It’s time to discover the wonders of the Lower Deschutes River! Float through steep walls of basalt cliffs to enjoy world-class fishing, exciting whitewater and beautiful scenery on this spectacular river. Every day offers opportunities to experience a diverse community of fish, wildlife, vegetation, and the incredible geologic and cultural history of the region.
The Deschutes River begins high in the Cascade Mountains and travels 252-miles north to the Columbia River. The last 100 miles of the river’s path are known as the Lower Deschutes River, which is designated as both a Federal Wild and Scenic River and an Oregon Scenic Waterway.
The Lower Deschutes has a unique flow that is fairly uniform compared to other similar rivers. The annual fluctuation between flows is small due to the many springs that feed the river in the upper reaches, and the effects of the Pelton Reregulation Dam, which delivers a uniform flow for the last 100 miles.
Whitewater rafting, kayaking, drift and jetboating are all available on the Lower Deschutes River. For thrilling whitewater, the most popular section is the 10 mile day-float from Harpham Flat to Sandy Beach, with rapids rated up to Class III+. Anglers from all over the world are drawn to the river for the abundant trout and steelhead fishing. The river also offers opportunities for overnight boating trips, drive-in camping, hiking, mountain biking and hunting.
The Lower Deschutes uses a Boater Pass system to protect it from excessive human impacts. Boater Passes are required year-round for day and overnight use for anyone using a watercraft or floating device for transport. As part of that protection plan, we also ask you to learn and practice “Leave No Trace” ethics and leave no trace of your visit.
If you plan to camp overnight in a drive-in campground, be sure to arrive early to get a campsite, as no reservations are taken and campsites are available on a first-come, first-served basis.
The Lower Deschutes has a rich cultural history, providing sustenance for thousands of years to the Warm Springs and Wasco people moving seasonally through the area. In the 1800s, due to increasing pressure from settlers, many moved to the lands now known as the Warm Springs Reservation, which borders much of the west side of the Lower Deschutes. Members of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs retain their fishing rights and can be seen dip net fishing the traditional way on platforms over the river just below Sherars Falls.
The elevation drops from 1,393 feet at Pelton Dam to 160 feet at its confluence with the Columbia River. The most significant drops in gradient are Sherars Falls (River Mile 44), with a vertical drop of 15 feet, and Whitehorse Rapids (River Mile 75), with a gradient of approximately 35-40 feet over one mile.
The Lower Deschutes River is managed cooperatively by three agencies: Prineville District Bureau of Land Management; the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs; and Oregon Parks and Recreation Department.
Lower Deschutes River Road Access Warning (1/29-2/29/24) The access road to Mecca launch site is in poor condition. Recommend four wheel drive vehicle if planning to access the Mecca launch, otherwise plan to use Warm Springs launch site as an alternative.
Boater Passes are required year-round for anyone using a watercraft or any other floating device as a means of transport on the Lower Deschutes River. The Lower Deschutes is divided into 5 segments. The Boater Pass is only valid for the segments and dates for which it is issued and for only one group. Each person may be named as group leader or alternate leader on only one Limited Entry Pass at a time.
Access is restricted to a limited number of boaters on:
Segment 1: Friday, Saturday and Sunday, May 15 - September 15
Segment 2: No Limits
Segment 3A & 3B: No Limits
Segment 4: 7 days a week, May 15 - October 15
Learn more about the 5 unique Lower Deschutes River Segments.
Limited Entry Pass Availability
Passes become available in a batch rolling release as follows:
• 26 weeks in advance - 50% of passes released
• 4 weeks in advance - 30% of passes released
• 1 week in advance - 20% of passes released
When purchasing a Boater Pass on this river, I certify and understand that:
Securing your permit also comes with agreement from you and your guests to the following requirements:
Campfire/Smoking Restrictions – due to extreme fire danger
June 1 - October 15: no open fires, charcoal fires or portable propane fires are allowed. Commercially manufactured gas or propane camp stoves and shielded lanterns are allowed. Smoking is allowed in non-public buildings, vehicles, in a boat on the water, or while standing in the water.
October 16 – May 31: fires must be contained in a metal fire pan or similar metal container with sides at least 2 inches high, and is elevated above the ground. All charcoal, ash and unburned contents of a campfire must be carried out. A BLM-provided metal campfire ring may be used in lieu of a fire pan.
Trash/Human Waste Disposal
Pack out all trash. Do not use vault toilets for trash disposal. Overnight boaters must carry and use an approved RV dump station or SCAT machine compatible human waste pack out system. Plastic bag systems are prohibited except for commercially available human waste bags. Used human waste bags must be carried in a sealed, leak-proof container and disposed of according to manufacturer instructions. A human waste system must be set-up and available for use as soon as practical upon arrival at campsite.
Motorized boating is allowed in Segment 3 and 4. Motorized boating is not permitted in Segment 3 from June 15 -September 30 or in Segment 4 on alternate weekends (Thursday - Sunday) from June 15 - September 30. See Segment 4 Motorboat Schedule .
• Private property, including the Warm Springs Reservation except by permit, is closed to public use. No trespassing.
• Camping at boat-in sites is limited to 4 consecutive nights except when camping w/ motorized watercraft.
• When motorized watercraft are allowed, camping in one campsite is limited to 9 consecutive nights from May 15 - October 15. After these limits are reached, ALL camping equipment and personal property must then be removed and cannot be relocated within 1/4 mile of the same site for 14 days.
• Quiet hours are from 10:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. Generators, amplified music and other excessive or loud noise is prohibited within this time frame.
• Camping is not allowed on islands.
Observe all local, state and Federal laws and regulations. See the complete list of the Rules & Regulations for the Lower Deschutes River (PDF).
Additional Passes and Permits
A $6.00 non-refundable reservation fee is required for each Boater Pass purchased.
Each person boating on the river must also pay a Recreation Fee in the amount of $5.00 per person per day.
If you have not printed your boater pass, you may cancel it online without a refund. Cancelled spaces will be returned to the available quota immediately. To cancel your Boater Pass, please go to your current reservations with Recreation.gov and follow the instructions. If you have already printed your boater pass, contact the BLM at 541-416-6700 to cancel.
Once purchased, no changes to the boater pass are possible. Alternate leaders must be listed at the time the Boater Pass is purchased.
3050 NE 3rd Street Prineville OR 97754
PO Box C Warm Springs OR 97761
1645 NE Forbes Road, Suite 112 Bend OR 97701