mdi-tent Reserve

Deschutes River State Recreation Area

Near The Dalles, Oregon, United States

mdi-tent Reserve

The Deschutes River State Recreation Area is a tree-shaded, overnight oasis for campers and a gateway to the Lower Deschutes Wildlife Area that begins just over a mile south of the park. The Deschutes River converges with the Columbia at this hub for hiking, mountain biking, camping, whitewater rafting and world-class steelhead and trout fishing. 

Spring comes early to the Deschutes, painting the landscape green for a few months and offering a break from rainy weather further west. The first wildflowers emerge from winter's grip in late February.

Heat starts to build by June, with summer temperatures regularly reaching the 100s. Anglers flock to the park in summer and fall; winter marks upland bird hunting season beyond the park boundary.

Park Trails

The park has trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. Six miles of looping trails are reserved for hiking only; don't miss the Ferry Springs Trail that loops toward the canyon rim with views of the surrounding hills and the river. 

Bring your bicycle and enjoy a 26-mile round-trip ride on the Deschutes River Trail along the east bank of the river. The trail is an easy, flat grade, but mountain bikes are recommended due to the dirt and gravel surface. Be prepared with a patch kit in case of a flat tire—it’s a long walk back. Backcountry camping is allowed along the trail.

Bicycles are also welcome on the 2-mile Rock Pile trail that follows the west bank of the river. 

From March 1 through June 30, equestrians can ride on 11 miles of the Deschutes River Trail route. Go to the Park Store to reserve your trip. The trail is open from sunrise to sunset; no overnight camping with horses is allowed.

Wild and Scenic Deschutes River

The Deschutes River begins high in the Cascade Mountains and travels 252 miles north to the Columbia. The last 100 miles of the river's path is known as the Lower Deschutes. This section is designated as a National Wild and Scenic River and an Oregon Scenic Waterway for its outstanding scenery, ecological importance, and recreation value. 

Three whitewater rapids — Washout, Rattlesnake and Moody — test rafters and boaters on the lower 25 miles of the Deschutes. This section of the river also boasts one of Oregon's premier steelhead and trout fisheries. Heritage Landing boat ramp, located across the river from the campground, is a popular jetboater's launch. 

The Lower Deschutes uses a Boater Pass system to protect it from overuse and degradation. Boater Passes are required year-round for day and overnight use for anyone using a watercraft or floating device (including float tubes). Purchase passes online at recreation.gov.

The lower 2 miles of the Deschutes River from below Moody Rapids to Rattlesnake Rapids is a pass-through zone for boaters, meaning boaters are prohibited from stopping. This area is set aside for hike-in and bike-in river access.

Detailed maps of the entire Lower Deschutes River are made available by the Bureau of Land Management. 

The Deschutes River Canyon provides habitat for approximately 300 different species of wildlife, most of which depend on riparian habitats along the river. This provides outstanding opportunities for viewing many species of wildlife including songbirds, waterfowl, mink, heron, mule deer and many reptiles, amphibians and other small and large mammals. Notable species are the bald eagle, peregrine falcon, osprey, Dalles sideboard snail and shortface lanx.

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.

Year-round Camping

Book reservations up to 6 months in advance at oregonstateparks.reserveamerica.com

Note: Campfires are typically prohibited during the summer months.  

A Loop (open year-round; camping is first-come, first-served in the winter)

  • 34 electrical sites with water for RV or tent camping (water shut off in the winter)
  • Flush toilets (seasonal)
  • Hot showers (seasonal)
  • Paved parking pads 

B Loop (closed in winter)

  • 14 primitive RV/tent sites
  • Vault toilets
  • Potable water nearby

G Loop (closed in winter)

  • 4 reservable primitive RV/tent camping areas
  • Group areas accommodate up to five RVs or tents for up to 25 people
  • Vault toilets
  • Potable water nearby

T Loop (closed in winter)

  • 11 primitive sites for tents & small RVs (maximum combined length of 24 feet)
  • Vault toilets
  • Potable water nearby
Effective May 15, 2021
Campfires and uncontrolled open flame are prohibited. Tiki torches, candles, wood campfires, lump charcoal or any other open natural flame/spark emitting devices are prohibited. 

Propane or liquid gas stoves, cooking devices and gas fire rings are permitted. Charcoal is permitted for cooking purposes. Devices must be used in campsites or other irrigated areas. 
Effective Apr 15, 2021
Group campsites are closed. 
mdi-white-balance-sunny Open for day use Year Round
COVID-19 may affect dates
mdi-tent Open for camping Year Round
COVID-19 may affect dates
mdi-cellphone Call for reservations: 800-452-5687
Call for info: 800-551-6949
Call park: 541-739-2322
Current Conditions Directions Feedback

Amenities & Features

Questions

mdi-help-circle-outline General

Do I need a Boater Pass to access the Deschutes or Columbia River?

