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.
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.
“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