Once, when the West was less inhabited, the Deschutes River served as both a helpful source of transportation for Native Americans and an intimidating obstacle for early settlers. Either way, the Deschutes has earned respect as a challenging and beautiful Oregon waterway that has become home to some of our favorite scenic adventures.
We challenge you to take our Deschutes River Trip, exploring the sites and activities along the river from its source in Little Lava Lake all the way to its end in the Columbia River Gorge. Don’t worry, we’ve already found all the best stops along the way!
Deschutes River Trip Destinations
Below, we’ve put together our favorite destinations along the Deschutes River for the perfect week-long family vacation. Of course, you can start your journey anywhere along and customize the trip to suit your tastes and time.
Little Lava Lake
Start your trip at the source of the Deschutes River by taking in the lava flows that divide Little Lava Lake and Lava Lake. Take some time to fish, and then head over to the Little Lava Lake Campground or the Lava Lake Resort to rest up for the rest of your trip. It gets busy up there, so be sure to make a reservation wherever you decide to stay.
Kahneeta Resort and Spa on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation
Heading North as the Deschutes River flows, you can take a slight detour to Kahneeta Resort and Spa. This Warm Springs Indian Reservation is packed with activities for the whole family. Most adults come for the casino and families come for the warm spring pools and good food.
Imperial River Company at Maupin for Rafting, Dining, and Lodging
At this point, you’ve become much better acquainted with the river, so it’s time to take on a bit more of a challenge. Take a guided whitewater rafting trip at Imperial River Company in Maupin and take on Class III and IV rapids for day or two of adrenaline and the Central Oregon outdoors. After your day or overnight rafting trip, spend some time unwinding in their lodge and dining on the Deschutes River.
Explore a Ghost Town at Shaniko
After leaving Maupin, you might want to take another detour away from the river to explore Shaniko, a haunting ghost town from the days of the Wild West. You’ll see antique stagecoaches, pioneer homesteads, and learn about the fascinating history of early Oregonians.
White River Falls State Park or Beavertail Recreation Site
Remember, the Deschutes was named for all of its treacherous rapids and breathtaking waterfalls. Experience this first hand with a photographer’s dream hike through the White River Falls State Park. Stay for the day or camp overnight at the Beavertail Recreation Site.
Hike the Deschutes River Trail
There are many points along the river to join the Deschutes River Trail for a hike. When you can’t raft your way through a particular rapid, we recommending portaging and taking in the sights instead.
Deschutes River State Recreation Area
As you venture farther North up the Deschutes, you’ll be nearing busier areas, which means more easily accessible recreation areas. Stop for a picnic lunch at the Deschutes River State Recreation Area to get you fueled up for the final stretch of your journey.
Columbia River Gorge at Maryhill Museum
At the end of the Deschutes River, you’ll find the great Columbia River. Don’t stop here though. Head just a few miles East and across the river and enjoy the Maryhill Museum. Take in ancient art, learn about the history of the area, and finally enjoy some dinner and wine while overlooking a sunset over the Columbia River Gorge.
There are many fun destination and activities along the Deschutes River. If you’re in need of a few more ideas or need help planning your Central Oregon event or vacation, feel free to contact Imperial River Company. We can be your guides both on and off the whitewater.