Yes, a boater pass is required for anyone using a watercraft/floating device to access the Deschutes River or the Columbia River. All passes are per person.

1. Deschutes River Boater Pass: valid above Moody Rapid (from the Pelton Dam down to the I-84 bridge at Heritage Landing). Available for purchase at recreation.gov. If accessing the Deschutes River below Moody Rapid only, just a Moody Island Boater Pass is required.

2. Moody Island Boater Pass: valid downstream from Moody Rapid (between the campground & Heritage Landing) and available for purchase at the self-pay kiosks ($2/per person/per day).

3. Heritage to Columbia Boater Pass: valid only from the Heritage Landing boat ramp to the Columbia River and available for purchase at the self-pay kiosk at Heritage Landing boat ramp. ($1/per person/per day)  Also, a $15 annual pass can be purchased at the park office.

Is the park noisy?

Situated between two major rail lines, the sound of passing trains and their horns is common at Deschutes. For light sleepers, we recommend bringing a set of ear plugs.

mdi-help-circle-outline About Camping

If I am coming into the campground with a motorcycle group, (and no cars) how many motorcycles are allowed per site?

Up to four motorcycles are allowed per site.Two motorcycles are included with the cost of your site. Each additional will be charged an extra vehicle fee.

What do I need to know about backcountry camping in the Lower Deschutes River Corridor?

Backcountry camping is allowed along the Deschutes River Trail. Camping with horses is prohibited. Backcountry campfires are prohibited June 1 - Oct. 15 unless otherwise noted. 

For more information, see the complete list of Rules & Regulations for the Lower Deschutes River (PDF).

 

mdi-help-circle-outline What's Allowed

Are horses allowed on park trails?

Horses are allowed on the first 11 miles of the Deschutes River Trail. Reservations are required March 1-June 30. Horse Permits are available through the Oregon State Parks online store: store.oregonstateparks.org/ under "Tours/Events," and there is a reservation fee of $8 per horse. The trail is 22 miles roundtrip and open for use during daylight hours only. Overnight camping with horses is not permitted along the trail or at Deschutes State Park campground.

Is it okay to play loud music?

Yes, at a volume that cannot be heard in neighboring campsites. Between 10pm and 7am (quiet hours) no music is allowed.

Are jet boats and motorboats allowed?

Motorized watercraft are not allowed from Heritage Landing upstream to Macks Canyon on alternate weekends beginning the first Thursday through Sunday on/after June 15 and ending September 30.  Check the Oregon State Marine Board motorboat schedule for dates.

What are the fishing regulations?

Please only fish from the riverbank, and remember to observe the strict no-bait requirement and carefully follow all fishing regulations

What are the campfire/smoking restrictions?

Fires are allowed in campground fire rings unless temporary fire restrictions are in place. Please follow posted fire restrictions. Smoking is allowed in vehicles, in a boat on the water, or while standing in the water. 

Backcountry fires

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 (unless otherwise noted).

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.

See the complete list of Rules & Regulations for the Lower Deschutes River (PDF).

mdi-help-circle-outline Day use/Special Events

Do I need a permit for a wedding, picnic, baptism, family reunion, etc.?

Yes- If you have over 50 people, want to use a public address system, selling of goods or services, event requiring structures, will limit public access, commercial filming, and anything that requires park staff to be present.The above list does not cover all the activities that would require a permit. The permit is called a special use permit and should be completed 30 days before arrival.

For more questions, review our statewide FAQ

History

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. 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.

Exploration and fur trapping began in the Deschutes Canyon in the early 19th century. Other historic activities that have been documented include use of the Oregon Trail, road and railroad construction and settlement. 

The state acquired the park land between 1963 and 1983 by purchase from various owners, transfer by the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, and gifts of land from the Oregon Wildlife Heritage Foundation. The original tract for the area was 30 acres purchased in 1963 from the Columbia-Deschutes Power Company. This tract, with some of the later acquisitions, forms the developed portion of a riverside recreation complex. Adjoining the State Recreation Area is the Deschutes River Scenic Waterway.

The lower Deschutes River from Pelton Dam to the Columbia River, some 104 river miles, was designated an Oregon Scenic Waterway in 1970. The purpose is to protect and enhance scenic, recreational, fish and wildlife values along the river while allowing public use of the river for boating, fishing and riverside camping. The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department manages the waterway in cooperation with Sherman and Wasco counties, U. S. Bureau of Land Management, Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation, Oregon Fish and Wildlife Department, State Marine Board and Oregon State Police.

Brochures and Maps

mdi-file-pdf-box Deschutes River brochure and map

Photos & Video

Some parks are open for day-use and camping, with reduced services. Check the Park Status Map and FAQ for details.