Bob Warren

A River Runs Through Us

There's something magical about the McKenzie River

I like to float rivers. That’s a huge understatement. There is almost nothing that I would rather be doing than floating on a river.

There is something magical about spending days on end moving at the pace of a river, moving with the current. It’s called river time. It’s slow and it’s quiet. That’s a big part of it, the slow quiet. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to find quiet these days. But I have always found it on the river. It’s the best vacation I can think of. And it is one of the only escapes from the deluge of electronic devices.

The river changes your attitude. It slows you down. Generally and thankfully there is often no phone or data reception on the river. For this brief moment in time you can be with other people who are not staring at a device.

The longer you are on the river, the deeper you go into the experience. After 15 or 16 days floating in the Grand Canyon, you are not the same person any longer. You are in a personal space you really cannot get to any other way. And you will have been permanently changed by the experience. You come out at the bottom of that canyon, or almost any multi-day river trip, a different person.

On commercial trips I’ve been with a group of total strangers, not knowing a single other person. Somewhere downstream a miraculous transformation occurs. The people I’d never met before are now friends. We have come together around this common experience of being on river time. Wonderful things can happen on a river, if you just go with the flow.

My wife Mary Maggs and I had that kind of experience recently on a very special float on our very own McKenzie River. We were floating with the staffs of the McKenzie River Trust and the Eugene Symphony. This was a day float, from the McKenzie River Trust’s Finn Rock boat launch to the Helfrich landing. Short but wonderful.

It was a day of bonding for the two dedicated staffs working to create a collaborative effort to connect both our natural and cultural landscapes: the McKenzie River Trust, working to protect and restore this river that runs through us, and the Eugene Symphony, working to enhance our cultural home waters with the music that nurtures and inspires us.

This initial confluence of staffs will culminate with a symphony concert at the Hult Center next February. This will be a celebration of art, culture and our natural heritage. The symphony will perform Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. But it will be the four seasons of The McKenzie River. The concert will be a multi-media event with big screen photo and video images of the McKenzie River through the seasons while the symphony performs Vivaldi.

There is a natural connection between the arts and the environment that is part of who we are as a community. The McKenzie River Trust and the Eugene Symphony are embarking on this collaborative effort to enhance and expand on that natural connection. It only makes sense to connect nature with culture. The McKenzie River Trust protects and restores the river that runs through us. The Eugene Symphony, as a world-class arts organization, protects and restores the spirit that resides within us.

The McKenzie River is one of our natural treasures. It provides us with our drinking water, unparalleled outdoor recreation, rare wildlife habitats and makes a significant contribution to our local economy. The entire run of wild Chinook salmon in the Willamette system migrates up the McKenzie, a little more than 1,000 fish. The Eugene Symphony is a community treasure, a nationally acclaimed cultural institution right here in our community. It creates and performs major musical events that attract world-class performance artists and help to define who we are.

This collaboration can be the beginning of a longer, growing partnership that connects our cultural and natural resource communities. We are nurtured by the arts, our culture and our natural environment. There is already a natural connection between these communities of interest. It just makes sense to connect them in ways to enhance, support, and restore the arts, while protecting and restoring the river that runs through us all.

Bob Warren retired in 2012 as the regional business development officer for Business Oregon for Lane, Lincoln, Linn and Benton Counties. He is currently a member of the board of directors for McKenzie River Trust.