Lower Deschutes River Boater Pass System  Welcome to the Wild and Scenic Lower Deschutes River

  • Introduction
  • Recreation
  • Camping
  • Hunting
  • Boating
  • Trails
  • Portable Toilet Information (Adobe PDF document - 289 KB)

  • Introduction
    The Deschutes River begins its journey high in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon at Little Lave Lake. It has a unique flow that is fairly uniform compared to other rivers of similar volume in the United States. The annual fluctuation between high and low flows is relatively small. This stability is due to the many nourishing springs that feed the river as it travels 252 mile north to the Columbia River.
    The Lower Deschutes was designated an Oregon Scenic Waterway in 1970 and a Federal Wild and Scenic River in 1988. It is characterized by a deep rimrock-lined canyon that ranges from 900 feet to 2,600 feet in depth. The elevation drops from 1,393 feet at Pelton Reregulation Dam to 160 feet at its confluence with the Columbia River. The average gradient is 13 feet per mile and is relatively constant throughout its length. The most significant drops in gradient are Sherars Falls (River Mile 44), with a vertical drop of 15 feet, and Whitehorse Rapids (River Mile 75), with a vertical drop of approximately 35-40 feet over one mile.
    Within this canyon you will experience an incredible geologic and cultural history, a diverse community of fish, wildlife and vegetation, and an abundance of recreational opportunities. These outstanding qualities draw many people to the Lower Deschutes River, making it one of the most visited rivers in the United States. This river guide is intended to help visitors get the most out of their trip to the Lower Deschutes River. We hope you enjoy a unique opportunity to discover the historic and present day wonders of the Deschutes River canyon.
    The Lower Deschutes River is an oasis the desert.

    The Lower Deschutes River is an increasingly popular river for all kinds of recreationists. Thousands of people visit each year to enjoy its incredible fishing, exciting whitewater, and beautiful scenery. The river offers a variety of opportunities for both day and overnight trips. The most popular types of recreation include: fishing/hunting, boating, mountain biking, and hiking.


    The Lower Deschutes offers a variety of camping opportunities. There are numerous developed campgrounds and primitive campsites along the river. Camping along the east bank of the river (river right) from the Locked Gate to Macks Canyon is limited to designated fee sites. Camping along the west bank (river left) from Pelton Reregulation Dam to River Mile 69 is prohibited to non-tribal members. Please refer to the map for location and description of each site.
    Arrive early! Some popular sites fill up quickly during busy summer weekends.

    Fall and winter seasons are popular for visitors in pursuit of big game, upland birds and waterfowl. Mule deer, Rocky Mountain elk, mourning dove, chukar, valley quail, Canada geese, and mallards are the most sought after species in the Deschutes River canyon. Hunters need to be aware of their surroundings to avoid trespassing onto private lands, as many of the public land tracts in the canyon are relatively small and interspersed with private property. Shooting is prohibited in developed recreation sites at all times and on public lands within the canyon from the third Saturday in May to August 31st.

    Whitewater rafting, kayaking, drift and jetboating are all popular activities on the Lower Deschutes. The most popular whitewater and most heavily used section of the river is the 10.4 mile stretch from Harpham Flat to Sandy Beach. Other popular floats include: the 9.4 mile stretch from Warm Springs to Trout Creek, the 36.6 mile stretch from Trout Creek to Maupin, the 18.9 mile stretch from Buckhollow to Macks Canyon, and the 23.5 mile stretch from Macks Canyon to Heritage Landing. Jetboating is allowed from the mouth of the Deschutes River (at its confluence with the Columbia River) to Macks Canyon year-round (except for non-jetboat weekends between June and September) and from Macks Canyon to Sherars Falls from October 1st to June 15th. For more information regarding the jetboat schedule on the Lower Deschutes River contact the Oregon State Marine Board.
    Running Box Car Rapids.

    There are two trails along the Lower Deschutes River that facilitate both mountain biking and hiking. Both trails are relatively easy, but visitors should be prepared and carry plenty of water.
    Mecca Flat to Trout Creek:This 7.6 mile trail generally follows the old railroad grade and facilitates both hiking and mountain biking. It is a popular trail with fishermen, hikers, and other recreationists and offers great views of the Deschutes canyon’s incredible geology. There is no potable water available at Mecca Flat or Trout Creek, so be sure to bring enough.
    Macks Canyon to Deschutes State Park: This trail is 23 miles long extending from Macks Canyon north to the Deschutes State Park near the mouth of the Deschutes River. The trail facilitates both hiking and mountain biking along the abandoned railroad grade. The upper 7 miles of this trail is not recommended for mountain bikes, bikers will have to walk their bikes across difficult terrain in steep tributary canyons. The lower portion of this trail is a road extending 16 miles up from Deschutes State Park. Horseback riding is allowed for the first 11 miles of this trail (from March 1 to June 30). Bring a camera and keep your eyes open for some of the amazing wildlife!