Coinciding with the opening day of trout season, the fourth annual Mckenzie River Boat Show will be held this Saturday, April 25th at Eagle Rock Lodge in Vida, Oregon. The event is free and features historic wooden Mckenzie River drift boats as well as newer wooden boats by modern builders. This is a great opportunity to see side by side the past, present and future of these nimble, stable and beloved boats!
This year, there is also going to be a wooden boat parade. If you have a wooden boat and want to participate contact Greg Hatten.
The parade is a modest revival of a tradition that began on the Mckenzie in 1938 when a handful of guides launched at Belknap and took out at Leaburg Lake, scouting the river just prior to the opening of trout season. From that first small scouting party the event grew and by 1962 the parade had over 300 participants.
The parade became huge. Dignitaries and tv personalities were invited and crowds of up to 30,000 people lined the river banks to watch the spectacle. The archival footage below is from a 1958 Universal Studio’s news reel, note the boat flipping shortly into the clip:
Unfortunately, the tradition became unsustainable. Alcohol, unsafe craft and the Mckenzie’s icy waters were a potentially lethal combination. The crowds left large amounts of litter and the last parade was held in 1970 after a participant was killed. Even today there are those who rue the idea of the parade making a comeback and to keep the number of participants down, the parade is limited to wooden boats.
The boat show is always well attended and is a lot of fun. Even if you are just floating by, pull your boat up on the lawn and celebrate our region’s biggest contribution to fly fishing!–KM