Fall Foliage from a Fall Float

What better way to see the changing leaves then from the water? Our tourism team hit the Willamette River last night on a jet boat tour.
While the leaves are far from peak colors, the crisp air, yellow light and dulled greens in the cottonwoods along the river reminded us that fall isn’t far off.
Mike Hurd of Scenic Jet Boat Tours greeted us at the Cartney Boat Landing in Harrisburg.

We hopped aboard for the one-hour tour. His rides usually run about two and a half hours, but we were losing light and had to keep it quick.

Our journey took us upriver towards Eugene. Mike caters his tours to his guests, some of whom surprise him. He says he recently had a 93-year-old passenger who couldn’t get enough of the quick turns, splashes and thrills! Neither could we. I held on tight to avoid an untended dip at dusk (brr!).

We passed a prosperous blue heron rookery and watched one take off in the distance (too quickly to snap a pic).

What makes this stretch of the Willamette so remarkable are the obvious signs of a changing landscape. Farmers are losing five feet of land a year from erosion.  Nowhere was that more evident than at this poplar farm.

Mike says last year, there was a road wide enough for tractors between the tree line and the river. Ten feet of land fell into the river in less than 52 weeks.

The visual beauty was just starting to sink in when Mike stopped the boat, turned off the motor and let the river carry us. That’s when the river’s soundtrack kicked in. Cottonwood leaves rustled high above us. Frogs and crickets croaked along the shore.

Little did we know, Mike had another treat up his sleeve.  He opened the cooler and shared his secret stash of snickerdoodles and chocolate chip cookies from the local Mennonite Bakery.

With full stomachs and our breaths officially taken away many a times by the beauty, we headed back to the boat launch with a tale to tell of a tour to remember.

I just can’t wait to get back aboard as the Fall Foliage season continues.

Scenic Jet Boat Tours is just one company offering year-round tours on our many waterways. Check out scenic floats, rafting and drift boat experiences up the McKenzie River.  Watch broad leaf maples turn from vibrant greens to pumpkin oranges. Ashes, willows and cottonwoods love the mineral-rich environments of the river’s environment.


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