Small Town – Big Plans: Maupin’s Deschutes River Athletic Complex (DRAC)

Planned Deschutes River Athletic Complex, Maupin OR

Maupin, Oregon is located on a quiet stretch of Oregon State Highway 197, between The Dalles in the Columbia River Gorge and its popular neighbor to the south, Bend. The town is best known for world-class white water rafting on the lower Deschutes River and draws thousands of adventure-seekers to its banks each summer. In the shoulder seasons, Maupin hosts scores of fishing enthusiasts, road and gravel cyclists, bird and game hunters, and travelers seeking a quiet, relaxing escape. But come 2021, a new cohort will be drawn to the high desert vistas of Maupin thanks to the Deschutes River Athletic Complex (DRAC).

The DRAC is an ambitious new development project that will create a state-of-the-art track and field facility with sweeping views of the Wild and Scenic Deschutes River below. The site now hosts an uneven and irregularly-shaped (non-regulation) cinder track and grass field next to the local high school. Using the existing facilities is a challenge for local students. Divots and ruts are a tripping hazard and the cinder winds up in athletes’ shoes in ridiculous quantities. These very challenges are what led to the creation of the DRAC project: a local student questioning why it has to be this way.

Holly Miles, daughter of Imperial River Company owners Rob and Susie Miles, was tired of dumping cinder out of her shoes after each run and only being able to practice up to 2 hurdles in a row on the long jump runway, to avoid ankle sprains. The only opportunity to run a full hurdle race was at the track meets which have to be held out of town. As it turned out, others in the community were excited about her idea, too! The DRAC has evolved into a true community-led endeavor, drawing support from the South Wasco School District, City of Maupin, Imperial River Company, The Red Truck Outdoor Experience, and the Maupin community.

The track will be built with 8 lanes and an inside rail, making it an eligible location for international time trials. The complex will also include “field event facilities, football field, and related spectator facilities that will accommodate a wide range of uses with opportunities for significant local impacts.” The complex will be open to the public and provide plenty of exercise opportunities for the community as well. Extra features include new grandstands for viewing events, a plaza with hookups for food trucks, a grassy area for camping, and a grandstand for concerts and other performances.

The facility will be a great addition to Maupin and North Central Oregon. The town’s location in the rain shadow of the Cascades means that it sees around 300 days of sun per year, allowing the DRAC to host outdoor track and field events, concerts, festivals, and more while the west side of the state is water-logged. The goal is to complete the project in time for the Oregon 21 World Athletic Championships and be able to offer the facility to visiting teams for training leading up to the events.

We’re beyond excited for this project and can’t wait to share it with you. The project is funded through grants and generous donations. If you’d like to add your support, you can donate via the DRAC website. To stay informed, follow the Instagram accounts of @maupin.drac @imperialriverco, @red.truck, and @maupinoregon.

Imperial River Company, Maupin OR
Lodging and Rafting on the Lower Deschutes River

Oregon’s River Canyon Country – An Adventurer’s Paradise

Scenic Photo of Deschutes River and Canyon Rising Above.

River Canyon Country is a high desert wonderland located just east of the majestic Mount Hood and the Mount Hood and Willamette National Forests. It’s location in the rain shadow of the Cascades mean this area gets much less rain and nearly 300 days of sunshine each year. Dotted with quaint towns connected by sprawling vistas, River Canyon Country is a must-see when visiting the Northwest.

The Central Oregon Visitor’s Association (COVA) recently published an informative overview of North-Central Oregon, highlighting the many opportunities for outdoor adventures. We’ve summarized a few highlights below, but be sure to visit their website for the full article.

“Winding waters cut through sunset-hued canyon walls that bind beauty with the promise of adventure in this rugged area that draws visitors from around the globe.”


Home to Smith Rock State Park, Terrebonne is just over an hour’s drive from Maupin. Climbers from around the world visit Smith Rock to scale the sheer rock walls while hikers trek around the park on well-maintained trails with epic vantage points.

Crooked River Ranch

Waterfalls, fly-fishing and hiking above the steep walls of the Deschutes River canyon.


A historic city boasting Oregon’s oldest public structure, Prineville is a great base for fishing, camping, hiking, and mountain biking.

Warm Springs

Visit the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs’ Indian Head Casino and tour the museum which hosts one of the finest collections of American Indian art.


