Deschutes, Oregon, US
|Usual Difficulty||III (for normal flows)|
|DESCHUTES RIVER AT MOODY, NEAR BIGGS, OR|
|usgs-14103000||3000 - 8000 cfs||III||00h54m||5430 cfs (running)|
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 mellow trip but a few class III rapids particularly those in the last few miles deserve attention. While this can be a great beginner trip, inexperienced river runners get themselves into trouble every year.
Agricultural diversions upstream 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, drift boat fishermen, and jet boaters (not allowed on designated motor-free weekends). 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. While there is no road along the lower half of this run, a rail line runs along river left and you can expect a few trains to rumble by in the night. 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 offering roadside access down to Macks Canyon and the second half with no imtermediate access.
Sherars Falls to Macks Canyon (18.9 miles, several intermediate access points)
The run starts out from the put-in about a mile downstream of Sherars Falls (river mile 44.0) on river right at Buckhollow Day Use site (river mile 42.8). For the next approximately 20 miles down to Macks Canyon Campground (river mile 23.9) a bumpy dirt road parallels river right. There are a number of day-use sites and designated camp sites that also provide alternative river access, offering opportunities for an easy day trip if you happen to be in the area. In addition to the road- accessible campsites on river right, those boating this stretch also have access to several camp sites on river left. The road iteself does not detract from the run as it is high up away from the banks most of the way and the limited traffic consists of river runners.
Trestle Hole (river mile 41.0) is well known to kayakers for its park-and-play in the river right channel that has hosted past competitions. It was known as a consistent performer following floods in the late 1990's but the channel has since filled with sediment and does not see the natural flushing flows that have been limited due to upstream diversions and hydropower operations. A new round of floods could restore the spot but in the meantime it can still be enjoyed at high flows. It is easily visible from the road on river right where the railroad trestle crosses the river (about 3 miles down the road from Sherars Falls).
Wreck Rapids, the site of a head-on train collision in 1949, is a short distance downstream of Trestle Hole, and is the only class III on this first section of the run.
Macks Canyon to Columbia River (23.5 miles, no intermediate access)
Many groups begin their trip at Macks Canyon. It's a popular meeting place for groups the night before a trip that launch in the morning. Starting at Macks Canyon makes for a shorter river trip that can easily be done over a weekend or over three days at a lazy pace. The downside is you drive downstream along 20 miles of river that provide great boating and maybe even get a flat tire on the way.
As you round the bend and leave Macks Canyon behind you no longer have the road but the train traffic and jet boats (depending on the weekend) remind you that you have not really left civilization. It's still a spectacular river with great scenery. There are several fun class II rapids that prepare you for slightly more challenging whitewater towards the end of the trip. Washout Rapids (river mile 7.5) is the first of the class III rapids below Macks Canyon. Additional class III rapids include Gordon Ridge Rapids (river mile 5.7), Colorado Rapids (river mile 3.9), Rattlesnake Rapids (river mile 2.6), and finally Moody Rapids (river mile 0.6) which comes up within site of the take-out. Experienced paddlers should have no problem boat scouting these rapids but keep your eyes open for the hole at Washout Rapids to center right and another at Moody Rapids on river left.
As you finish up the run be aware that the last couple miles (Rattlsnake Rapids to Moody Rapids) is designated as a pass-through zone designated for bank fisherman who hike up the river. For this reason you should float through this section without stopping.
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.
Good paved road access is available to Sherars Falls which is about half an hour from Maupin (your closest stop for last minute supplies). The uppermost put-in downstream of Sherars Falls is located at Buckhollow Day Use Area (river mile 42.8). Although there are other access points the most popular access for a weekend overnight trip is Macks Canyon (river mile 23.9). This requires a 20 mile drive down the dirt road along river right from Sherars Falls. From Macks Canyon there is no access until you reach the mouth at the Deschutes where it joins the Columbia at Heritage Landing Park on river left which is the primary take-out (river mile 0.4). Deschutes State Park provides camping and river access on river right (river mile 0.3). Most groups arrange for shuttle service.
Boater pass available through online reservation system. Some dates have limited launches available.
Management Plan for the Lower Deschutes Wild and Scenic River