Make the McKenzie Connection!

Hands-on workshop links to area's boatbuilding past

The Colorado River Dory was born in Keith Steele’s 1962 Leaburg shop

LEABURG: Transforming lumber into a craft capable of navigating Colorado River rapids was a task well underway at the McKenzie River Discovery Center last week. Twelve students who’d signed up for a ten-day class to loft, build, and launch a Colorado River dory—on the very site where Keith Steele built the first one in 1962—accepted the chore.

Lofting the boat involved transforming initial drawings and photos into a full-size plan. Their result included all the curves of a boat that not only resembled what area guides used but included covered decks with complex curves.

By Thursday, they’d crafted most of the parts—frames and stems— using their loft lines as full-size templates. Luckily, they gained advice from dory builders Brad Dimmock and Cricket Rust, who teach an annual class at the famous Woodenboat School in Maine.

The remainder of the course will involve installing gunwales, decking, and hardware. Throughout the troubleshooting and problem-solving, class participants have kept one goal in mind—sometime on day ten, they will launch the boat they built on the McKenzie River near the Discovery Center.


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