Rivers, lakes, and parks make these towns a major draw for fishing, boating and hiking.


Best known for whitewater rafting on the Deschutes, Maupin also offers Oregon Scenic Bikeway cycling, waterfall hiking, game and upland bird hunting, and fishing for our famous redsides.

Prineville Chamber of Commerce
Madras Chamber of Commerce
Maupin Chamber of Commerce


(from the Central Oregon Visitor’s Association)

“When the rugged outdoorsman in each of us calls, River Canyon Country is where you want to be. This remote area of Oregon blends wide open spaces with rugged beauty unlike anything you’ve ever seen.

Winter is prime fishing time on the Lower Deschutes near Maupin. The river is open year-round for hatchery steelhead and trout fishing, and come winter there are fewer people around, allowing you to commune with nature in a tranquil setting. Grab a license online from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, and make sure to check the weather forecast — it can get chilly here. The area has two fly shops, the Deschutes Angler (open year round) and the Deschutes Canyon Fly Shop (closed in winter). Stay at the Imperial River Company or River Run Lodge for some local flavor and rustic charm. The Oasis Cabin Resort is another great option, offering cabins built and used to house railroad crews in the early 1900s during the state’s Railroad Wars.

On the Warm Springs Indian Reservation, you’ll find two powwows in January and February that will give you a cultural experience unlike any other. Another wonderful event nearby is the annual Eagle Watch, which takes place at Round Butte Overlook Park. The park provides incredible views of the Deschutes River Canyon, and that’s just the start — at Eagle Watch, experts point out golden and bald eagles, as well as horned owls.

You’ll get another dose of culture at the Museum at Warm Springs, which features a wide variety of Native American artifacts and beautiful exhibits.

Year round, you’re able to get up close and personal with more than two dozen vintage and historic planes at the Erickson Aircraft Collection, a museum on the north end of Madras. Madras, while small, is a unique and diverse community with a number of delicious Mexican restaurants — try Rio for a twist on the traditional fare.

In Prineville, snow dusts the picturesque Western town and makes for a perfect home base for a few winter adventures. The small city’s pretty downtown has a number of fun stores and restaurants, but make sure not to miss Barney Prine’s Steakhouse & Saloon, a dinner spot that feels old school with its nightly prime rib and big wedge salads. Prineville continues to develop its brewery scene, with Ochoco Brewing and Crooked River Brewing, which has great pizzas.

Prineville is very close to miles of national forests and grasslands, and an easy way to get outside in the winter is by hitting up the sledding slopes and trails at Mark’s Creek and Walton Lake sno-parks. Walton Lake has a network of cross-country ski trails, snowmobile trails and a small warming hut, while Mark’s Creek has a steep grade and elevation, allowing for excellent sledding. There’s also a communal fire ring near the base of the sledding hill.

Or stop in at Bowman Museum, devoted to Crook County history and filled with artifacts of the pioneers who settled here.”

Thanks to COVA for the great itinerary idea. Be sure to watch the video that includes some awesome footage of rafting with Imperial River Company!

Imperial River Company, Maupin OR
Lodging and Rafting on the Lower Deschutes River


Best Winter Weekend Getaway from Portland, OR

snow fun on mount hood, oregon

Skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, and inner tubing on Mt. Hood are cherished winter traditions for so many Northwesterners. The beautiful scenery, perfect powder, and proximity to the Portland Metro area make the mountain nearly irresistible to adventure-seekers. But then there’s the traffic. Crawling slowly up Highway 26, inching along with all the other 4-wheel drive vehicles, seems to take forever. And, unless you’re one of the lucky ones who scored a hotel reservation last May, you have to do it all over again after you finish your runs because there are so few (affordable) places to stay the night.

Here’s a pro-tip: you can have your mountain winter getaway weekend and avoid the worst traffic! Maupin is a quaint little town located just on the other side of Mt. Hood, just a 2-hour drive from Portland. In the summer, Maupin is a popular destination for rafters and standup paddle boarders, but in the winter it’s an active-traveler’s paradise and a perfect home base for a weekend of snowy adventures.

Snow-tastic Itinerary Suggestion

Friday afternoon:

Leave work a bit early and drive out to Maupin, taking I84 East to Highway 197. Arrive at the Imperial River Company in time for a delicious dinner at the on-site restaurant and check in to your cozy lodge room.

