Deschutes River History-Imperial River Company

You Don’t Know Deschutes

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

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