Deschutes River Lower Bridge to Lake Billy Chinook

Terrebonne, Oregon

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This extraordinary run has been overlooked because of its short season, inaccessible gorge, and long paddle out. Magnificent canyon scenery, bountiful wildlife, and challenging whitewater await those who do attempt it. The river is essentially class 3 for the first 4 miles as it winds through brushy shallows and braided channels. However, at mile 1.5 an obvious horizon line marks Big Falls,an unrunnable 18-foot drop. It may be portaged either side. At mile 4 is Steelhead Falls, a riverwide 15-foot waterfall. Portage on the left or run the falls on the left to avoid a nasty horseshoe-shaped pocket in the middle. The falls is marked by a class 3 entrance rapids, a steepening of the canyon, and a stone wall at the brink of the falls on river right. For 2 miles below Steelhead Falls, the river meanders through class 1 to 2 rapids as the canyon walls steepen. Gradually, the gradient increases and some long class 4 boulder gardens present the first real challenges. After Squaw Creek enters from a huge canyon on river left, the flow increases and class 4 rapids line up in quick succession. Great whitewater and breathtaking scenery combine for the last few miles to Lake Billy Chinook. The final 2 miles are on the lake. Character: inaccessible desert gorge.

Deschutes River: Lower Bridge to Lake Billy Chinook Professional Review and Guide

"This extraordinary run has been overlooked because of its short season, inaccessible gorge, and long paddle out. Magnificent canyon scenery, bountiful wildlife, and challenging whitewater await those who do attempt it. The river is essentially class 3 for the first 4 miles as it winds through brushy shallows and braided channels. However, at mile 1.5 an obvious horizon line marks Big Falls,an unrunnable 18-foot drop. It may be portaged either side. At mile 4 is Steelhead Falls, a riverwide 15-foot waterfall.

Portage on the left or run the falls on the left to avoid a nasty horseshoe-shaped pocket in the middle. The falls is marked by a class 3 entrance rapids, a steepening of the canyon, and a stone wall at the brink of the falls on river right. For 2 miles below Steelhead Falls, the river meanders through class 1 to 2 rapids as the canyon walls steepen. Gradually, the gradient increases and some long class 4 boulder gardens present the first real challenges. After Squaw Creek enters from a huge canyon on river left, the flow increases and class 4 rapids line up in quick succession. Great whitewater and breathtaking scenery combine for the last few miles to Lake Billy Chinook. The final 2 miles are on the lake. Character: inaccessible desert gorge."

Activity Type: Whitewater Kayaking & Canoeing
Nearby City: Terrebonne
Distance: 15
Class: Class IV
Season: Dam-controlled; Flow: 500–1000 cfs
Driving Directions: Directions to Deschutes River: Lower Bridge to Lake Billy Chinook

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May 2018