Woodie Hindman


The “roll of the river” and the skilled hospitality of outdoor cooking are the gifts that Woodie Hindman has brought to the traditions of the McKenzie River.

Wood Knoble Hindman was born in 1895 in Texas. His parents were hoteliers in rural McLean, Texas where he learned three things that he carried throughout life: working hard; enjoying the outdoors; and the hospitality of cooking. In his young adult years, Woodie, as he preferred to be called, was a wrangler and trail cook. During this period he mastered the art of Dutch oven cooking. It was this art that he later passed on to McKenzie River Guides.

He arrived in Eugene in 1934 and leased and operated the Hampton Hotel. It wasn’t long before he became acquainted with the McKenzie River guides, and using his outdoor skills as a river guide as well. McKenzie River guides had become famous for their fishing expertise, boating skills and the ability to offer comfortable camps and savory meals streamside. Using reflector ovens the guides would delight their guests with biscuits, cornbread, and fruit cobblers. But reflector ovens could heat uneven, were susceptible to the wind, and were open to blowing sand. Woody introduced the guides to the creative use of Dutch ovens. He pre-heated the oven lids and then placed hot coals from the open fire under the oven and on top of the closed lid to create uniform heat that was evenly distributed around the covered and protected contents. Wind and sand was no longer a riverside adversary to outdoor baking. The Dutch oven found a new home on the McKenzie River and the river guides found a new friend and companion.

In late 1935 or early 1936, while working the Hampton Hotel Woodie asked Tom Kaarhus for a part time job building boats in the Kaarhus Craft Shop. It was here that he learned the craft of boatbuilding and, after about a year in the Kaarhus shop, struck out on his own. By 1938 Woodie was tying flies for upscale clients, river running, and guiding for Prince Helfrich or other outfits in the summer. In addition he could build two or three boats a month in his off-season, all while maintaining the Hampton Hotel.

Woodie and Ruthie Hindman

Woodie and Ruthie Hindman

Woodie’s major contribution to the McKenzie River drift boat was the double-ender drift boat. There is no doubt that Woodie had encountered double-ended boats in other parts of Oregon such as, the Cape Dories of Pacific City, or the river drivers of the Rogue. The double-ended boat, however, had not been put to use on the McKenzie.
There were three disadvantages to the broad, square ended boat of the McKenzie, especially in heavy white water. First, to encounter a large wave, some guides would angle the square transom into a wave so either the port or starboard corner could cut the wave. This boat angle in heavy water put the craft at risk. Second, if there was insufficient momentum to carry the boat up and over a large wave, the broad transom could cause the boat to stall. In that case, the boat could slip back into the swell and either swamp or capsize. Third, if an unaware boatman were hit by a quartering wave, it could literally slap the boat in one direction or the other, causing the boat to lose its track. One day in 1939 Woodie decided he had enough. That winter he designed and built a 14-foot double-ended boat. He essentially took the Kaarhus boat and replicated the frames from amidship to the bow and reset them from amidship to the stern, replacing the broad transom with a prow This boat shape matched the “roll of the river”, proved to be a dream to row.

Woodie Hindman Double Ender

Woodie Hindman Double Ender

The guides liked the double-ender, and some used it. But at 14-feet, the boat’s limited space wasn’t feasible for two guests. Shortly after WWII sixteen-foot plywood became available and Woodie made a larger boat. This sixteen-foot double-ender soon became the boat of choice among McKenzie River guides. Then in 1948, river guide Everett Spaulding made a request of Woodie to cut off the bow of the boat and add a transom. Everett also guided in southern Oregon on the Rogue and Umpqua rivers where motors were used to speed progress downriver is slow areas or return upriver to a boat ramp. The transom on the bow has proved so useful that it remains today and the influence and use of the double-ended drift boat with a transom is seen on rivers worldwide. Though Woodie built the double-ender with a transom, his boat of choice during his remaining years on McKenzie was the true double-ender.