Just returned from an outstanding Memorial Day backpacking adventure to the lower Deschutes River Recreation Area with my dear friend Hawk Eye Marc Harvey.  This Blog entry could be about the bobcat we saw twice, the herd of bighorn sheep, the young woman we met who had just petted a rattlesnake or the caboose along the trail that almost became our spot for the night, but I’m going to focus on the various recreation uses of the Deschutes and how they somehow seem to work out..and maybe end with the rattlesnake story.

The Lower Deschutes River area has many federal and state managers and they share the goal of keeping the Wild & Scenic waterway pristine while still allowing crowds of folks to enjoy the place.  To deal with human waste, governments placed a number of outhouses strategically throughout the canyon.  These sites also became camping spots, so impact was dispersed and scattered.  Interesting that none of the camp locales offered potable water, though at Harris Canyon, a faucet came with a warning not to drink the water.  We packed in a gallon each and boiled river water for tea.

Backpackers were in the minority during the holiday weekend as most folks were day-use bicyclists.  According to one angler, “Fishing was terrible,” so we didn’t see any folks casting from the bank and only one possible fisherman floating in a dory.  There were a half dozen horseback riders, and all of the Trail Courtesy signs urged hikers and bikers to yield to Equines.   Due to the off and on rain, only a few rapid rafters were espied.   We barely came across any litter and despite chilly temperatures, only one illegal campfire had been lit.

Perhaps the Deschutes will be more crowded on July 4, but at this late May time, we might have seen 30 people, despite the drive-in Oregon State Park situated at the mouth of the river being at capacity.

To keep the canyon as a ecological treasure, controlling the introduced exotic vegetation should be a high priority.  Marc and I discovered a great blue heron rookery at Mile Post 11, which might need some seasonal quiet.  Otherwise, recreation and conservation seemed to be dancing well together.

On Saturday night, we stayed under the eaves of an old barn at Harris Canyon.  Just before rolling out our sleeping bags, Marc came across a four-foot long rattlesnake, certainly the largest he and I had ever seen.   The historic barn is situated next to a dilapidated old home still barely standing.  On Sunday, a couple on bicycles showed up and after walking gingerly inside the house, the young woman boasted she had just petted a “sleeping rattlesnake.”  We’re guessing it wasn’t the forty-eight inch creature. ~

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