Difficulty III
Length Miles
Flow Range 3000 - 8000 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 49 minutes ago 4110 [CFS]
Reach Info Last Updated 07/18/2019 7:44 pm

River Description

SEASON: All year possible. The summer is most popular for both private trips and commercial outfitters.


The Lower Deschutes is probably Oregon's most popular overnight float trip and is a classic among fishermen. Experienced river runners will find this to be a relaxing river float but a few class III rapids deserve strict attention. While this can be a great beginner trip for those who have an experienced guide along, inexperienced river runners get themselves into trouble every year and there have been several fatalities on the river.

 Agricultural diversions upstream near Bend remove water from the river, but springs on the Crooked, Deschutes, and Metolius rivers provide consistent year-around flow which is further regulated by the Pelton Round Butte Hydroelectric project. The peak season is the summer and the river attracts a wide range of user groups including recreational floaters and drift boat fishermen. While the beautiful canyon scenery interspersed with small groves of trees providing welcome shade makes this a great trip, don't come expecting wilderness solitude. The use tends to be biased towards trips where you pack the rafts with everything you could possibly need (and then some) and kick back for a good time with your friends.

Permits are required but it is a reservation system and given that the river is managed for high use, it is generally easy to find a slot if you plan in advance. The run can be divided into two sections with the first half popular as the start of an overnight trip and the lower section popular as a day trip.

Warm Springs Boat Ramp to Harpham Flat (42.0 miles, alternate put-in points)

The run starts out at the uppermost put-in at Warm Springs Boat Ramp which is on the upstream river right side of the Highway 26 Bridge. Those who come in late and want to camp the night before often launch at Mecca Flat which is 1.8 miles downstream on river right (a dirt road parallels the river). Trout Creek is another potential access point which is 9.4 miles downstream of the put-in but less convenient to Highway 26 as the river right road does not extend down that far.

Whitehorse Rapids is the most challenging rapid on this section as it is nearly half a mile long. If you don't know the rapid it's a good idea to get out on river right for a look as there are a couple alternative lines depending on your skills and the flow. Buckskin Mary and Four Chutes Rapids are another fun set of drops on this section.

Harpham Flat to Sandy Beach (10.4 miles, intermediate access points)

When you hear people talk about doing a day trip on the lower Deschutes this is the section they are running and if you are in the area this is a great run throughout the summer but be prepared to share the river with dozens of rafts. There are several great rapids on this section packed relatively close together. While there is nothing any harder than Whitehorse Rapids they come more frequently. Wapinitia Rapids and Boxcar Rapids can be easily scouted from the road on river right. Maupin City Park is another popular launch site. Downstream of town you will come to a two mile action-packed section that includes Surf City Rapids, Oak Springs Rapids, White River Rapids, Upper Elevator Rapids, and Lower Elevator Rapids before you reach Sandy Beach which is the last take-out before the river plunges over Sherars Falls.

LOGISTICS: The Lower Deschutes web site has maps and information on the run including everything you need to make a reservation and obtain a permit which can all be done online. The The Prineville District BLM and Oregon State Parks also publish a Deschutes River Boater's Guide with mile-by-mile rapid descriptions, campsites (including relative size and accessibility to shade), human and geologic history of the river, and detailed maps.

Rapid Descriptions

Warm Springs: Rainbow Launch

Class - Mile - 0
Day use site with boat ramp, toilet, and garbage services. This is the first public access downstream of the Pelton Round Butte Hydroelectric Project.

Mecca Flat Access

Class - Mile - 1.8
Mecca Flat is a BLM site that provides camping, boat ramp, toilet, and garbage service. It is a popular site to meet the evening before a trip.

Trout Creek Access

Class - N/A Mile - 9.4

Trout Creek is a BLM access site with camping, vehicle access, toilet, tables, garbage service, and boat ramp. Day use and overnight parking is available for this site which serves as a put-in or take-out. There is also a trailhead here that provides access to the 7.6 mile trail that follows the old railroad grade up to Mecca Flat. There is also a ranger station staffed during the summer with visitor information, boater check-in, and emergency communications.

Upper Trout Creek Rapids

Class - II Mile - 10.1
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
Small waves.

Lower Trout Creek Rapids

Class - II+ Mile - 10.3
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
Either side around the island is possible.

Whitehorse Rapid

Class - III+ Mile - 21.1
There are a few different routes through this boulder garden rapid. Scouting from river right is recommended.

Reservation Boundary

Class - Mile - 28.5
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
The Warms Springs Reservation Boundary. Upstream of this points most lands along river left are part of the reservation. Downstream of this point BLM lands are on both sides of the river with the exception of private parcels.

Buckskin Mary Rapids

Class - III Mile - 33.5
A wave train down the middle.

Four Chutes Rapids

Class - II Mile - 34.2

Wave train down the left and boulder garden on the right.

Harpham Flat Access

Class - Mile - 42
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
Harpham Flat is the most popular access for day trips on the Deschutes River.

Wapanitia Rapids

Class - III Mile - 42.9
A fun wave train down the middle.

Boxcar Rapids

Class - III Mile - 44

Large waves and a small ledge drop with a hole to the left that is best avoided.

Maupin City Park

Class - Mile - 46
Access used as a take-out or put-in at the City Park in the town of Maupin.

Surf City Rapids

Class - II+ Mile - 49.9
Some fun surf waves.

Oak Springs Rapids

Class - IV Mile - 50.3
A big drop with routes down the right or left. It's an easy scout from the road on river right.

White River Rapids

Class - II+ Mile - 51.1
Fun waves at the White River confluence.

Upper Elevator Rapids

Class - II Mile - 51.6
Wave train with a fun surf wave at the bottom.

Lower Elevator Rapids

Class - II+ Mile - 51.8
Fun waves down the middle.

Sandy Beach Access

Class - Mile - 52.4
The last take-out before the river drops over Sherars Falls a short distance downstream.

Sherars Falls

Class - Mile - 53.8


Gage Descriptions

This gauge is located just upstream of the mouth with the Columbia River. Flows are regulated by reservoirs upstream but always high enough for boating. Release from the last reservoir is provided by the Deschutes near Madras which is an alternate gauge used for this run. Flows are typically around 6500 cfs through the winter and early spring, and then dip to 4000 cfs during the summer.

Directions Description

We have no additional detail on this route. Use the map below to calculate how to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.

Date Flow Result Factor  
2020-08-06 n/a Fatality One Boat Trip Read More
2006-09-03 Medium Fatality One Boat Trip Read More
2006-08-08 Medium Fatality One Boat Trip Read More
2006-07-06 Medium Fatality Other Read More



article main photo

River Managers Discuss Common Pool Permit System on Deschutes (OR)

Jason Robertson

Sherar's Falls by Nick Borelli
November 14th, 2002 - The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) river managers are meeting today to discuss the future implementation of new permits on Oregon's Lower Deschutes River. The proposed permit system is becoming controversial as outfitters fear the precedent of seeing the nation's first "Common Pool" permit system being implemented by a federal agency to manage recreational river use.

Thomas O'Keefe


Matt Muir


Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1210531 11/15/18 Thomas O'Keefe River permit link updated
1191301 04/23/08 n/a n/a
1195697 07/27/09 Thomas O'Keefe
1198821 11/30/10 Thomas O'Keefe permit update
1198878 12/01/10 Thomas O'Keefe permit update
1207010 11/17/16 Thomas O'Keefe link fixed
1208163 08/02/17 Thomas O'Keefe photo edit
1213369 07/18/19 Thomas O'Keefe updated image position
1212649 06/04/19 Thomas O'Keefe updated image position