From I-5 near Eugene , reach this scenic road by taking I-105 east. Take a left at the end of the interstate near the outskirts of Springfield and you will be on the McKenzie River Highway. There are four lanes for a couple of miles, and this is one of your best chances to ease by any slow-moving vehicles. However, beware of the highway patrol on the road—it’s easy to end up with a ticket!
Just past where the four lanes merge into two, the McKenzie River Recreation Area begins. For the next 60 miles you will not see any major population centers, as most of the towns consist of little more than a post office. However, you will see beautiful views of the blue-green McKenzie River with heavily forested mountains, frothy waterfalls, jet-black lava beds, and snowcapped peaks as a backdrop. The river was named for Donald Mackenzie, a member of the Astor Pacific Company, who explored the region in 1812.
The first 15 miles of the McKenzie River Highway pass through many fruit and nut orchards (primarily apples, cherries, and filberts), Christmas-tree farms, and berry patches. McKenzie River farmers enjoy plentiful water supplies from the McKenzie diversion canal, as well as fertile soils and a mild climate.
The Leaburg Dam signals your entry into the middle section of the McKenzie, where there are many vacation homes. A total of six dams on the McKenzie provide power, irrigation, and what the Army Corps of Engineers calls “fish enhancement.” A favorite haunt of fishing enthusiasts, the mellow waters of the middle McKenzie teem with trout, steelhead, and salmon.
You’ll notice many driftboats parked in driveways. These boats have bows at both ends to prevent water inundation from either front or back. Mild white-water rafting  and driftboat fishing  are popular here, and there are many local guides and outfitters ready to help you float your expeditions.
The Willamette National Forest boundary is near Blue River. Huge old-growth Douglas firs usher the clear blue waters of the McKenzie through the mountains. The McKenzie River National Recreation Trail  and many of its counterparts also feature waterfalls, mountain lakes, or lava formations a short trek from the road. In addition to the myriad recreational opportunities, hot springs, quality accommodations, and a dearth of crowds give you the western slopes of the Cascades at their finest.