters association in the area where I want to book a trip. I find they represent some of the better and more experienced businesses. On the McKenzie that would be The McKenzie River Guides Association (www.mckenzieriverguides.com); they have a directory of guide businesses on their website.
Don’t overestimate the endurance of your party the first time out. Take what many outfitters and guides call their ”half day float,” generally around four hours. I find the duration just right for kids too. Some trips include lunch, some allow you to bring your own lunch and some offer a straight start to finish float trip. The prices will vary depending on the level of accommodation you desire.
Now paddle forward….



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