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The Explorers


the west coast on January 18, 1812, where a trading post had been established at Astoria by the seafaring group. By the first of April, however, “Perpetual Motion” was ready for


new adventure. He, Joe Gervais, Louis LaBont, and others moved out to explore the Willamette Valley. The area beyond the falls (Oregon City) hadn’t yet been explored


by Europeans. Paddling upstream, Mackenzie’s party kept going until they reached the (Eugene-Springfield) area where the Willa- mette splits into three forks: The first - which now bears a variation on Mackenzie’s name, the Middle Fork, which leads to Willamette Pass, and the Coast Fork that drains the area south toward Cottage Grove.


Mackenzie wasn’t much of a writer, leaving behind little notes of


where he’d been. Others claim his enthusiasm for the regions of the upper Willamette was strong. The country, he is reported to have said, was “delightful beyond expression.” The “incredible” number of beaver he found along the river was believed to exceed anything yet found on the entire continent; and he told stories of rich prairies covered with big herds of elk and plenty of deer and bear. Donald Mackenzie made his


name with with the Hudson’s Bay Company and accumulated a fortune in the fur trade before retiring to Mayville in the west- ern tip of New York State. He died there in 1851, at the age of 68. After his departure, the As-


toria trading post passed from the Pacific Fur Company to the North West Company and then the Hudson’s Bay Company. Trappers and traders spread across the Willamette Valley. One was Dr. McLoughlin’s stepson, Thomas McKay, who explored beyond the forks of the Willamette in 1820-21. McKay built a structure at the mouth of the McKenzie River, which John Work found in 1834 and referred to as “McKay’s old house.” Traders made use of an old Indian trail, sometimes called the Mo-


The McKenzie River Trail extends 26.5 miles from milepost 2, near Clear Lake, to McKenzie Bridge.


McKenzie River National Recreation Trail


Permits are not required along the McKenzie River National Recreation Trail. Open to hikers and bicyclists, it closely follows the McKenzie


River, a scenic whitewater river originating in the high Cascade Mountains. The Upper McKenzie River Trailhead, located at mile- post 2 of Hwy. 126, is the northernmost access point for the trail. It also offers easy access to the Clear Lake Loop Trail. Clear Lake, at 3,200 feet above sea level, is the river’s head-


Portrait of Donald MacKenzie courtesy Chautauqua County Historical Society, New York.


lalla Trail, that wound south on the east side of the Willamette Valley through what is now Lebanon, Brownsville, and Coburg. Packers and wagon freighters often had a tough time getting across the McKenzie an early settler, Jacob Spores, started a ferry service at the point where the Interstate 5 bridge now spans the river. Four early pioneer settlers in Lane County were Skinner, Bristow, Dodson, and Felix Scott, who arrived in the west in 1845. They weren’t welcome at Sutter’s Fort and decided to head north along an old pack trail in 1846. Eugene Skinner founded Eugene City. Elijah Bristow and William Dodson settled Pleasant Hill, southeast of Springfield. The Scotts, with about eight children, tried several locations before


staking a claim on the south bank of the McKenzie. Felix Scott was born in 1788 in what is now West Virginia and later he moved to Missouri. Scott’s legal training led to his serving in several public offices as well as the state legislature. He married Ellen Cansley, a 15-year-old Tennessee native in 1821. The couple had a number of children. The couple settled on the McKenzie opposite the mouth of the Mohawk River, near a long loop north just west of Hayden Bridge. The family plot filed under the Donation Land Law of 1850 is the site of today’s EWEB water filtration plant. Felix Scott, Jr., was 16 years old upon his arrival from California.


He, like old Donald Mackenzie, was an energetic “perpetual mo- tion” sort of person. He and his brother Marion probably spent a


2012 Bicentennial McKenzie River Recreation Guide Page 3


waters. From there the river makes a mad rush down the valley after first tumbling over Sahalie and Koosah Falls. The McKenzie River Trail follows closely along the streambank in most places, crossing over several tributaries via log bridges. Heading west through the Tamolitch Valley, people travel through volcanic lava formations as they head ever downward toward McKenzie Bridge.


McKenzie River Trail


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