Winding waters cut through sunset-hued canyon walls that bind beauty with the promise of adventure in this rugged area that draws visitors from around the globe.
TERREBONNE: Terrebonne means “good earth” in French and this little town twenty-four miles north of Bend lives up to its name. This hamlet is home to one of the great natural wonders of Oregon, Smith Rock State Park. Watch climbers scale the towering spires while you spot golden eagles, prairie falcons and river otters along the hiking trails.
CROOKED RIVER RANCH: Located above the steep basalt canyon walls of the Deschutes River, Crooked River Ranch is best known for its golf, hiking, and fishing. Witness the tumbling waters of Steelhead Falls or fly-fish the Foley Waters section of the Deschutes River.
PRINEVILLE: Blending history and the future, Prineville is home to both Oregon’s oldest public structure and tech industry data centers. Fish the Crooked River or the Prineville and Ochoco reservoirs. Camp, hike and mountain bike in the Ochoco National Forest and Maury Mountains.
WARM SPRINGS: The heart and soul of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, Warm Springs is the site of Indian Head Casino. For a cultural diversion, visit the namesake museum, one of the finest American Indian art museums in the West.
MADRAS – CULVER: These towns are a major hub for the fishing, boating, and hiking inclined. Anglers can wade into the flowing waters of the Deschutes, Metolius and Crooked rivers. Alternatively, spend a weekend on a houseboat at Lake Billy Chinook or RV Camp at The Cove Palisades State Park. Nearby, Lake Simtustus at Pelton Dam offers camping and swimming. Scenic Lower Deschutes River Steeped in American Indian heritage and rugged tradition, the vast open territory along the lower Deschutes River is prime cultural and outdoor adventure land. Hiking on federally managed and conserved land is stellar in the Crooked River National Grassland, where The Peninsula and The Island are standout landmarks.
MAUPIN: Redsides and rafting are the mainstays of Maupin. Redsides are the brilliantly colored, hard-fighting native Deschutes River trout that anglers obsess over. Add to that the whitewater thrills, and this river town is a hive for recreating. In recent years, Maupin has seen the addition of more lodging and dining amenities to make the town part of the draw.
Sample Fall Itinerary:
If it’s that feeling of the Wild West you seek, then fall in River Canyon Country is the place to be. Here in Central Oregon’s more remote areas, you quickly get a sense of life in this remote, rugged, underexplored part of Oregon.
Start your visit with a rafting trip on the Lower Deschutes near Maupin or a fishing trip in Warm Springs. Depending upon the weather, some guided rafting can be done through October. Even if you can’t enjoy a rafting trip, you can get on the Lower Deschutes for some fishing — October, in particular, is the best time for steelhead.
A visit to the Warm Springs Indian Reservation can provide a needed dose of culture amidst your outdoor adventures. The Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs often have cultural events taking place — in November, the tribes host a Veterans Day Parade and Pow Wow.
Or head to the Museum at Warm Springs, tucked away on the west side of Highway 26. It has a remarkable collection of artifacts from Native American life in the region and well-tended and organized exhibits. Grab a fry bread from one of the stands on or near the reservation, and then head south to Madras, a culturally diverse city an hour north of Bend.
The must-see spot in Madras is the Erickson Aircraft Collection, a museum on the north end of town with more than two dozen vintage and historic planes, including a number of war aircraft.
The museum offers a ride and membership program called Soaring with the Warbirds that allows you to go up on a 20-minute ride in a World War II plane.
Finally, swing east to Prineville. This small city has a pretty little downtown — pick up legitimate western wear at Prineville Men’s Wear and an ice cream at the Tastee Treet.
Over the past few years, Prineville has become a mecca for bicyclists, and in the fall it’s a great time to rent a bike at Good Bike Co. and then find some gravel trails or roam the Crooked River Scenic Bikeway, an 18-mile trip along the river that starts in Prineville and ends at Prineville Reservoir. Finish your day with a beer and dinner at Ochoco Brewing Company, which has a full taproom and restaurant and uses many local ingredients.