After wrapping things up at the shop, we drove northwest to Zion National Park for our first teaching course of the year.

Just outside the park, hovering above the town of Springdale, is Zion Canyon Mesa, a nonprofit dedicated to some sort of undefined artistic wonderfulness. My longtime friend Logan is the Executive Director, and a boatbuilding class seemed artistic enough for us.

Our workspace was semi-roofed and open walled. It was late March and spring had not yet come to Springdale. Brr.

At times it was kinda hard to appreciate the beauty of the frequent snow squalls.

We were chilled enough that I forgot to take very many pictures. In this six-day course we built two McKenzies of the newer “Woodie’s Last Boat” design.

One evening Cricket gave a lettering demonstration on the Wal Awa–the Doryak we had recently finished. We brought it with us for show-and-tell, and to hopefully get the letters done.

Early afternoon on the sixth day we got the McKenzies finished, floorboards and all. We could not have done it without such an amazing crew.

In the foreground are Brian and Liz, the new owners of one boat, as yet unnamed.

And Justin and his family got the other boat, Emma Dawn, named for his two daughters, with a nod to Major Powell.

Then it was back home for a bit to finish up loose ends and drive much further north to the McKenzie River in time for the annual Wooden Boat Festival. The morning boat float is an echo of the old McKenzie River Boat Parade–the event that brought these wonderful boats to Martin Litton’s attention back in the 1950s. Which in turn, by and by, led him to bring this style of boat to the big whitewater of the Southwest. Sacred ground.

Our class began two days later at the McKenzie River Discovery Center, based on the old Leaburg Fish Hatchery. The buildings were vacated in the early 1950s, and Keith Steele appropriated the space for his boatshop. These are the grounds where Steele built Martin Litton’s first dory in 1962, eventually named Diablo Canyon, which we planned replicate in this class. Steele went on to build somewhere between two and three thousand drift boats.


Keith Steele’s son Steve, a boatbuilder in his own right, helped a bit on the Diablo as a twelve-year-old. He was excited about this project and donated the Port Orford cedar for the framing and gunwales from his dad’s stash. He joined us most days and was key to figuring out many sticky points of the build.

Once we had the hull built we took it outdoors to replicate a few old photos of Martin’s boat.

The camera lens was not quite right for the photo–it looked a lot more like the original than this comparison shows.


We had a great crew and there was rarely an idle hand.

Steve’s stories and frequent laughter made everything so much richer.

The decking was pretty psychotic. No one had decked a driftboat before Martin, and he was figuring it out as he went along. So were we.

Much to our amazement we finished on schedule and floated her the afternoon of day ten. Roahn, the young gentleman in the boatman’s seat, won the boat and will take it home to Salmon, Idaho.

Cricket and I had a bit of spare time afterward and hiked to Blue Pool, where the McKenzie emerges from the ground, impossibly blue.

Next we drove to the coast for a little cool fog, then inland to launch our Doryaks on the Rogue with our buddy RJ.

East Creek.

This picture is not oversaturated. The whole place is.

Drinking my morning coffee while the babes slept.

Maggie, the magic dog at Marial Lodge, can walk on water.

We had so much fun that we turned around and ran it a second time. On the Rogue again! Glade was able to join us for this run. Yup, that’s really what color it is.

We took out at Agness both trips, a ways below where most folks quit, and stayed at historic Lucas Lodge. After the second trip Glade and Cricket headed south for a Grand Canyon trip and I meandered a bit. I hiked up to visit the world’s largest Port Orford tree. He’s the big dude just right of center. 12 feet plus in diameter and 219 feet tall.

Then it was time to return to the McKenzie and load all our tools and lumber for the long drive home.

Sunrise alpenglow and moon at Mount Shasta from my campsite. Life is sweet.