Saturday morning:

Grab coffee and breakfast at the lodge, which features a free deluxe continental breakfast for guests. Gather your snow gear and venture up the mountain via Highway 216. Play all day at your favorite spots:

Saturday night:

Avoid the slow crawl back to Portland by taking Highway 197 East back to Maupin. Grab a hot toddy at the Imperial Bar and Grill and spend the night cozied in your lodge room. Bring a card game or that book you’ve been wanting to finish, or your laptop to stream a movie.

Sunday morning:

Grab coffee or tea at the lodge and venture up to Tygh Valley for breakfast at the popular Molly B.’s Diner.  From there, it’s a short 7 minute drive to White River Falls State Park. In addition to waterfall gazing, the Maupin Area is a great spot for bird watching and ghost town exploring. On your way back to Portland via I84 West, stop in Hood River for wine tasting, shopping, and lunch at one of the local brew pubs.

Maupin is an adventurers’ paradise, year-round! Come see for yourself how convenient and fun a winter weekend in Central Oregon can be.

Imperial River Company, Maupin OR
Lodging and Rafting on the Lower Deschutes River

Best Birdwatching Spots in North Central Oregon

Northern pygmy owl - birdwatching in Maupin

Birdwatching in the Maupin Area is a popular pastime year-round. Wasco County is home to over 270 different species of birds, according to the Wasco County eBird Hotspot, and 115 different species have been spotted at Maupin City Park – right next door to Imperial River Company! Wasco County Birding Locations Guide is an in-depth resource for birding in and around Maupin. We’ve summarized some of their findings and recommendations below:


Just a two-hour drive from Portland, Maupin is a beautiful and accessible location for novice and expert ornithologists alike. The many shade trees located in and around town provide a welcome habitat for local and migrating birds. Western Scrub-Jay and Eurasian Collared Doves can be found here, and the slopes above the Deschutes River are home to Chukar and sagebrush species.

Another pro tip: “the microclimate created by the river will produce temperatures that are often [milder] than the surrounding area. Wintering warblers and other species can be found in these green seeps.”

White River Wildlife Area

Located off of Highway 197 in Tygh Valley, this area covers over 30,000 acres in the foothills east of Mt. Hood National Forest. Here you may spot Tricolored Blackbirds, Nashville and MacGillivray’s Warblers, Wild Turkey, and a variety of woodpeckers. Northern Pygmy Owl, Barred Owl, and Great Horned Owl have also been seen in this region. If you’re exploring the White River area during the winter, note that some access roads may be closed. Consult the Birding Locations Guide for detailed directions and road information.

Sherar’s Bridge

The area around this bridge at the iconic Sherar’s Falls is another great location for spotting a variety of fine feathered friends. Canyon-dwelling birds such as Rock Wrens, Chukar, Yellow Warbler, Lazuli Bunting can be seen (and heard!) around this historic Native American fishing area.

Other popular locations for birdwatching include Oak Springs Fish Hatchery Road, Wapinita, Pine Hollow Reservoir, and Tygh Valley.

Add birdwatching to your list of Central Oregon activities this year. We’ll see you out there!

Learn more:
East Cascades Audubon Society
Central Oregon Birders On-Line
Central Oregon Bird Checklist


Imperial River Company, Maupin OR
Lodging and Rafting on the Lower Deschutes River


What is a Steelhead?

steelhead fish

Steelhead are famous worldwide for line-peeling runs and putting up spectacular, acrobatic fights. This famous fish with an identity crisis is described as, “elusive, challenging and the ultimate game fish”.

What is a Steelhead?

In some ways, the steelhead is a trout that acts like a salmon. Typical trout remain in freshwater all their lives. Steelhead however migrate to the ocean as juvenile fish and return to fresh water as adults to spawn.  Because steelhead undertake large ocean migrations, behaviorally they are more similar to salmon than they are trout. Unlike salmon however, steelhead do not die after spawning and may even repeat the cycle multiple times.


Steelhead migrate to the ocean between ages one to two and return to fresh water between one to three years later to spawn. While in the ocean, steelhead are silver in color and usually grow much larger than their freshwater siblings. Once back in fresh water, they generally change color to reveal dark olive tones with silvery-white undersides,  speckled bodies and a pink to red stripe running along their sides. These fish have orange flesh like Salmon, but the flavor is described as milder like a cross between salmon and trout.  The flesh has medium flakes and a tender texture.

