Five Extreme Sports to Try in Oregon

Want the best outdoor activities near Portland, Oregon? Look no further than these 5 Oregon extreme sports. Surrounded by rivers, mountains, windy gorges and even high desert within just 2 hours of the city, it’s no wonder Oregonians have a reputation of being outdoorsy.

People travel from all over the world to experience the unique geography that makes the Pacific Northwest such a great place for extreme sports. So if you haven’t hit the hotspots below for five of the most extreme and popular sports in Oregon, read on.

1. Windsurfing

If you’ve ever been to Hood River, you’ve probably spotted the colorful sails painting the Columbia River. The Columbia River Gorge is internationally famous for some of the best windsurfing in the world and is even titled “The Windsurfing Capitol of America.”

The choppy waters of the Columbia River are perfect for practicing competitive windsurfing techniques like Speedsurfing, Slalom (racing/regatta), and Big Air (jumping for air time). There are also plenty of windsurfing coaches if you’re a beginner. Kite surfing is another popular activity in the area. These boards with free-floating sails have become almost as popular as windsurfing in recent years. Here are some great tips from Travel Portland if you want to try it out.

(Pro tip: You’ll drive right through Hood River from Portland on the way to the Imperial River Company for rafting in Maupin, so be sure to take a pit stop!)

2. Whitewater Rafting

Although Oregon is most known for the wide waters of the Columbia River, it’s also home to some major tributaries that have a beauty and sport all their own. If you visit Maupin, Oregon, you’ll find the lower section of the Deschutes River and rapids that are perfect for whitewater rafting. From late spring to early fall, people travel to this Central Oregon town to take in the views of the Deschutes River Canyon along with the thrills of the whitewater. Stay at the Imperial River Company for lodging and rafting on the banks of the Deschutes.

3. Stand-Up Paddle Boarding

Paddle boarding is an invigorating way to spend time on water with the added benefits of full body exercise. It’s easiest to do SUPing on lakes, reservoirs, ponds, and calm rivers. There are a few spots on the lower Deschutes, however, where you’ll find more challenging runs and whitewater paddle boarding opportunities. In fact, it will be one of the attractions at Ride Row Run on Saturday, September, 15th in Maupin, Oregon.

4. Rock Climbing

Oregon has a unique assortment of geographical features that are perfect for rock climbing,. Whether you’re looking for snow peaked mountain tops like Mt. Hood or craggy rocks jutting from the high desert like Smith Rock, you’re bound to find a challenging climb in Oregon. Smith Rock is well-known to Oregon climbers, as it hosts 1800 climbing routes and a challenging welded tuff face of 550 feet high. The climbing feature is settled in a river canyon in Smith Rock State Park where visitors will find plenty of space for camping and hiking.

5. Paragliding

Paragliding is another Oregon extreme sport that’s just perfect for Oregon winds. Paragliders don’t use engines, but their flight can actually last hours and go for many miles. They can extend their flight by taking advantage of updrafts that can lift them to heights as great as 1000 feet. This sport is particular popular in the Willamette valley where gliders can launch from high plateaus and sail over the long, wide valley below.

If you’re looking for an extreme water sport experience in Oregon, we invite you to check in to Imperial River Company in Maupin, Oregon. Relax in our lodge, eat dinner on the banks of the Deschutes River, and join us for an exciting whitewater rafting trip.

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

A Brief History of Whitewater Rafting

By Charles Marion Russell - Humanities Texas, Public Domain,

Whitewater rafting has become a very popular water sport in Oregon and across the United States. It didn’t start out as a whitewater raft with professional guides. Instead, it has evolved over time as various cultures and generations have passed down their knowledge and techniques for navigating the whitewater of many a river.

The Fishing Rafts of Northwest Native Americans

Here in the Northwest, rafting has been an important part of the fishing techniques of several Native American tribes. For almost 15,000 years, the Nez Perce and other tribes navigated the many rivers that serve as tributaries to the Columbia River. They did not have flexible rubber rafts. Instead, they used wooden rafts to float down the river in order to get to their  plentiful fishing spots. When Lewis and Clark arrived in the West, it was from these tribes that they learned how to build rafts strong enough to navigate the whitewater of rivers like the Deschutes.

