Roses are red, violets are blue, James loves the Deschutes River, and you should too.

This article was published on: 02/22/23 8:03 AM

Love was in the air this month as we celebrated Valentine’s Day and it had us thinking about how much we love the Deschutes River.

Do you remember the first time you saw the Deschutes River? I sure do. I was mesmerized by the sight of clear blue water tumbling over volcanic rock, while the ponderosas and Doug firs danced in the wind. I had moved to Bend as a student studying Natural Resources and couldn’t believe my luck that Oregon State had an extension campus tucked away in this beautiful community. I wasted no time upon my arrival, grabbed my fly rod, and headed out searching for hungry trout.

It was the beginning of winter and the forest had just received a gentle dusting of snow. As I stepped out of the car to pull on my waders, the aroma of the forest met my nose with a swift punch. A scent so rich in pine that it seemed like someone had taped an air freshener to my forehead. All wader-ed up and just a few steps from the car, the sounds of moving water reached my ears. Walking over the small berm that separated us, I finally saw the river for the first time. The striking contrast between the color of the water and the surrounding snow-covered rocks was overwhelming. At that moment, I realized there was much more here than just trout. I spent that entire afternoon, and countless others, grounded in the glory of this unique river. I’m a firm believer in the notion of protecting what you love, and I’ve always had a love for water.

While I ultimately left Bend for a short while, having the opportunity to come back and work for the DRC has been a dream come true. Being a part of an organization that works tirelessly to protect not only the Deschutes River, but the entire basin, is something I’m immensely proud of. When I think back on the day I met the river for the first time, I’m humbled to consider how its influence beckoned me further down the path of conservation work and how I can now return that favor by working hard to protect it. Sure, it’s a romantic notion, but it is the month of love.

I hope you will join me in protecting the Deschutes this month, and every month. Learn how you can spread the love by making a donation to support DRC’s mission to restore streamflow and improve water quality.


About the author: James O’Brien joined the DRC in 2022 as a Program Associate. His work primarily consists of water rights transactions and data monitoring and analysis.

Prior to joining the DRC, James spent four years in the U.S. Army and post-discharge earned a BS in Natural Resources Policy & Management from Oregon State University. After working in grassroots campaign and freshwater conservation roles, he returned to school where he earned a Master of Environmental Law & Policy from Vermont Law & Graduate School in 2021.

Most recently, James worked in policy research and analysis for a watershed council in his home state of Michigan. He also just completed a Digital Marketing certificate from Cornell University and is currently pursuing a Communications for Conservation Graduate Certificate through Colorado State University’s Warner College of Natural Resources.

When he’s not working, James loves to spend time outdoors with his wife and their dog. You can find him exploring the beautiful waters of Central Oregon, almost always with a fly rod in hand.