Deschutes - 13. Lower Bridge to Billy Chinook Reservoir

Deschutes, Oregon, US


13. Lower Bridge to Billy Chinook Reservoir (Middle Deschutes)

Usual Difficulty III-IV+ (for normal flows)
Length 15 Miles
Avg. Gradient 39 fpm

Steelhead Boof

Steelhead Boof
Photo of Matt Deacon by Justin Martinez taken 10/17/13 @ 937 cfs

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
usgs-14076500 900 - 2500 cfs III-IV+ 00h47m 1080 cfs (running)

River Description

Season: If flows were not regulated this reach would be runnable year around. Unfortunately for paddlers though this reach is dewatered during the summer irrigation season and it gets pretty cold in the winter. Sunny days in March and early April are often best. There is also a chance of catching this run in the fall at the end of the irrigation season.


Middle Deschutes at 1590 cfs----

Spectacular run but with a short season and a paddle out on a reservoir. The character of the run is pool-drop through impressive canyon scenery. You have a couple options for this run depending on where you put-in. If you access the river at Lower Bridge Road you will have a 13.5 mile river run and a 2.2 mile flatwater paddle across the reservoir. Especially when flows are lower you may want to consider the access at Steelhead Falls which gives you an 8.0 mile river run and a 2.2 mile flatwater paddle.

You will need to portage Big Falls 1.5 miles into the run from Lower Bridge Road. You might also consider the portage of Steelhead Falls which comes another few miles downstream, but there is a fun line on the left side. After paddling through some long pools below Steelhead Falls the action starts to pick up with some fun boulder garden rapids that are spread out through the remainder of the run. Many of these are in the class III range but a couple are class IV. The longest section of whitewater is at the confluence with Squaw Creek.


For the long run, you can put-in at Lower Bridge Road where you cross the Deschutes River (river mile 133.5). To get there from Terrebone, head north on Highway 97 and before you cross the Crooked River, head west at Highway 97 mile 115.3 on Lower Bridge Road (you will see the sign for Crooked River Ranch). Follow Lower Bridge Road approximately 6 miles to the bridge across the river.

A good alternative put-in, particularly when flows are at the lower end of the range, is just upstream of Steelhead Falls at the BLM's Steelhead Falls site (river mile 128.0). This site also provides good informal camping with a couple of spots for car camping and some nice walk-in sites at the rim of the gorge. Follow the directions above from Highway 97 to Lower Bridge Road. Follow Lower Bridge Road 2.1 miles towards Crooked River Ranch. Turn right on NW 43rd St. and follow it for 1.8 miles until you come to the T junction. Turn left on NW Powey Ave. which becomes Chinook Drive and follow this for 1.1 mile. Turn left on Badger for 0.4 mile and at the next intersection stay straight on Blacktail for 1.4 miles. Turn right on Quail for 1.2 miles. Turn left onto River Road for 1.0 mile which brings you to the Steelhead campsite and day use area. To reach the river take the fisherman's trail that leads downriver and take the first fork to the left that heads down the hill to the river. It's about 300 yards from the parking area down to the water.

The river joins the slackwater of the Billy Chinook Reservoir at river mile 120.0. You then need to paddle out on the reservoir, possibly facing a headwind which comes up the canyon to the bridge which crosses the Deschutes River arm of the reservoir at river mile 117.8. To reach this take- out, head back out to Highway 97, continue north across the Crooked River, and then follow then turn off towards Culver. There are a few different routes through Culver but you want to head 1 mile west to Feather Drive and, depending on where you join Feather Drive, less than 2 miles north to Gem Lane. Turn west on Gem Lane for 0.5 mile. Turn south on Frazier Drive for 0.3 mile. Turn west on Peck Road and continue straight down the hill as it becomes Jordan Road and heads down to Cove Palisades State Park along the shores of Billy Chinook Reservoir. After you wind down the hill, you will head south along the Crooked River arm of the reservoir and then cross the bridge over to the Peninsula and over to the Deschutes River arm of the reservoir. In 7.0 miles from the turn off Frazier Road you will reach the bridge across the Deschutes River arm. There is a roadside pullout for a couple cars and an informal trail on the west side of the bridge.

Additional Information:

See additional description and photos on the Deschutes Canyon description on Jason Rackley's Oregon Kayaking site.

StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2018-05-22 06:54:16


Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
-132.0Big FallsN/APortage
-128.0Steelhead FallsVWaterfall Photo

Rapid Descriptions

Steelhead Falls (Class V, Mile -128.0)

Steelhead Boof

Steelhead Boof
Photo of Matt Deacon by Justin Martinez taken 10/17/13 @ 937 cfs

User Comments

Users can submit comments.
October 14 2017 (464 days ago)
axelspeedy (159474)
Steelhead Falls is good to go so long as it is above 500cfs!
December 11 2014 (1502 days ago)
Nick SindersonDetails
I got on this run 10/23/11 and I have to say that this is a classic class 4 run. My understanding
is that it's de-watered from mid-April to mid-October but as the irrigation shuts down in mid Oct.
it can reach run-able it did this year. Yesterday flow below Bend was approx. 675cfs
and flow at Culver was 1,150 cfs...a great flow! For the solid class 4 boater this run has
everything you could want; a 18' waterfall, at least a half a dozen loooong, muti-move, hard to
scout class 4 to 4+ rapids, lots of class 3/3+, fantastic desert canyon scenery with enough slow
pools to aid taking it all in, plus free camping at the Steelhead falls put-in. We were surprised
that on a sunny 70 degree late Oct. weekend my buddy and I were the only two people on the run.
This run is well worth the time and gas money to get to it, especially considering not much else is
running this time of year. We did the weekend class 4 trip; Leaving from Ashland Or. at 7:30am
Sat., getting on the Riverhouse run by 11Am, camping at the put-in for the Canyon run Sat. night,
setting shuttle Sun morn. then running the Canyon on Sunday and back home in Ashland at 10PM. I'd
bet that is the best October class 4 weekend in Oregon.

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Associated Projects

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