East and West Coast Rafts

Some of the original rafts used in the Northwest and across the US were very simple but effective. The pirogue was a flat-bottom boat that had a few different designs and it was most commonly used in the West. The Bateau was an Eastern-developed raft that was made of a simple frame with planks. Eventually, rafters combined the best qualities of these two boats to create the keelboat. Its most notable difference was that it had a streamlined hull, which was much better for controlling the direction of the raft.

A replica of Lewis and Clark’s pirogue.

The Invention of Rubber Rafts

Once whitewater rafting became commonplace, more rafting expeditions began to emerge. Most rivers, including the Snake River and Platte River, were still too rough for the keelboat design. That’s why in 1843, John Fremont designed the first rubber raft, which was later improved by Peter Halkett in 1844. These flexible boats made it much easier to navigate rough waters, making river expeditions across the US more successful.

The Rise of Whitewater Rafting as a Sport

It wasn’t until a full century later that whitewater rafting evolved into a recreational sport. In 1940, the Salmon River became one of the first to host guided rafting trips through its rapids. The popularity of the spot grew throughout World War II and began to spread to other rivers. In 1972, whitewater rafting became an official sport and made its first appearance at the Munich Olympics. Since then, whitewater rafting has thrived in rivers with great rapids and where communities embraced outdoor adventure.

Today, the Deschutes River is one of the most popular rivers for whitewater rafting in the Northwest. People come from across the country to experience the many outdoor wonders of the Deschutes River Canyon and to challenge themselves with Class III and IV rapids. Imperial River Company in Maupin is a well-known destination for guided rafting trips, where they carry on the proud tradition of navigating thrilling rapids for young and old rafters alike.


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

A Firework-Free 4th of July

Oregon Fourth of July events take on a more relaxing feel here in Maupin. Maupin’s Independence Day is fireworks-free! While this may be disappointing to some, for others it’s a welcome alternative.

The Darker Side of Fireworks

When thinking about Independence Day, you often recall delicious food, family, and fireworks that light up the night sky. However, for some, fireworks can be a source of stress, especially for Veterans and others who suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The loud and sudden noises can sometimes be a trigger. Although not every individual who lives with PTSD may be affected, many Veterans are stepping up to raise awareness of those who might be, the Marine Corps Community service explains.

While planned events like scheduled town fireworks can be prepared-for, unexpected late-night firecrackers and other noises can trigger negative reactions for Veterans such as flashbacks to the battlefield. Fireworks can also be stressful for pets and they interfere with the ability to sleep for people young and old. (Side note: we have some pet-friendly rooms at the Imperial, so bring your fuzzy buddy and enjoy a restful night’s sleep.)

Benefits of a Firework Free Zone 

Maupin’s geographic location prevents the use of fireworks and other fire hazards here during summer months. Our dry and sunny climate is perfect for rafting fun but leads to an increased risk of wildfires. In protecting the town and the surrounding area, our fireworks-free Independence Day serves as a peaceful escape for anyone wanting to skip the explosions and chaos.

Oregon 4th of July Activities from History 

Before fireworks were so easily accessible, Oregonians found other ways to celebrate the day and some may still be applicable. So if you’re looking for things to do on the 4th of July that don’t involve fireworks, here are five ideas drawn from Eastern Oregon celebrations.

  1. Grill-up some burgers

2. Enjoy a parade with your friends

3. Go horseback riding (not many horses here in Maupin- but you can ride one of our rafts instead)

4. If horses aren’t your style maybe a bike or motorcycle ride will do

5. Finally, take a nap and repeat (or just stick with the nap)

Photos from an Eastern Oregon 4th of July in 1941.


Wherever you spend it, we hope you have an amazing 4th of July!


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


Oregon Camping Inspiration: Deschutes Overnight Rafting Trips

It’s camping and whitewater rafting season here in Maupin, Oregon!

So, you’re getting the gang together for a summer adventure. You need an excitement-filled trip they’ll remember that’s not a logistical nightmare. We’ve got you covered.

