April 14, 2011 - Bend Bulletin - Nevermind the Metolius Monster

Apr 18, 2011

April 14, 2011 - Bend Bulletin - Nevermind the Metolius Monster

Nevermind the Metolius Monster

Take in the tranquility of this easy-going spring-fed river


By David Jasper / The Bulletin
Published: April 14. 2011 4:00AM PST

“You know why it's named the Metolius, don't you?” I asked my kids.

“Why?” one of them said.

I love it when they take the bait.

“Because of ... the Metolius Monster!” I said, using my scariest voice, which, granted, is probably a little high-pitched to frighten effectively.

When one of them asked where I got my “not funny” material, I said I made it up, and gave a brief biography for the Metolius Monster: “The Metolius Monster was supposedly destroyed by the wizard of Wizard Falls, but is rumored to fly in on weekends and mess with fishermen.”

Throughout the hike along the beautiful Metolius River on Sunday, I used the fictional beast as an excuse to leap out from behind random ponderosas and incense cedars lining the western edge of the river, which flows north into Lake Billy Chinook.

While we (read: I) could stand accused of disturbing the hushed, tranquil environs of the blissfully easy Metolius River Trail that morning, here's the thing about April: There aren't a lot of people around (yet), which means that you can have your cakewalk and eat it too loudly.

We drove the 45 miles from Bend to Wizard Falls Fish Hatchery with one stop, to see where the Metolius Springs form the river's headwaters. A short, paved path leads you directly to the scenic viewpoint, where the waters gush from the ground. On either side of the path are small signs warning to keep off private property, so you'll want to stay on the pavement.

Like others, I mistakenly believed that the headwaters came from beneath nearby Black Butte, but a sign there explains that geologists actually believe the cold springs originate from the Cascades, to the west.

Either way, it's always a rush to see the water pouring out, seemingly from nowhere, along with the sight of moss-covered rocks and a full-fledged river. The spot also affords a lovely downstream view of the winding river.

Much to the chagrin of the kids and our dog, we climbed back in the van and drove a few miles downstream to the hatchery, named after the colorful blue falls that tumble under the one-lane bridge leading to the hatchery.

The hatchery is open daily from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., and dogs are allowed, albeit on leash. The hatchery raises rainbow and brook trout, along with kokanee, chinook and Atlantic salmon. According to signs at the hatchery, it annually raises 7 million trout, 5 million steelhead and 33 million salmon.

We dug out fistfuls of quarters to buy fish food. Why it's so fun to feed fish is one of those great mysteries, but there's just something satisfying about watching the fish zip to the surface and gulp it down.

According to Deschutes National Forest's website, those who visit the area may spot a “Barrow's goldeneye, hooded merganser, common merganser, osprey, bald eagle, spotted sandpiper, ruffed grouse and Hammond's flycatcher.”

Truth be told, I wouldn't know most of those bird species if they pecked me on the cheek, but there was no mistaking the bald eagle that descended and perched upon a tall snag next to the large settling pond at the facility. I got as close as I could, and took multiple photos of the bird, wishing the dead tree branches obscuring it had a little more respect for our nation's majestic symbol.

From the edge of the pond, it's a short walk to the river trail. We headed north about a mile, taking in the gorgeous views, climbing on logs and passing the occasional cluster of friendly fly fishermen.

“Why do grown-ups always, like, nod or go, ‘How you doin'?'” my daughter Lucy wanted to know.

“Uh, because we're all out enjoying nature?” I guessed.

In the case of my daughters, enjoying nature meant alternately singing “This Land is Your Land” and the irreverent version I taught them, “This Land is My Land.”

On the way home, we drove through Camp Sherman, already starting to bustle with visitors milling about the roads, getting an early start on the season. The Metolius Monster was not seen among them.

David Jasper can be reached at 541-383-0349 or djasper@bendbulletin.com.

Published Daily in Bend Oregon by Western Communications, Inc. © 2010

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