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 Imperial Bar & Grill 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 here.

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

Paddle Boarding on the Deschutes

What’s SUP?

Stand up paddle boarding is an outdoor water sport where a rider stands up on a large board and uses a paddle to propel through the water. If you’ve already read our Intro to Stand Up Paddle Boarding then you know that stand up paddle boarding on rivers is gaining popularity around the globe. We’re also lucky that Maupin, Oregon is a perfect setting for beginners and experts alike to try it out!

Down River Paddle Boarding

With stand up paddle boarding becoming more mainstream, thrill seekers are now taking this outdoor water sport to new levels. SUP is traditionally most common on smooth, calm waters such as lakes and lazy rivers. However, white water paddling, or downriver paddling is quickly becoming its own unique subset of the sport.

SUPing on a river is similar to surfing on the ocean or snowboarding down a mountain, Maupin Chamber of Commerce explains. The lower Deschutes offers water for all experience levels, with class I – III rapids for beginners and adventure-seekers.

Deschutes Downriver Paddle Boarding Races

On Saturday, September 14th 2019 we’ll get to see some of this excitement firsthand at the Deschutes Downriver SUP Races here in Maupin. The race will consist of two whitewater SUP competitions, the Double Trouble and the Rapid Rush.

Double Trouble

Participants will have 2.5 hours to make paddle board runs from the Imperial River Company to Blue Hole. While most of the route consists of ripples and some current, but there will certainly be a thrill when navigating through up to Class II rapids! This route is just over three miles and each person’s fastest two runs will be added to create their overall score.

Rapid Rush

The Rapid Rush is a 8-mile downriver SUP race with rapids that are Class III and below. The race will begin at Harpham Flats and finish at Blue Hole. Both races will be chip-timed for accuracy and are sure to be exhilarating for both participants and viewers!

If you or a friend is interested in participating, check out the event page here for more details! Registration will be available up to 7:00am onsite Saturday the 14th. Be sure to join us after the event for live music in the Imperial riverfront courtyard or book or a room for the weekend to join in the fun.

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

Boating Safety Tips on the Deschutes River

Boating safety is as essential as ever as the summer winds to an end. Now through Labor Day Weekend, more and more rafts hit the Deschutes River to take advantage of the plentiful waters and wildlife. Before you hit the waves in your vessel, be sure to follow our boating safety tips to keep you and your family safe on the water.

Create a Pre-Departure Checklist

When ensuring you have done everything necessary to properly prepare for your trip, it can be difficult to keep everything straight. This leads to items being forgotten or important details overlooked. That’s why it’s a good idea to create a pre-departure checklist for optimal boating safety. First, make sure your list includes everything you need to bring like water, life jackets, and fishing supplies. Secondly, ensure your list details everything you need to check such as fuel and oil levels, safety gear, and the weather. If you take a boating course, which is recommended, you’ll learn how to create the right pre-departure checklist for your boat.

Designate an Assistant Captain

If it’s your boat, you’ll likely be the one driving it, but sometimes you can’t be the person behind the wheel. Just in case something should happen and you can’t take the wheel, it’s a good idea to have at least one more person who can captain the boat for you. Let everyone know who your assistant captain is, so there are no arguments should the event arise where they need to take action for boating safety.

Communicate Your Float Plan

Even if you follow our boating safety precautions, boating is not inherently safe. Because of this, it’s important to let someone know your float plan. This should include contact information for everyone on the trip, your boat’s type and registration info, and your itinerary. Make sure your itinerary shows all the places you’ll hit along the way so people know where to search should you go missing.

Use Required Safety Gear

On many waterways, boating safety gear like lifejackets are required. It’s important that you have one for every person on the trip and that they fit properly. Checking the fit should be part of your pre-departure checklist. As an added note, it’s also important that everyone on board knows how to swim. Although they’ll be wearing life jackets, this is an extremely important life-saving skill to have.

Use Common Sense

Following boating safety precautions like these is a no brainer, but when you’re out on the water, make sure you’re using that brain! Use common sense when navigating busy waterways, keep clear of large vessels, drive at a safe speed, and don’t drink alcoholic beverages.

If you’re operating your own boat, then these boating safety concerns should be addressed right away. If you don’t own your own boat, stop by Imperial River Company for a whitewater rafting trip you’ll never forget. The experienced guides will take you through the safety checklist and will make sure your Oregon rafting trip is exciting yet safe.

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