The Deschutes River begins as a small creek trickling south out of Little Lava Lake in the Cascade Mountains and ends some 250 miles north, dropping over 4,500 feet before it empties in to the Columbia River. One of the most distinguished, splendid rivers of the west, the Deschutes River is often referred to as the lifeblood of Central Oregon.
The DRC focuses much of its work on the Deschutes River between its headwaters and Lake Billy Chinook, known as the Upper Deschutes and the Middle Deschutes.
The primary challenges affecting these sections of the river comes from streamflow alterations due to irrigation storage and diversions. These alterations limit habitat and impair water quality in the rivers and streams in this area. Crane Prairie and Wickiup Reservoirs store water for irrigation use during the winter and release water for irrigation use during the summer. These operations lead to depleted winter flows and augmented summer flows upstream of the City of Bend, which, in turn, lead to habitat degradation and water quality problems ranging from excess sediments to high temperatures.
Innovative methods to restore streamflow, such as irrigation season leasing, water rights transfers and water conservation projects, are valuable tools that allow the DRC to improved streamflow and water quality problems in the upper and middle reaches of the Deschutes River.
The Deschutes River from Little Lava Lake to the City of Bend