Combining rafting and camping is like chocolate and peanut butter – they’re just better together! Summertime in Maupin is the perfect time to leave behind the typical day-to-day and reconnect with your friends and/or family along the picturesque Deschutes River. Spend the hot, sunny days alternating between shooting rip-roaring rapids and lazily drifting down placid stretches of our ‘Wild and Scenic’ river. Then spend the evening gazing at a billion twinkling stars as your guide takes care of the logistics.

Here’s what you need to know to prepare for a fun-filled two- or three-day excursion with Imperial River Company:

Show Me the Menu

We do all the shopping, prepping, schlepping, and cooking so you can relax and enjoy your vacation. For dinner, ditch the burnt hot dogs and let us prepare you a rustic 3 course meal while you relax with your favorite people on the river. Feel free to bring your favorite alcoholic beverages to accompany your meal(s).

A typical dinner at the campsite includes an appetizer, steaks, vegetables and a starch, bread, salad and dessert. Breakfast includes an egg-based dish such as breakfast burritos or ham and eggs. For lunch on the river you can look forward to a picnic lunch on the raft of deli sandwiches and a side. We are happy to cater to any dietary restrictions.

Packing, Simplified

On our overnight rafting trips, you can enjoy the fun of camping with your crew without the annoyance of coordinating campsites, packing your own food and lugging around the gear. We supply tents, sleeping bags, blow up mattresses and everything you need for a peaceful night under the stars. All you need to bring is yourself and any personal items you desire. View our packing suggestions for Maupin, Oregon under FAQ here.

Squad Power

We can comfortably accommodate groups from a minimum of 4 folks to as many as 15 members, making it the perfect adventure for family trips, bachelor/bachelorette weekends, company retreats, or anything in between. Rally the squad and prepare for some seriously unprecedented togetherness.

Leave No Trace

We follow the Leave No Trace philosophy when enjoying the pristine Maupin wilderness. It details ways we can protect and enjoy the wonders of camping in Oregon wilderness together, including:

  • Dispose of waste properly
  • Leave what you find
  • Respect wildlife
  • Prevent wildfires: we abide by the no burn law effective during the Summer fire season (June 1 – October 15), but you can still squish together graham crackers, chocolate and marshmallows over a lantern if you’d like.

Our overnight rafting trips are an immersive outdoor getaway free from the stress of coordinating supplies. We recommend coming during the week to enjoy the most peace on the river! In order to maximize guest experiences, Saturday launch is not available for overnight trips from July 1 through Labor Day as campsite reservations are not available.

See all of our rafting trip options here and start planning your trip today, and then call us with any questions and to book your grand adventure. Our guides are waiting to pamper you!



First-Class Floating: Whitewater Rapids Classes 101

Whitewater Rafting on the Lower Deschutes - Imperial River Company

Just like your teacher used to grade your tests in school, whitewater (either an individual rapid, or the entire river) is graded too! Instead of A to F, these grades are divided into six categories from class I (the easiest) to class VI (the most difficult and dangerous).

As the White Water Guidebook explains, the Deschutes River runs hundreds of miles from the mountains near Bend, Oregon to the Columbia River. The river is runnable for its entire length offering rapids from Class I to VI, great fishing, and overnight trip options. The most popular section of the Deschutes is from Harpham Flat to Sandy Beach and runs through the town of Maupin, hence the location of the Imperial River Company! The fun rapids and consistent flow make it a great place to raft on a hot summer day.

Rapids Classes Defined:

Class I

Moving water with a few riffles and small waves – it’s a relaxing way to spend the day.

Class II

Easy rapids, waves up to three feet tall that are readily seen, and wide channels that can be discovered without scouting. Some maneuvering is required during this little rock and roll. Examples during our Deschutes day trip:

    • Mile 34.2: Four Chutes Rapids – wave train down the left, boulder garden on the right.
    • Mile 49.9: Surf City Rapids (II+) – offers paddlers a chance to work on their surfing.
    • Mile 51.1: White River Rapids (II+) – fun waves at the White River confluence.
    • Mile 51.8: Lower Elevator Rapids(II+) – multiple waves for excitement and light splashing.

