"Safe harbors for men and women of the river are those places where the current is at variance with the prevailing flow, where the river gets confused, reverses itself, and runs upstream along the bank, slips into slack water, then moves quietly into the whitewater again. It is a place to catch one's breath following the maelstrom of the previous rapid, quietly contemplate the surrounding beauty, or consider the graceful lines of the riverboat in which you sit. The boatman is in an eddy. This is a place where an oarsman may ponder the efficacy of his craft and consider ways to improve its efficiency, maneuverability, draft, or ease of handling. The boatman has entered an eddy of evolution, that place where ideas are born and, ultimately, boats are modified to address the changing demands of the river (Drift Boats and River Dories, p. 2)."  The primary objective of the River's Touch is to capture and preserve the legacies of riverboats that may have been lost but for my recovery of the boats as they evolved over time, and the recovery of the wonderful stories of the people behind the boats.
     At the beginning of my work I did not anticipate the interest it would generate, especially the interest in re-creating these gems as functional, useful fishing and pleasure craft. It is my intent on this page to share with you some of the boats built from the plans in my book, each one a unique re-creation of the original boat.




Rick Layer
Michigan, and Bucket List # 8

Don Hill is no longer with us, but the legacy of his boats remain. The following was received from Rick Layer:

"I wanted to thank you for your book. I read it cover to cover; more than once, and I am not a book reader. I truly enjoyed the history of the boats and your adventures in uncovering some of them . . . I have wanted to build a boat since I was a kid. I love to trout fish so why not a drift boat, and after reading your book I was hooked. I started my  boat in the early fall of 2016 and launched it on Michigan's Muskegon river on Memorial Day weekend 2017. I used a set of Don Hill plans, but your book was the inspiration and was in my woodshop throughout the entire build. I consulted it many times for technical help throughout the process. This is Bucket List # 8. People admiring it everywhere I go,  and it is truly a joy to row and fish from. "




Gordon Olafson
Classic Rogue River Dory
Ladysmith, BC
(Vancouver Island)
November 2017

"I started working on this boat in February 2016. It is now completed, and I will launch it on the Cowichan River as soon as winter steelhead enter the river. I will use the services of a guide to help me check out my boat and help me learn the ways of this boat.

"I really appreciate the help you offered throughout the project, as a first time builder I needed all the help I could get.  I’ve learned a lot and plan to build another boat but probably something completely different."





William Gromball
Double-ender with transom

Bucks County, PA
September 2017

"I am sending to you these pictures of the completed boat. I bought your book and plans about 10 months ago. I had a great time building the boat and had many complements on the completed boat.  I have taken pictures at every step of the building process.  This was a very rewarding project."


Launching soon completed


Side rail installation of anchor pully



Cody Eardley, Wyoming - Z's Pram
November 2016

I have finished Z's drifter pram. What a sweet  build!  One of the happiest moments of my life was when I shoved that thing over the snow, broke though about ten feet of skim ice, and into the lake (finished just in time!).  It was a lot of work to put on all those coats of epoxy, primer, paint, but it turned out really beautiful.  I used interlux ocean blue.  The contrasting oiled lumber makes it look really sharp.  I even caught a fish in her on the first trip out. That's a good omen. And my two year old loved telling me which way to row in the lake!  Time to get started on the next one!  I think it will be a Rapid Robert out of your book, looks like a great build and a bit roomier so mama can come too.  Thanks again to Dave Zielinski for his ingenious plans, and thanks to you for providing them!





Kevin Noreen, Colorado
November 2016

"I want to compliment you on your beautiful book. Not only is it filled with compelling stories and detailed plans, it is artfully assembled in an easy-to-digest format. Coming from a younger generation that is so often infatuated with throw-away goods (I was born in 1985), I find it especially inspiring that such boats are timeless classics that can be recreated and enjoyed every bit as much today as 50 or 60 years ago. To date I've built two boats from the plans within and I couldn't be happier with the results. Both are the McKenzie River Dory variety, the "Double Ender with Transom." Currently I'm beginning to figure up materials and am in the planning stages for a Colorado River Dory, which I hope to start next month. 





