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Rivers, Streams, and Lakes

Middle Deschutes River

Lake Billy Chinook

Lake Billy Chinook (Oregon State Archives)

The Middle Deschutes River stretches from Bend to Lake Billy Chinook in Jefferson County east of the Cascades. The watershed encompasses the land between Sisters and Redmond and includes the major tributaries of Whychus Creek, Willow Creek, and Trout Creek. The Middle Deschutes River is overseen by a number of organizations that have partnered to ensure that the river is well-managed. These groups include the Middle Deschutes Watershed Councils, the Deschutes River Conservancy, the Deschutes River Land Trust, the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, Portland General Electric, and numerous federal and state agencies and private landowners.

The Deschutes River near the town of Bend

The Deschutes River near the town of Bend
(Oregon State Archives)

Several restoration projects and management activities are ongoing in the Middle Deschutes River area. Trout Creek is the subject of steelhead salmon restoration efforts. This species is endangered in much of the Deschutes River system because of man-made changes to its habitat. Stakeholders and watershed council members within the Willow Creek watershed are planning and implementing conservation measures to address reoccurring flooding in the town of Madras and channel and bank erosion. The watershed council plans to undertake a project to connect Willow Creek to its historical floodplain, reducing flooding and bank erosion and restoring natural stream substrates favored by the endemic redband trout.

One major restoration project underway on the Middle Deschutes is the restoration of Whychus Creek, a tributary that begins on the slopes of the Three Sisters volcano and joins the Deschutes near its confluence with Lake Billy Chinook. For decades, diversions of irrigation water from the Deschutes River left the creek too shallow and warm to support fish in some areas, and in other areas completely dry. Many small dams and culverts closed off channels or trapped fish, preventing their migration. Channel straightening, the dumping of riprap, and other changes to the structure and flow of the creek had degraded habitat conditions. In the 1990s, Whychus Creek became the subject of an intense restoration effort involving dozens of individuals and organizations who are currently working together to restore the creek's health and function. For more information, visit An Upstream Battle: Restoring Whychus Creek.


Authored by Caitlin Bell, Staff, Oregon Explorer