McKenzie River area real estate
McKenzie River Area Real Estate
Before we dive into talking about the lovely and charming communities dotting the banks of the McKenzie River, let’s dip our toes into the water first, and talk about the river itself.
Churning, bubbling, swiftly gliding downhill toward its confluence with the Willamette River, it carves a wide, sparkling swath through the various species of conifers native to the Cascade Range in western Oregon. The McKenzie attracts fly fishermen, rafters, boaters, hikers and lovers of beauty from points far and near. For homeseekers, the McKenzie offers incredible riverside real estate or the opportunity to live in the beautiful, wooded communities along the river’s path.
Named for Scottish Canadian fur trader, Donald MacKenzie, the river’s 90-mile route begins at the aptly named Clear Lake in the heart of the Cascades, and ends at its confluence with the Willamette, about five miles north of the city of Eugene.
Life Along the River
There are a number of beautiful little hamlets nestled amid the evergreen boughs and pine needles of the McKenzie River’s banks, along Oregon Route 126.
These quiet villages reside in the McKenzie River Valley, a roughly 60-mile section of the river that stretches east from Springfield towards the snow-capped peaks of the majestic Cascade Range.
In this article we’ll give you a brief tour of five of these communities: Walterville, Leaburg, Vida, McKenzie Bridge and Belknap Springs. Other communities in the valley include:
- Cedar Flat
- Finn Rock
- Blue River
The McKenzie River valley offers a wealth of recreational activities including:
- Drift boating
- Whitewater rafting
- Discovering the area’s vintage covered bridges
Walterville has a population of nearly 900 souls. It’s only about fifteen miles east of Eugene, making it an idyllic bedroom community for those who want small town living with a short commute to work. A post office was established in Walterville in 1875, although the community is officially considered unincorporated.
The town offers numerous recreational opportunities. The McKenzie is a fly fisherman’s paradise.
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As we continue to travel east on Route 126, we pass through the unincorporated hamlet of Leaburg, home to the Leaburg Fish Hatchery, Leaburg Dam and Leaburg Lake.
All of the recreational activities mentioned above are enjoyed here as well, and the community has two additional fish hatcheries: the McKenzie Salmon Hatchery and the Old McKenzie Fish Hatchery which, in 1996, claimed a coveted spot on the prestigious National Register of Historic Places.
Leaburg is approximately 20 miles east of the Eugene/Springfield metro area. Most of the townspeople make this winding trek whenever they need to do some shopping or see a movie. For great pizza, no long trips are needed since locals enjoy a longtime favorite, Ike’s Lakeside Pizza, located near the bend in the river just up from the Leaburg Dam.
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After skipping some stones and chilling our toes in the river, we resume our easterly drive on good ol’ Route 126. Before long, we are slowing down to drink in the aura and ambiance of Vida.
Initially given the moniker Gate Creek, the unincorporated town changed its name to Vida, after the name of the postmaster’s daughter at the time in order to avoid confusion of another Oregon town with the name of Gate Creek.
Vida’s claim to fame is historic and magnificently anachronistic Goodpasture Bridge, which is one of the state’s most photographed covered bridges. Just like the aforementioned Old McKenzie Fish Hatchery, Goodpasture Bridge is recorded on the pages of the (1979) edition of the National Register of Historic Places.
Just up from Vida is the Helfrich boat landing, a popular take-out spot for rafting trips, including the popular 10-mile stretch beginning upriver at Finn Rock.
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We’ve now been climbing and winding about 53 miles on Route 126 east of Eugene and have reached the lovely unincorporated town of McKenzie Bridge. At this point, we’ve crossed the threshold of the Willamette National Forest.
Approximately three miles east of the town is the turf runway strip at the McKenzie Bridge State Airport, a public airport operated by the Oregon Department of Aviation.
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Located a few short miles east of McKenzie Bridge is the magnificent unincorporated resort town of Belknap Springs. The actual springs themselves were discovered in 1869 by a man named, not coincidentally, R.S. Belknap.
Belknap Hot Springs Lodge and Gardens is located across the McKenzie River from the town. The hot spring water is piped into the spa and contains more than 20 different minerals.
The resort has been a fixture on the river since the 1870s, remaining open for business 365 days a year, and offering rental mountain homes, lodge rooms, two mineral hot spring pools, several gardens, a new RV site, individual campsites and more.
Activities Up And Down The River
The McKenzie offers something for nearly everyone who loves the outdoors. From its famous flyfishing to great rafting and scenic hiking, the McKenzie is a riparian paradise.