Robert Nordeck, Wyoming
Jim Reed, Califormia

McKenzie double-enders with transom

Robert writes, "I want to thank you for putting together such a Great drift boat kit. I really enjoyed building it and was very impressed with the kit detail; the wood selected was fantastic, the instructions excellent and the final results as good as I can build. I just wish my finishing / varnishing skills were some better.  Followed the instructions for the hull build to the letter; then finished the interior details: seats, thwarts, etc. to match my Don Hill 16’ standard.  Now all I need is a scale bamboo fly rod and some size 46 dry flies and ……"  (Robert's model left)

Jim writes, "Hope this meets your approval?  Have had a ball building this little guy.  I just want to pass on a couple of tips for anyone that may have problems with CA and getting to much on joints, while it's still not set, you can use a Q-tip to soak up the extra, this will help with the glossy problem later, but it'll still need some clean up, but not as much. light CA is a pistol to keep from running where you don't want it to go.  the sliding front seating was a challenge to get it right, as you said in your booklet,  I guess I've taken about 20 hours total to complete, paint and all.  Used  'Min-wax'  satin clear, raddle can...... "         (Jim's model right)    



Emily Anderson, Lebanon, Oregon
Colorado River dory model for a friend, December 18, 2015


  Sweet friendships are expressed in a variety of ways. Emily Anderson crafted a fine replica of the Briggs dory and over the Holidays presented it to Colorado River guide, Mary Anne Griffin. Emily resides in Lebanon, Oregon, is a second year medical student, and friend of Mary Anne Griffin. Mary Anne works the Big Ditch, and the two became friends during Emily's time as a Swamper for Grand Canyon Expeditions. Coincidentally, I met Mary Anne on a 2002 Rogue River commemorative run of dories. I offer model kits for two of the McKenzies only, but decided to assist Emily with materials and instructions for completing her project. She did a nice job. I receive many guests to my shop, and this was one of those special visits in 2015.  


Mike Boyd, Bend, Oregon
Launched, October 12, 2015



Mike test drove a draft set of "new" plans for the Briggs dory this summer. Mike is a Deschutes River fishing guide (right). Assisting him was recently retired senior instructor of the NW School of Wooden Boat Building at Port Hadlock, Jeff Hammond (left). Jeff helped Mike loft and build the boat. I took the left photo on September 22. Mike launched at Lee's Ferry on October 12. Mike reports that the boat performed well and the trip was without mishap.

This boat is another piece of the Briggs Puzzle. The lines in my book were lifted from a framing jig Jerry built, and this boat is built from lines taken off Jerry's building board. Darned if Jerry can recall which came first: the jig or the board. The differences are minor, but there are differences. She's a lovely boat, and Mike and Jeff did a beautiful job with her.


    Ben Folsom, Sandy, Utah
 On the Colorado in April 2015


An invitation to join a Grand Canyon trip. and not enough time to build a larger dory, Ben Folsom of Sandy, Utah, decked his recently built the original Hindman 13' double-ender from my book. "I built the decking and hatches to correlate with the framing and fit around a large cooler I have, and rocket boxes.  The decking works great, the boat is completely self bailing and set up for whitewater. . .  I had never been in water that big before, and certainly not in a wood boat, but she performed flawlessly.  Super maneuverable, was able to ferry like crazy, and when I hit giant waves (some kind of sideways) it just rode over them like a teacup." He named the boat "Little Roscoe," after his 15-year-old Border Collie. Roscoe died one week before he launched on the Colorado.




Mike Jannausch, Clallum Bay, Washington
Completed, October 2012
(Scroll down to Mike's start on the project - & more info on Mike)


Hi Roger
"Well the boat is done and it's been in the water (a small lake). Not enough water in our rivers here due to lack of rain. It was a lot of fun and I appreciate your help. The plans were great and I love the shape of the boat. It weighs about 250 lbs or less. I have 5 different kinds of wood in it and teflon oar blocks with sawyer oar locks. The stem and stern post is fiddle back maple, the bumper strip on the chine line is big leaf maple, the seats and gunnels are old growth fir, the stern cap and anchor system is out of yew wood, and of course the marine ply fly, bow and floor decks. I am trying to figure out a way to organize it all and send you a CD of it and the process. Good thing it is done, hunting season starts tomorrow. It rows very nice and turns incredibly quick. My wife, Judy, liked rowing it as well. Cool."
Take care





Grahame Sharples, Australia
Completed September 2012
(Scroll down to Graham's start on the project) - & more info on Graham)




"Hello Roger. I launched the boat last week to find out how she sits in the water and to work out a few trim details with seats and rowlocks. I still have a few jobs to do including a coat of epoxy and several of varnish , but the maiden voyage was successful both with oars and the 6HP longshaft. She is very stable although I took the plan option of increasing the rocker under the transom, so when there is one person on board and the motor revving she sits on the back rocker with the bow very high in the air. A second person in the bow solves the problem.

