Trip Report: Lower Deschutes River, Mar 2019, ~8000 cfs

Lower Deschutes Spring Break Trip

Submitted by Kimberly Long

On the first weekend of Oregon spring break, OWA members embarked on the 10th Annual Lower Deschutes Spring Break Trip. Most arrived at the Beavertail campground the night before, turning in early to be ready for the day ahead. This year the crew consisted of 20 people, 3 rafts, 8 cat boats, and 2 IKs. Most were regulars to this trip with our trip leader, Scott Ogren, and Brian Albers having floated all or most years since the first trip 10 years ago. There were a handful of new people to the group, including my son, Cooper, and me, Kimberly. This was my first experience in class 3 rapids (aside from commercial paddle trips), my first time on whitewater in an IK (graciously lent to me by a club member), and my first time on this stretch of the Deschutes. Matt McCormick and Sara Schroeder also ran this stretch of river for the first time this weekend as experienced boaters but new to OWA.

On the drive to the river and before we started I was informed of all the places I would swim. I would like to report that I stayed in my kayak with no swimming.  I'd like to credit natural ability and mad paddling skills, but it is probably because the flow was high (>8000 cfs) and while the current was fast and the waves were high and "splashy," the rapids were a bit washed out and probably more forgiving than usual.

On Saturday we floated back to the Beavertail campground under clear sunny skies.  Wreck rapids was a fun and successful beginning to the trip. Given the speed of the river, we made record time, arriving at camp in early afternoon. The kids busted into a pi<U+00F1>ata and probably gorged themselves on candy. The Albers family then made what several people referred back to throughout the weekend as the best OWA trip meal ever, a Hawaiian feast of saut<U+00E9>ed peppers, teriyaki meatballs, rice, and pineapple. People visited around the picnic table and campfire for a bit, but the early arrival led to an early night for most.

Scott was up with the sun, getting our caffeine needs met every morning. On Sunday morning no one slept in long, as the 6am train used his horn to make sure all campers were awake. Bill Goss fed us a healthy breakfast of oatmeal and fruit. We packed up camp, loaded up the boats, and headed out for the "long day," 20ish miles of river to the next campsite again with amazing weather. I gave up my boat to ride passenger for a while to let the teen girls kayak together.  They had a blast and I enjoyed watching the scenery. I hear that is one of the perks of a spring trip, the lushness of the hillsides as compared to summer. I spotted some wildlife (deer and bighorn sheep) and listened to Scott tell me stories about different spots on the river - good campsites and adventures from years past. As we passed into the area hit by last year's fire, he pointed out places that used to be good summer campsites with the trees by the river providing a canopy of shade. Most of the trees now appear to be dead, so shade will be sparse in coming summers. We passed a campground not far from ours and were encouraged by the outhouse standing sturdy in the field. However,  when we arrived at the Harris campsite we discovered no such outhouse standing - groover time! The groover would be in high demand as a Mexican feast was on the menu Sunday night, with me laying out chips, dips, and some quesadillas and  the Ripley's providing us with loaded tortilla soup. The teens explored the train tracks and laid out pennies to find smashed the next morning. We watched sheep traverse the hillside across from us and many sat around the fire into the night.

Monday Matt and Sara fed us warm biscuits and gravy. We set off for a short day with the most fun water. The sky was overcast and it was pretty chilly (especially close to the water and getting drenched in an IK), finally seeing the sun in our last half hour on the river.  I don't recall the names of all of the rapids, but they were all a lot of fun to run.  I had one "oh s*&t" moment as I headed into a wave that towered over me, but quickly came to love wave trains and stayed in the center of them no matter how cold the water was. It's a bit of a shame that the biggest water falls at the end of the trip. I was ready to be done and not ready to stop at the same time.

I hear that this is a "kids trip." But in its 10th year, the kids have gotten older. There were teenagers on this trip, ranging in age from almost 13 to 16.  My son (just shy of 14) was warmly welcomed into the group at camp and as a passenger on Carson's boat for much of the trip. I asked him what he enjoyed most he said the campsites were a lot of fun to explore. I enjoyed watching him take the oars and try out rowing for the first time.

I am so thankful to every member of this trip. River people really are good people. I had some emotional moments on the river, a bit sad that I have not been doing this for the last 19 years I have lived in Oregon. A wise club member told me "Give up hope for a better past and don't regret what you haven't done. But don't continue not to do it." Now that I've had a taste of the river, I have to continue to do it. Hope to see y'all there.

Photo Credit: Dianne Staley Creager