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Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe
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site home  :: self guided home  :: U.S. river guide  :: Rivers in Oregon  :: Deschutes River Oregon  :: Middle Deschutes Whitewater Kayaking & Canoeing Trip

Middle Deschutes Whitewater Kayaking & Canoeing Trip on the Deschutes River

Jeff running Steelhead falls during the winter at 1,090 cfs
Jesse running Steelhead Falls during the winter at 1,020 cfs Alley's first run down Steelhead Falls winter 2010 at 1,020 cfs Hand Paddling Steelhead Falls On the precipice of Steelhead Falls Steelhead Falls
Steelhead Falls at Winter Flows - 1100 cfs Fall Colors on the Middle Deschutes Rock Wall on Middle Deschutes at Winter Flows - 1100 cfs Class III warmup rapid at Winter Flows - 1000 cfs

View larger map of Middle Deschutes & get directions
Click 'Earth' to fly through the canyon!

Middle Deschutes Video

Rafting Steelhead Falls on Deschutes River
  • Steelhead Falls
  • Middle Deschutes Info
    Use this information at your own risk. See our legal notices.
    Put In:  Lower Bridge
    Take Out:  Lake Billy Chinook
    Difficulty:  Class III , Class IV +
    Gradient:  39 ft/mi
    Run Length:  14.2 miles
    Current Streamflow:  1100 cfs @ 12/14/2016 10:00 AM - DESCHUTES RIVER NEAR CULVER, OR, reading taken from USGS
    Flow Information (phone):  503-388-6669. Deschutes below Bend.
    Good Level:  900 - 2,000 cfs
    Streamflow Comments: 

    The Deschutes between Bend and Lake Billy Chinook only runs from mid-October to mid-April. During the summer almost all the water in the river is diverted into canals.

    Season Comments:  January, February, March, April, October, November, December
    Primary Season: 

    Steelhead Falls can be run at summer flows. You can hike the 1/4 mile in, run the falls, and hike back out. However, the rest of the run is too low at summer flows.

    Permit:  None required.
    Character/Similar To:  Technical, steep, pool-drop in a desert gorge.
    Hazards:  Deep canyon with little or no way out.
    Water Craft:  kayak,wwcan,raft
    Land Ownership:  Mixed public and private.
    Wilderness:  Partial
    Camping on River:  Yes on public property. This is a fairly remote canyon with very little private property. The canyon walls are steep but there are some flat benches that are good for small campsites.
    Location:  In the Pacific Region (OR), 145 miles Southeast of Salem
    Shuttle Logistics: 

    Put In: Take US Highway 97 to the town of Terrebonne about 15 miles north of Redmond and 17 miles south of Madras. Turn west onto Lower Bridge Market Road just north of Terrebonne (look for the Crooked River Ranch sign). Continue for about six miles to the river and put in at Lower Bridge.

    For a shorter run, you can put in at Steelhead Falls. From Lower Bridge Way turn right onto 43rd Street. At the end of 43rd Street turn left onto Chinook Drive. Take a left onto Badger Road, this street will be marked with a sign to Steelhead Falls. At the end of Badger Road turn right onto Quail Road. Turn left onto SW River Road and then follow the signs to the Steelhead Falls Parking Area.

    Take Out: The take out is on the Deschutes part of Lake Billy Chinook. When setting shuttle, make sure you go past the parking area for the Crooked River.

    From the north proceed south on Hwy 97 past the town of Madras. Turn west on Iris Lane and proceed to Culver Highway and the town of Culver. 

    From the south, proceed north on Hwy 97 from the town of Redmond and turn west on Culver Highway toward Cove Palisades State Park & the town of Culver. Continue on to the town of Culver. Turn left on C street. When it T's on Feather Drive turn right. Turn left on Fisch Lane and when it bends 90 degrees to the right it changes to Frazier Drive. Continue on Frazier and turn left on Peck Road. Soon it will change names to Jordan Road. Stay on this road and proceed past Cove Palisades Marina, cross over the Crooked River and continue until you see the bridge over the Deschutes River and park at the turn out on the right. 

    Middle Deschutes on the Deschutes River

    Mile 1.5(Big Falls): For the First 1.5 Miles the river consists of class III read and run until you reach an obvious horizon line. This horizon line is an unrunnable 18 foot waterfall called Big Falls. This waterfall can be portaged on either side of the river.

    Mile 4(Steelhead Falls): After a few more miles of class III the river presents its next big horizon line, Steelhead Falls. This waterfall can be portaged and scouted on either side of the river. The 18 foot falls can be run at all levels. Run this drop on the left side of the horseshoe and land with slight left angle. For 2 miles below this waterfall the river flattens out and offers great scenery.

    Mile 6: As the canyon walls grow, the gradient of the river begins to steepen. For the next 2 miles the river offers class III – IV boulder gardens that are easily boat scouted. Scouting is possible from either side with minimal hiking. One of the larger rapids in this section is called Leslie’s Bailout. This is a long class IV boulder garden with one strong left to right ferry at the entrance. After the first move the rapid can be run center or far right. If ran right be cautious for wood and catch lots of eddies. Below Leslie’s Bailout is one of the steepest drops in the canyon. At the end of a long pool you will find a obvious horizon line. Enter this rapid anywhere just make sure to avoid the two holes on river left.

    Mile 8(Squaw Creek Rapid): This rapid is obvious because of the large river canyon that meets the Deschutes on river left. When Squaw Creek is low the rapid is a long boulder garden with lots of eddies for boat scouting. If Squaw Creek is high the rapid turns in to a fast wave train with two holes at the bottom that can be avoided by going to either side of the river. Below this there are several more class IV drops that can be easily boat scouted.

    Mile 8.5(Squaw Creek Holes): There are two ways to spot the next large ledge drop. First, the rapid above ends in a fun seam that can mystery move a large creek boat. The other is a very obvious narrowing of the river and a large horizon line. This drop can be scouted and portaged on river left. The main ledge can be run on either side. If running left, boof into a small eddy just behind the drop. If running right, plug the green water. The ledge creates a strong hydraulic that gets worse at higher flows. Immediately below the ledge is the second hole that should be avoided on either side. Running left and boofing into the eddy is a great place to watch carnage.

    Mile 12.5: Below the Squaw Creek Holes there is a number of class III-IV drops followed by short pools. The next sizeable rapid is marked by a river wide log high enough to paddle underneath. Paddle under the log left of the small rock to find a fun boof rock that, if hit right, will send you flying into the last rapid. For the next half mile the gradient quickly flattens out and the river is dumped into the lake.

    Mile 14.2(Take out): The flat water in Lake Billy Chinook presents some of the best scenery on the run. Tall canyon walls and occasional sightings of bald eagles make the long paddle out worth the entire run. Take out is on river right just under the bridge.

    Last Edited by josho on 4/26/2011

    Towns near Middle Deschutes Kayaking

    Bend Oregon
    Camp Sherman Oregon
    Hood River Oregon
    Madras Oregon
    Maupin Oregon
    Prineville Oregon
    Redmond Oregon
    Sisters Oregon
    Sunriver Oregon

    Other Resources

    Conservation Organizations
  • Bend Paddle Trail Alliance
  • Rogue Riverkeeper
  • Water Watch
  • Newspapers
  • Bend Bulletin
  • Pacific Coast Kayak Clubs
  • Lower Columbia Canoe Club
  • Oregon Kayak and Canoe Club
  • Oregon Whitewater Association
  • POCO - Paddlers Of Central Oregon
  • Willamette Kayak and Canoe Club
  • Travel Guides
  • Oregon Vacation & Travel Planner