The McKenzie River in Western Oregon and subsequently the Rouge River were first discovered by white men from the Pacific Fur Company of 1810. Settlers then migrated into the McKenzie River area around the mid-1800s. By the end of the 19th century, fishermen became drawn to the river from tales of rainbow trout rising to mayfly, caddis-fly and stonefly hatches and the sounds of trout slapping the surface in a frenzy to attack the evening hatch. To take advantage of this frenzy, flat-bottom row boats with limited freeboard were first used. Thus began the tradition of fishing guides who became known for the boating skills. These flat-bottom rowboats, while suitable to the calmer sections of the river, we quite a challenge to manage on the rougher, more rock strewn sections of the river. By the 1920s, professional guides began to modify their boats to make them lighter, more maneuverable, and easier to portage. This was the infancy of the Drift Boat we know today. From Veltie Pruitt and Prince Helfrich, Woodie Hindman, Jerry Biggs, Glen Wooldridge and Bob Prichett, the McKenzie River Drift boat evolved through trial and error and as a conscience effort to not only improve the design to handle what the rivers of Western Oregon had to offer, but to increase the comfort and safety of those clients that paid good money to be shown the beauty of these river while catching fish. Though fisherman on the Lower Rouge River used motors on their boats to maximize their catch and get it to market quicker, it wasn’t until 1915 when Glen Wooldridge hitched a ride on a mail boat from Gold Beach up to Agness that a motor on boats that ran the upper rivers was even considered. After that trip Glen Wooldridge became obsessed with fine tuning his craft to both accommodate a motor, while keeping its ability to manage the rougher waters of the upper river. Hence, the powered Drift Boat was born. For those nay-sayers that argue a powered drift boat goes against tradition, well, there is at least a 100 years of tradition right here.
So what does a powered Drift Boat offer? How about launching at a put-in and powering up river to your favorite spot, then “drifting” back down river to your take-out/put-in spot? Or motoring through sections of the river you know aren’t as active to get to the prime locations? The list could go on. With today’s much quieter 4 stoke motors and a jet drive system, the serenity of a shallow, rocky river is quite accessible to a Power Drifter.
So, what are your thoughts? Let us know below.