Where to Fish

There are two main runs of steelhead in Oregon, known as “summer” and “winter” runs. The type of steelhead run is determined by the season the fish enter freshwater. Both winter and summer run fish spawn in the spring, but they each enter the river at different times and at different stages of reproductive maturity.

These sea-going Rainbow Trout inhabit various rivers along the Pacific Coast from Alaska to California, and from Japan to the Kamchatkan Peninsula.

The Deschutes is home to “summer run” steelhead and is listed as one of Oregon’s best steelhead fishing rivers. You can fish for them in the Deschutes during June through November.

In addition to a fishing license, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife explains that steelhead anglers need to purchase a Combined Angling Tag (steelhead, salmon, sturgeon and Pacific halibut) as well.

Ready to go fishing? Check out all of our fishing resources below and we hope to see you soon!

Winter Fishing on the Lower Deschutes River, Oregon

Imperial River Company, Maupin OR
Lodging and Rafting on the Lower Deschutes River

Cycling in Sunny Central Oregon

Best Cycling in Oregon

Best cycling in Oregon? Oregon’s Scenic Bikeways have the answer. Best of all, here at the Imperial River Company in Maupin Oregon we have the Sherar’s Falls scenic bikeway right in our back yard!

Oregon Scenic Bikeways

We’re lucky to live in the first state in the nation to designate official Scenic Bikeways. It is the first and only program of its kind in the United States. Since 2009, Oregon Parks and Recreation Department has designated 17 Scenic Bikeways throughout Oregon, covering 1,253 miles. Scenic Bikeways are nominated by local communities and designated based on scenic quality, road conditions and general riding enjoyment.

Cycling in Maupin

As rain begins to befall Portland, Oregon and the rest of the Pacific Northwest, Fall in Maupin is the perfect time to take advantage of our cooler, but still sunny weather. Maupin is tucked into the protective rain shadow of the Cascades, where we enjoy 300 days of sunshine a year and less than 6 inches of annual rainfall. Cycling is a great way to enjoy the beauty of the Deschutes River without feeling its icy splash in a raft!

Sherar’s Falls Scenic Bikeway

Sherar’s Falls Scenic Bikeway is a 33-mile paved road loop in north central Oregon that begins and ends in Maupin. The ride shows off the best of the high desert, with views of the raging Deschutes River, towering Mt. Hood, and seemingly endless plateaus of wheat fields and natural high desert terrain. Keep an eye out for mule deer, pheasant, and big horn sheep.

First, the route starts at the peaceful City Park in Maupin. Next, you’ll climb up through town and onto the high plateau between the Deschutes and White rivers. As you ride up, you’ll be rewarded with glimpses of the Deschutes rolling below. Here you’ll gain about 1,000 feet of elevation then swoop down into Tygh Valley surrounded by staggering rock formations. Below are some highlights you’ll encounter along the way.

White River Falls

Once you cross Highway 197, enjoy the relaxing rolling hills and take a break at White River Falls State Park.  Here, the White River plunges 90 feet over a basalt shelf. The park offers excellent viewpoints of the White River falls. A rugged quarter-mile trail takes hikers down deep within the canyon. You’ll see the the historic hydroelectric power plant at the base of the raw, churning power of the falls. The power plant supplied electricity to Wasco and Sherman Counties from 1910 until the completion of The Dalles Dam in 1960. Picnic tables and bathrooms make this a perfect stop along the way.

Sherar’s Falls

Next, back on the road from White River falls, you will climb up then plunge 500 feet down below to the Deschutes river bed. You’ll parallel the river for the remainder of the ride, flanked on either side by breath taking rock plateaus as you drift through the valley. Finally you’ll encounter Sherar’s Falls, a sacred fishing ground has been used by the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs for thousands of years.

Whether you’re an avid cyclist, or just looking for a peaceful weekend getaway you should add this ride (or a portion of it) to your fall bucket list. Feeling inspired? Check out our 5 other top Oregon bike rides.

Imperial River Company, Maupin OR
Lodging and Rafting on the Lower Deschutes River
(541) 395-2404