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The Deschutes River ( ) in central Oregonmarker is a major tributary of the Columbia River. The river provides much of the drainage on the eastern side of the Cascade Range in Oregon, gathering many of the tributaries that descend from the eastern, drier flank of the mountains. It provided a major route to and from the Columbia for Native Americans and later pioneers on the Oregon Trail. It flows mostly through rugged and arid country, and its valley provides a cultural heart for central Oregon. Today the river provides irrigation and is popular in the summer for whitewater rafting and fishing.


The headwaters of the Deschutes River is Little Lava Lakemarker, a lake in the Cascade Mountains located approximately northwest of the city of LaPinemarker. The river flows south into Crane Prairie Reservoir then into a second reservoir (the Wickiup Reservoir, from there it heads in a northeasterly direction past the resort community of Sunrivermarker into the city of Bendmarker. In Bend, much of the river's waters is diverted for irrigation; as a result, the river is much smaller when it leaves the city.

The river continues north from Bend, past the city of Redmondmarker. As it heads north through the central Oregon desert; the river carves a gorge. By the time it reaches Lake Billy Chinookmarker west of Madrasmarker, the river is approximately below the surrounding plateau, Little Agency Plainsmarker and Agency Plainsmarker. At Lake Billy Chinook (a lake formed by Round Butte Dammarker), the river is joined by the Crooked and Metoliusmarker rivers. There is no fish ladder at Round Butte Dam.

Beyond the dam, the river continues to flow north in a gorge well below the surrounding countryside. It passes through the Warm Springs Indian Reservation, including the city of Warm Springsmarker and the Kah-Nee-Tamarker resort. There are two main sections of the river that are popular for whitewater rafting. The upstream section is a short segment upriver from the city of Bend. The lower and more heavily used section is from the town of Warm Springs downstream to just above Sherars Falls. The river ends at its confluence with the Columbia, southwest of Biggs Junctionmarker.


Prior to 80,000 years ago, the river ran along the east side of Pilot Buttemarker and the Badlands Excursion lava flow filled in this ancient channel. Previously, the Basalt of the Bend lava flow, associated with the Lava River Cavemarker, had diverted the river westward to its present day location.

The Deschutes River watershed
river was named Riviere des Chutes or Riviere aux Chutes, French for River of the Falls, during the period of fur trading. The waterfall it referred to was the Celilo Fallsmarker on the Columbia River, near where the Deschutes flowed into it. (These falls no longer exist, having been inundated by the lake behind The Dalles Dammarker).

Lewis and Clark encountered the river on October 22, 1805, and referred to it by the Native American name Towarnehiooks; on their return journey they gave it the new name Clarks River. Variant names include Clarks River, River of the Falls, Riviere des Chutes, Chutes River, and Falls River.

During the middle 19th century, the river was a major obstacle for immigrants on the Oregon Trail. The major crossing point on the river was near its mouth in present-day Deschutes River State Recreation Areamarker. Many immigrants camped on the bluff on the west side of the river after making the crossing. The remains of the trail leading up to the top of the bluff are still visible.


Deschutes in winter at its confluence with the Columbia
The river is world renowned for its fly fishing. It is home to a unique wild and native strain of Rainbow trout known locally as "redsides" or redband trout. The redsides grow larger than most and also have a distinct darker red stripe than most wild rainbow trout. They are abundant in this stretch of the river, which has counts of 1,700 fish of 7 inches in size per mile (1,100 fish of 18 centimeters in size per kilometer) above Sherars Falls, and they are noticeably stronger than trout who do not have to cope with life in such a big, powerful river. The average catch for these fish is to , and some are much larger. These redside or redband trout are found throughout the river. Fishing for them is most popular from Warm Springs down to Macks Canyon. (Warm Springs Reservation owns the entire Deschutes West Bank from south of Maupinmarker to Lake Billy Chinookmarker and on up to Jefferson Creek on the Metolius Rivermarker arm) below Pelton Dam. Fishing from Tribal lands requires special permits. From Pelton Dam to the mouth the Deschutes is one of America's most productive trout waters and a top producer of summer steelhead, managed primarily for wild trout. This 100-mile (160 km) stretch of river drops , carving a volcanic rock canyon to deep.

Fly fishermen come from around the world in the last two weeks in May through the first two weeks in June to take advantage of the Stoneflies (both salmonflies and golden stones) hatch. These bugs are in the river year-round; however their large adults are a major food source for the fish. Weighted stonefly nymph patterns are a staple for Deschutes anglers and produce year round.

Sport fishing for Steelhead occurs in the river from the mouth to Round Butte Dammarker. Sport fishing for spring and fall chinook salmon occurs from the mouth to Sherars Falls. Tribal fishing for chinook and steelhead occurs at Sherars Falls.

In Lake Billy Chinookmarker (reservoir), there are fisheries for kokanee, bull trout, rainbow trout, brown trout, and several warm water species such as large mouth bass and a very large population of small mouth bass. There are also periodic commercial fisheries for crayfish. The bull trout that are caught in this reservoir are some of the largest bull trout caught on the west coast. The numbers are scarce because the bull's are endangered; however, numbers have risen every year since they became protected. The lake allows an individual to keep a bull trout that measures more than . (This is included for a daily bag limit.)

River use

Boxcar Rapids on the Deschutes River near Maupin, Oregon
of the flow of the upper Deschutes River is diverted into canals to irrigate farmland; Irrigation Districts take as much as 97% of the river's flow in the summer months. The growth of cities like Bendmarker and Redmondmarker also increased demand on the river's water, which is over allocated. Because the existing canals lose about 65% of their water due to leaks and evaporation, there is pressure to convert these canals into pipelines, a move that is resisted by many locals for historic or scenic reasons. Golf courses have also been an issue with water allocation. There are thirteen golf courses throughout Bend, Redmond, and Sunriver.

The lower river is used primarily for recreation.

The river flows north, which is unusual in the United States. Several other Oregon tributaries of the Columbia River, including the Willamette and John Day Rivers, also flow in a northerly direction.

See also


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