In the Beginning

We sometimes take our environment for granted.

Behind every boulder in the mountains, the age of trees and the eras of life it endured, or the stream path of a river, is a rich story to be told. We often forget our interconnectedness with the land we walk on, and our dependence on natural resources. We need to recount the history of the land.

The McKenzie River has served both the present settlements and their ancestors. Apart from being an iconic water feature of the state of Oregon, it’s also a source of drinking water to its residents.

The Creation

An aquatic habitat to several native species of fish, the crystal clear, spring-fed McKenzie River has a rich history that dates back to more than just a few thousand years ago. It’s believed to be formed in the Pleistocene era.  Volcanic activities in the area of Oregon centuries of years ago purged a path and creation of natural lava chambers – tremendously porous and incredibly deep. The aquifer acts, even to this very day, as an underground reserve that stores the water that flows through the McKenzie River. 

The River and Settlements

Throughout the Cascade land where the river flows, holds both weathered volcanic rocks, as well as geologically younger landscapes. With the unique geological combination of rocks and currents, the river became a home to water creatures. The region was rich and resilient, blessed with productive soils.

The conditions of the land attracted an abundance in wildlife, and herds of deer and elk were easy to hunt on the land. The fertility of the land and natural resources attracted hunters from Native American tribes.

Donald McKenzie was leading a group to explore the Willamette River during the spring of 1812, where they stumbled upon a large tributary. The group named the river after McKenzie. It remained unknown to foreign settlers. The Oregon Trail settlers stumbled upon it during their journey to the Willamette Valley through the Cascades. The river’s tranquility and it’s unique watershed attracts nature and fishing enthusiasts.


The combination of several factors created unique features of the McKenzie River. Geological landscapes, underground reserve and the natural timing of snowmelt during spring every year gave the river the capacity to flow year-round.

The water of the river itself has a long history. What makes the McKenzie River watershed unique from other watersheds is it’s natural system. Every spring, the snow melts into an underground space formed thousands of years ago. The underground reserve preserves the quality of water, as well as its temperature,  housing it for even more than a decade before it gets released into the stream. 

The 90mile river continues to be a natural wonder and attraction to fishing and rafting enthusiasts. With several magnificent waterfalls and trails along the river, it also attracts other nature lovers; hikers and mountain bikers alike. The river continues and will continue to serve its community, deeming the river worthwhile for preservation.