Medford, Oregon leads in Boat Manufacturing World's Best Boats Made in Medford + Rogue Valley
Medford Heart of the Rogue Logo, Rogue River
By Travel Medford | 07/16/2021 | Outdoor Adventure


The Rogue Valley is famous for its beautiful lakes, rivers and waterfalls, which welcome water adventurers from across the world. You can explore the crystal blue waters by boat, raft, SUP paddle, or even a good old fashioned swim.

However, the Rogue Valley’s incredible water features are only part of the story. Local makers and producers have wowed the world with their wares for decades, which have made adventuring on the water an even more thrilling experience.

So the next time you’re riding a jet boat or raft, remember how these products came to be and the amazing creators behind them.

Pavati Boats — an example of fine Rogue Valley craftsmanship — has an interesting local history. In a tribute to the surface their boats glide upon, Pavati means “clear water” in the Native American Hopi language. 

The first Pavati wake boat took its initial test run in the spring of 2008. Aluminum has been proven to be the ultimate boat material because of its superior strength-to-weight ratio and natural resistance to rust, which is why Pavait uses it in the construction of their boats. 

Since the company started, Pavati has had many industry-first innovations, including:  

Pavati’s wake boats last for generations due to the care and detailed work that goes into every product. Pavati takes pride in their work, offering a unique customization process that makes each boat right for the customer’s needs. 

Willie Boats has a long and fascinating history. Legend has it that Willie Illingworth manufactured the first aluminum version of the McKenzie River drift boat. Prior to that, they were made exclusively of wood. 

In 1971, Willie tried to get boat manufacturers to build his dream aluminum drift boat. After getting nowhere with the other manufacturers, Willie decided to do it himself. However, Willie faced several challenges — including not knowing how to weld and the loss of his left hand. Despite all of that, he built an aluminum drift boat that’s now a standard in the world of small river fishing.

In his first year, Willie built about 20 drift boats before starting Alumaweld Boats in 1972, which he later sold and started Willie R & D in 1977.  

Willie was a leader in the drift and power boat industry, constantly innovating and creating products his customers loved. Sadly, in 2005, Willie was diagnosed with cancer and passed away two years later.

Today, Willie Boats is considered the best aluminum boat builder in the West. Their passion for quality and bringing joy to others will continue to live on for generations in the Rogue Valley and beyond.

SOTAR is a family-owned, custom whitewater inflatable boat manufacturer located in Merlin, Oregon. Glenn Lewman, co-founder of SOTAR, built this company on a dream — like many other Rogue Valley producers. He started in a garage in 1980 and SOTAR is still thriving 40 years later.

SOTAR’s specialty is giving whitewater sports lovers a beautiful, custom designed boat. In addition to providing people with individualized creations, they encourage customers to suggest whatever color combinations, sizes or other specifications they may desire. 

And when they aren’t building amazing inflatable boats, SOTAR has achieved several industry firsts, including:

SOTAR is well known for their rafts, which are created from a material that will lip over rocks, hold up to decades of use, and possibly never require a patch. Their combination of durability and beauty are another example of amazing Rogue Valley craftsmanship.

For over 20 years, Boulton Powerboats has been producing high quality aluminum boats. Starting with Mike Boulton and his more than 40 years in the industry, the Boulton team has refined their skills as master boat builders. 

Their commitment to design and craftsmanship is apparent in every boat they produce. Each Boulton Powerboat is meticulously hand built in their facility in Central Point, just minutes from Medford.

Boulton’s enthusiasm to build custom boats is well-known to their customers and throughout the industry. They love the challenge of designing and building boats specific to their customer’s needs. They have numerous types to choose from, but some of Boulton’s models include the  Navigator, Hook, Sentinel, and the Voyager Series. 

Looking toward the future, Boulton Powerboats will continue the tradition of building the best aluminum boats possible, with continued innovation, craftsmanship and product diversity.  

Sawyer Paddles has been crafting high performance paddles and oars for over 50 years in the beautiful Rogue Valley. One of their missions has been to offer a way for people to explore the water in true Southern Oregon style. 

To meet the demands of the outdoor adventurer, Sawyer Paddles offer a full line of modern and traditional products for oarsmen, canoeists, kayakers, surfers and paddlers, made with unparalleled function, performance and beauty. 

All of their products are crafted from quality materials and created in beautiful Talent, about eight miles from Medford. Additionally, their products are designed by paddlers, oarsmen, surfers and people who love to spend time on the water. This ensures Sawyer Paddles would never build anything they didn’t want to use themselves! 

When you explore the water with something from Sawyer Paddles, you know you are using something which was built with your needs in mind. 

The Rogue Valley’s stunning lakes and rivers have led to the creation of world-class water products that are enjoyed by numerous people every year. It’s the raft that rides the waves, the paddle you balance on, or the jet boat that glides across the water. 

The next time you’re in the Rogue Valley, take note of these makers’ unique stories and add another layer of enjoyment to your adventure.

Visit to plan your next Rogue Valley water adventure. 

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