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Embracing the McKenzie River Valley

Anya Moucha is the new Communications Coordinator for Oregon Wildlife Foundation. Originally from the Midwest, she has previous experience working for environmental organizations and most recently finished a year with the AmeriCorps RARE program.

As a relatively new transplant to Oregon, I’ve spent the last year exploring as much of the state as possible. From the Gorge, to Astoria, down to Bandon, Medford, Crater Lake, and more, I feel like I’ve done a fairly good job so far getting to know my way around.

Had it not been for a group retreat, it probably would have taken me a lot longer to make it down to the McKenzie River Valley. Nested in the Willamette Forest between Eugene and Sisters, I had heard of the beauty of the river, but had written it off in lieu of the other, more well known sites across the state. But my expectations were quickly exceeded before we even arrived at our campsite. From the unbelievably clean water, to towering trees, over the course of the weekend I had ample opportunity to explore some trails and embrace the landscape around me.

We started the trip with a night camping at the Olallie Campground just outside of McKenzie Bridge. Although we arrived after dark and didn’t get the opportunity to see the area that night, it was peaceful to fall asleep to the sound of the rushing river.

The next day, we set out to Clear Lake. Despite our best efforts, the frigid water of the snow melt lake was much too cold to swim in. Instead, we opted for a short hike and some relaxation. Next, we drove a short two miles to the trailhead of Sahalie Falls, where after hiking no more than 100 yards we were quickly rewarded with a beautiful waterfall. We continued hiking down a bit farther, but had to turn back before making it to Koosah Fall, the second waterfall on the trail.

The next day, our group was given a blissful way to cool off from the heat with a rafting trip down the McKenzie River. Having never been rafting before, I was hesitant, but ultimately loved the experience. Our guides explained that the water in the McKenzie River was so clean because it had been filtered through porous volcanic rock for more than seven years.

We closed out our trip the following day with a hike up to Tamolitch Pool, or Blue Pool, the location where the McKenzie River seeps back up to the surface after being in underground lava beds. The clarity of the water is almost unbelievable. Our group stayed near the rim of Blue Pool, but other visitors climbed down to experience the frigid water. We sat on the rocky terrain and watched as slack liners inched their way across a rope high above the water and dogs happily pranced into the turquoise water.

With so many places to see throughout the state, it’s easy to spend all your time checking out new spots. However, I know I’ll be carving out time to go back to the McKenzie River Valley soon.

Photo Credit: Kimberly Thomson

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