At times, the Deschutes River floats lazily through Central Oregon like a cool summer breeze—ferrying floaters and paddlers through the likes of Bend and Tumalo with an almost imperceptible current at times.
At other points, the Deschutes River barrels its way through narrow canyons, batters rocks in the riverbed, and churns through frothing pools—creating class-II, class-III, and class-IV rapids that offer some of the best white water rafting in Central Oregon.
Naturally, the activity has become a popular summer pastime around the region, with a number of outfitters running trips out of Bend, Sunriver, and Maupin—usually between May or June and September or October. No matter your experience level, here’s your guide to rafting the Deschutes River throughout Central Oregon—from Sunriver to Maupin and beyond.
Rafting the Deschutes River Near Bend and Sunriver
Visiting Bend, Oregon, is a treat any time of year—but summer means getting on the water. And with roiling rapids just outside of town, that usually means an epic rafting adventure through Big Eddy Thriller on the Deschutes River.
- Where can rafters get on the water around Bend? There may be no more popular whitewater adventure than the Big Eddy Thriller, just south of Bend. The three-mile stretch of Deschutes River passes lava flows and sparse forests while mostly offering calm flatwater conditions. But the thrilling chutes just below Big Eddy (actually the quiet pool above the rapids—not the rapids themselves) offer an exciting, class-III challenge suited to intermediate paddlers.
- What sets the Bend area apart for rafters? Other areas on the Deschutes might offer more rapids, but the Big Eddy Thriller rapids around Bend offer a fine introduction to the activity. Most tours run about three hours, with plenty of heads-up and instruction before hitting the series of rapids, making the trip just as appealing to thrill-seeking paddlers as first-time visitors. The trip is also just a short shuttle trip from Bend and Sunriver, offering easy access from both communities.
- Who should go white water rafting around Bend? The series of four rapids just below Big Eddy are class-III, which makes them suited to intermediate paddlers—but newbies curious about the activity receive plenty of direction and even scout the section of river from shore before taking the plunge.
Rafting Trips in Maupin, Oregon
There are many reasons outdoor enthusiasts visit Maupin, Oregon, time and again, but one stands out: The Deschutes River rapids around town—churning through rugged rimrock canyons—are some of the most thrilling anywhere in Oregon. (Chief among them: Boxcar and Oak Springs rapids are routinely cited as favorites among guides and experienced paddlers.) So here’s the skinny on what keeps paddlers coming back to Maupin.
- Where can rafters get on the water around Maupin? Most outfitters offer a range of trips that traverse up to eight rapids. Some quicker (half-day) tours show off Boxcar and Wapinitia rapids before ending around Maupin, while longer (full-day) outings continue north through Oak Springs, Upper Elevator, Lower Elevator, and even the ominously named Wreck Rapids.
- What sets the Maupin area apart for rafters? Maupin has a little of everything for an exciting experience on the water: fun rapids for groups and novices, boiling pools for more advanced paddlers, numerous take-out points (perfect for when you’re ready to grab lunch), some of Central Oregon’s longest stretches of rapids, and plenty of basalt canyons for epic scenery.
- Who should go white water rafting around Maupin? Rafters of all abilities and experience levels will find something to love about the rapids around Maupin—but the community is a choice destination among experienced paddlers for good reason. Numerous class-III and class-IV rapids dot the river around Maupin, offering some of the biggest whitewater thrills anywhere in Central Oregon.
Local Raft Trip Outfitters and Tours
If you’ve read this far, chances are good you’re ready to hit the water. Fortunately, several outfitters and tour operators offer day trips and overnight rafting outings throughout Central Oregon. (These outfitters also represent the safest way to go rafting; each tour is led by experienced guides, includes life jackets, and uses high-end equipment.) We couldn’t begin to list every last tour operator, but here are a few local favorites to get you started:
Imperial River Co.: Maupin’s Imperial River Co. sets itself apart from other outfitters by not just offering one- and two-day rafting trips on the Deschutes River—but by also running a lodge in town, complete with 25 rooms on the banks of the Deschutes River. On the water, Imperial River Co. trips range from five to 18 miles—with the full-day adventures hitting many of the region’s most infamous rapids. And if you’re staying the night, lodge rooms include jetted tubs, vaulted ceilings, books and board games in the lobby, a fire pit in the courtyard, and more.
River Drifters: The long-running outfitter runs a range of outings out of Maupin, from beginner-friendly, half-day adventures to five-day trips that include several class-III rapids. River Drifters prides itself on hiring friendly, experienced guides and using the best gear possible.
Sun Country Tours: Whether you’re looking for an all-day adventure out of Maupin or thrilling trips closer to Bend and Sunriver, Sun Country Tours offers outings all over Central Oregon. The well-regarded outfitter has been running the region’s waterways since 1978, giving the team a wealth of knowledge and experience that translates to enjoyable trips for paddlers of all experience levels. Sun Country is also the only outfitter to offer trips through Big Eddy Thriller near Bend.
Sage Canyon River Company: Whatever your experience level, Sage Canyon River Company probably offers a rafting trip you’ll remember forever. The outfitter’s river rafting trips center around Warm Springs, Maupin, and Sherars Falls, with day and overnight outings available. The 18-mile float to Sherars Falls, for instance, is especially popular with advanced rafters who enjoy its class-III and class-IV rapids (including the turbulent Boxcar Rapids, as well as Upper and Lower Elevator Rapids).
Explore Nature’s Beauty
From the sagebrush-covered plains of the high desert to the towering pines and majestic mountain peaks, discover the diverse landscape Central Oregon has to offer.