"I hope to make the final touches in the next month or so. The rope seats seem to be a success. The floorboards and flyline deck need to be fixed in to avoid them blowing away as the trailer is towed! Fortunately I thought that out before we had a disaster.

"Everybody was most enthusiastic."



Eric Merriam, Salmon, ID
Salmon River launch, July 2012


"Hi, Roger!

"I have just completed building the Colorado river dory from the specifications in your book. I first saw "Drift Boats & River Dories" when it arrived at the Salmon (Idaho) Library. After reading it I got a copy for myself. I built the boat on a strongback that was based on the illustrations in your book. I will be launching the boat on the Salmon River this coming week.
"I had previously helped a friend build Dynamite Payson's Gloucester Light Dory and a couple 8 ft. boats of my own.
"Thank you for such an inspiring and helpful book.

Eric Merriam
Salmon, Idaho




Mark Stuber, Washington
Skaget River launch, July 4, 2012



"Boat (a decked Rogue River dory) is done and in use. Thanks for the great book and helpful feed back. I think the next boat is going to be able to run steep creeks and waterfalls... More on that later for now just really enjoying Florence."

Mark Stuber

For a more complete look at the life of Mark Stuber, visit his blog here --



Paul Bradbury and Friends, Tasmania, Australia
January 2012


16' Original McKenzie double-ender with transom


Dear Roger
Just a short email to say thank you for your wonderful book, my friends and I purchased your book in  the summer of 2010 and then followed on by building a sixteen foot double ender with a transom. I must tell you that making this boat changed us all, it was certainly one of the most satisfying times of all our lives.
As a note to anybody who intends to build one of these wonderful craft, we did not alter or change a single thing on the plan and every single aspect worked without a hitch, it was an amazing process.
Once again thank you for the wonderful book and the amazing experience and here's hoping that we can live up to the wonderful example of those early pioneers. 
Yours sincerely
Paul Bradbury



16' Rapid Robert, a.k.a. The Bridges


Tom Fennenberg, St Helens, OR
January 2012

Rigged for some serious trolling

  "I spent almost 2 years in the building of the boat.  I guess with a full time job and around the house projects that's not too bad.  Over-all it was pretty easy with your great plans from the book.  I would have to say the book is one of my favorite ones. 

"The frame pieces along with the benches are made from Tulip Poplar.  The frame joints are mortis and tenon so they all line up.  The transom is made from Russian Birch.  The chine log is Douglas Fir.  The bottom of the boat is half inch marine ply-wood and the sides are one-quarter inch mahogany ply-wood.  The sheer strips are made from quarter sawn Oak. The filler blocks are Ash.  The bow is both Ash and Oak.  The oar-lock blocks are made from Black Walnut.  The oar-lock inserts are made from Derlin surgical plastic.  The bottom of the boat and continuing up 4 inches on four sides along with the whole inside of the boat is sprayed with Speed-Liner 1000, which contains 15% Kevlar.  It's 500% stronger than the spray on bed liner used on trucks.
"The boat was build in St Helens, Oregon.  My wife and I are moving to Missouri but the boat will stay in Kelso, Washington and be used for Salmon fishing on the smaller rivers.  I still plan to build two more boats in Missouri.  Both boats will be 16ft double-enders this time.  Once completed, we plan on taking all three boats down the Salmon River in Idaho with family and friends on a 7 day fishing trip.  It will be my 60th birthday present. 
"Thank you for your inspiring book on building drift boats."


John Ost, Oregon
December 2011


  "Attached are pictures of a double-ender with transom model that I built in the 2 weeks after receiving the kit. I hope to build the full size boat within year. Last summer I built a Salt Bay skiff with my 8 and 11 year old granddaughters, son, daughter-in-law, and wife at RiverWest's Family boat build in Portland last July.

"I made several modifications to the kit.
1. I added a rear seat.
2. I added a bottom to the guest seat and offset back slots in the bottom for the seat back supports. Got the hinges at Ted's Interstate. Made an "upholstered" pad for the guest seat.
3. Dropped the rowing seat another 1/4 inch and added a "3" pad for the rower.
4. Ran the floorboards crosswise. Intention will be to make them removable in the real boat.

"It was a real enjoyable project. Thanks for the history, the plans and the kit."