Class III

Moderate – Waves numerous, high, irregular; rocks; eddies; rapids with passages clear but narrow, requiring experience in maneuvering. Waves up to four feet that send the boat shimmying and water gushing over its sides. Plenty of excitement.

      • Mile 21.1: White Horse Rapid (III+) challenging ½ mile boulder garden, action packed!
      • Mile 33.5: Buckskin Mary Rapids – a swift wave train down the middle.
      • Mile 42.9: Wapanita Rapids – thrilling wave train straight through the center.
      • Mile 44.0: Boxcar Rapids – large waves and a small ledge drop with a hole to the left that is best avoided.

Class IV

Long, difficult rapids, narrow passages, turbulent water that requires precise maneuvering and sends hearts racing.

    • Mile 50.3: Oak Springs Rapids – A big drop with routes down the right or left. It’s an easy scout from the road on river right.

Class V

Extremely Difficult – Exceedingly difficult, long and violent rapids, following each other almost without interruption; riverbed extremely obstructed; big drops; violent currents; very steep gradient. Paddlers should have prior Class IV or better whitewater experience with experienced guides who know the river.

Class VI

Unrunnable! Just like it says – Don’t even think about it! These constitute waterfalls that should not be attempted. Outfitter raft trips don’t go here – there’s too much other water to enjoy without risking it all!

    • Mile 53.8: Sherars Falls, but we exit at Sandy Beach a mile before the falls.
Whitewater Rapids Classes - Deschutes River - Imperial River Co.
Image from

Now that you’re an expert on white water classification, check out this great breakdown of the Deshutes River Rapids from Harpham Flats to Sandy Beach so you know exactly what to expect at each turn.

Our runs range from class I to class III, with the option of a class IV for the more experienced rafters/thrill-seekers. With our experienced guides you get all of excitement with none of the none of the stress. We’ll see you out there!

Booking a rafting adventure here:  

Imperial River Company
Lodging and Rafting on the Lower Deschutes River



You Don’t Know Deschutes

Deschutes River History-Imperial River Company

The Deschutes River is Maupin’s lifeblood, bringing fishing, recreation, jobs, and irrigation to the town and surrounding areas. The river has a long and rich history and many interesting features that make it unique. Check out some fun river facts below and impress your friends at trivia night.

A River by Any Other Name

The Deschutes River may have a bit of an identity complex. The Nez Perce tribe named the river ‘Towarnehiooks’ (translation: ‘enemies’) because a warring tribe, the Paiutes, lived along its banks. Part of the Lewis and Clark expedition recorded the Towarnehiooks name on their first encounter in 1805, then attempted to rename it the Clark River on their return in 1806. That name didn’t last long however, as early 19th century French fur traders dubbed the waterway the catchier ‘Riviere des Chutes’, which means ‘River of the Falls’, later dubbed the Deschutes.

Going with the Flow

The Deschutes River originates at Little Lava Lake in the Deschutes National Forest. Rainfall on the eastern side of the Cascade Range flows north down the Deschutes River to its mouth at the mighty Columbia River.  While most rivers cut their own path, the Deschutes had a much more dramatic and sudden change. It originally flowed around Pilot Butte in Bend from the east. Approximately 188,000 years ago, a lava flow filled in that channel during a period of volcanic activity in the area and the river was diverted into a new channel along the west side where it runs today.

The Other 98%

The high desert plateaus of Eastern Oregon are arid and rainfall averages between 10 and 14 inches per year (the national average is 38 inches per year). The Deschutes River allows cities to grow and enables ranching and agriculture to proliferate in the otherwise inhospitable environment. But desert living comes at a cost: during the summer months, nearly 98% of the river’s volume is diverted to irrigation channels.

As we head in to our summer season, we are thankful for the beautiful river that allows our city to flourish in this stunning landscape. We hope you’ll join us to celebrate life on the Deschutes and to take advantage of the many recreational opportunities in and around Maupin.

Imperial River Company
Lodging and Rafting on the Lower Deschutes River