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Eddies of Evolution on the McKenzie

the attention of McKenzie River guide, Prince Helfrich. The year was 1927 or 1928. Prince hailed Veltie over one day when Prince and his dude were eating lunch. Prince was using an old scow and Veltie s little riverboat had caught Prince s attention on a previous trip. Veltie offered to let Prince take the little boat and row it about a bit. Prince, did, fell in love with the boat s versatility, and he asked Veltie to build such a boat for him. This encounter launched a friendship that opened Oregon and Northwest wild rivers to navigation and fishing by adven- turous river pioneers who developed and refined navigation techniques that made wild river travel and fishing possible.

Tom Kaarhus and the square-ender. a.k.a. Rapid Robert

Torkel Gudmund (Tom) Kaarhus immigrated from Norway and

landed in Eugene, Oregon (1923) by way of the mid-West and Alaska. Twelve years later, he opened his Kaarhus Craft Shop where he built kitchen cabinets and other home furnishings, skis, riverboats, lake- boats and sailboats. He had a keen eye for problem solving because he understood relationships between form and function. The first McKenzie River drift boats that Tom Kaarhus built in his shop in 1935 and 1936 were board and batten construction; with spruce ribs, cedar planking, oak chines and bottom battens. In 1936 he obtained a shipment of Philippine mahogany planks which he had re-sawed at a neighboring mill. The introduction of plywood simplified riverboat construction. The flexibility and durability of plywood made it an ide- ally suited material for boats. More important, it was easy to work and it allowed for what I call free form construction. The plywood boat was

Woodie and Ruthie on the Siusalaw (left) in the square-ender, and Ruthie running the White Water Parade (right).

built in half the time it took to form a board and batten boat. Two side panels were cut from a single piece of 1⁄4” x 4 x 14 sheet of plywood on which the station lines were marked as guides for the application of the frames. The frames were pre-formed with the appropriate bevels and rectangular notches for the chine. The frames were installed at the sta- tion lines beginning with the centermost frame. Each frame thereafter was installed fore and aft until the hull was ready to receive the transom and stem. The frames gave the boat its shape and rocker. To help align the ribs Tom used a º piece of plywood 10-inches wide tacked to the inside of the bottom frames along the marked centerline. Kaarhus of- ten referred to this boat as the West boat in recognition of John West’s contribution to the eddies of evolution.

Woodie Hindman and the birth of the double-enders The early McKenzie River drift boats reached their apotheosis through the deft hands of guide and boat builder Woodie Hindman. Woodie was born in McLean, Texas in 1895. During his early years

he was a Texas Panhandle ranch hand and cafÈ operator. In 1934 he moved to Eugene to lease a hotel, The Hampton. Shortly after his ar- rival he became interested in the McKenzie, its fishery and the boats. He had a spirit of adventure, a keen sense of humor and talent as a camp cook. In 1937 he met and married Ruth Wilhoit, an equally robust adventurer. Woodie and Ruthie soloed the Middle Fork in August 1939. Their experiences on that trip prompted Woodie to think about a new design for the McKenzie. He built and used the square-ender at the time. The only problem was it tended to be slapped around a bit as the down river transom encountered heavy water. Woodie’s boat was turned around in some serious white water so that he had to negotiate the water bow first. “I liked the way it cut through the waves,” he noted. I believe his cumulative experiences with the square-ender, not simply the ‘39’ Middle Fork trip, led to his new design. He built his new boat during

Rick Fenill of Hebo, Oregon launches his new Rapid Robert on the Nestucca.

for the day from: Mather’s Market (Cedar Flat), C&K Market, McKenzie Feed & Tackle (Walterville), Leaburg Country Store, Lloyd Knox Park, Wayfarer Resort, Vida Market, Eagle Rock Lodge, Meyer’s General Store (Blue River), and Harbick’s Country Store (Rainbow).

Don’t take chances this year FREE LIFE JACKET LENDING PROGRAM Life jackets are lent on a free honor system. They are available

Sponsored by McKenzie Fire & Rescue and McKenzie River Guides Association Page 16 STRIKE RIGHT GUIDE SERVICE

Drift Boat Fly Fishing Scenic & Pontoon River Trips P.O. Box 53

Walterville, OR 97489 541-521-2032

E-MAIL: 2012 Bicentennial McKenzie River Recreation Guide


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