14' Rapid Robert





Andreas A. Met, Arkansas
December, 2011

"I'm not a wood worker so there are many fine details that are rough," Andreas reports, but a casual review of his photos show a fine specimen of the Rapid Robert. He built the boat for he and his daughter, who shares his enthusiasm for fishing. In addition to using the boat with oars, he plans to test its ability under light sail. The Rapid Robert is proving popular to several Arkansas folks. Nice job Andreas.


Grahame's 14' Rapid Robert under construction


Grahame Sharples, Australia
In process Fall, 2011

"I live in the country [not quite the Outback] and have also been trying to preserve old gear and the ways of these rural pioneers." These were his opening words to me as he explained his desire to build a Rapid Robert, in spite of the challenge of converting all book measurements to metric. "The ply I am using is Okume or Gaboon which I believe is commonly used in the US. My frames and hardwood is our native Victorian Ash with some Tasmanian Blackwood for inside trimming. I plan to leave it as a bright finish rather than paint and I am enjoying the whole project. The imperial/metric conversions have kept me busy and thoughtful but I am old enough to build in imperial sizes and I am impressed with the new skills I am learning and the old ones that I have been able to reapply. It's fun." We await the finished product, Grahame!




Mike Jannausch, Clallum Bay, Washington
In process, Winter 2011-12
Original McKenzie double-ender

Mike is a recently retired physics teacher at Clallum Bay High School and is possessed with the idea of building the original McKenzie double-ender as a cedar strip boat. Early on, Mike wrote, "Well I am back from Michigan and am putting the forms on the strong back. After i get it braced I have to cove and bead all my strips. I then have to decide where to start my first strip so that they are parallel to the boats position when sitting upright in the water. Because to the severe rocker in the boat that becomes the most challenging problem. Once that one is solved then I'm sure there will be others as we go along through the building process." It appears that he solved the "problem." A local friend who has built several cedar strip Nootka whaling dugouts lent some advice. The project has reached a hiatus for the winter months, and I look forward to reporting on the finished product.








AND KIDS, New York
Launched McKenzie double-ender with transom April 23, 2011

"I teach Civil Engineering at West Point.  What do engineers do for fun in their spare time?  We build things!!  When we lived in Kansas, we built an addition to our house because I wanted the kids to have that kind of experience.  When we moved to West Point, I had another group of kids growing up and I wanted them to have a building experience.  And I wanted to build a boat.  In retrospect, I might have started with a simpler boat or a kit, but where would be the fun in that!  I've got to get a trailer or something because the current launch and recovery mechanism is to muscle it on the back of the truck. Why build a boat?  I've met a lot of students over the years and watched young people grow up--most of them are cookie cutter kids--exactly the same--went to school, played Nintendo.  When my kids go for a college or job interview and the interviewer asks, "what makes you different or interesting?"  I want my kids to have something to say--taught myself to play guitar, built a house, built a boat, went to the Boundary Waters, ride horses, raised a steer, butchered a sheep. All the kids had a hand in this boat, even 3-year old Aidan (not shown) who passed nails and screws. Thanks for the plans and the book that gave my kids and I the opportunity to do this."













A Random Sampling from Prior Years





Rick Fennel, Oregon
14' Rapid Robert on the Nestucca


Peter Boucher, Maine
14' Rapid Robert and bottom treatment


Matt Magnuson, Washington
16' Rapid Robert, a.k.a The Bridges, launched before completed.


Michael Webb, Oregon
The Trapper





Andy Hutchinson, Durango
16' McKenzie decked double-ender for customer.
(Note Great thumb in background, now in Brad Dimock's  hands and restored as the original Betty Boop.


Francisco, San Salvadore
14' Original double-ender


Brad Dimock (with Dan Dierker), Flagstaff
the 16' McKenzie double-ender with a transom,
a boat named Juan (their first "juan")


Packard Phillips, Oregon
16' McKenzie double-ender with transom





Kevin Kean, Washington
14' McKenzie double-ender


Mike McIntyre, Oregon
14' McKenzie double-ender


Jeff Peak, Colorado
Briggs dory, modified from Briggs's transomed dory


Dave Cooper, Iowa
16' McKenzie double-ender with transom, cedar strip built





A Collage of the Boats



The Book










Drift Boats and River Dories


Half hulls


The McKenzie River

Boats from the book


About Us

Contact Us

Friends (links)



Silhouettes (new)


The Rogue River

The Julius


Z's Drifter Pram

For Collectors

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Model Kits


Coffee Table