The Riverhouse run on the Upper Deschutes

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The Riverhouse run on the Upper Deschutes may surprise you the first time down. When I first ran this section I had never boated any part of the Deschutes and I was thinking 'big river'. I had seen photos of boaters on the main (lower) sections of the Deschutes and I thought this would be similar in size and character.

Instead, we found that the Deschutes below Bend is small and narrow with a creeky feel. The rapids are fast and eddies can be tricky to catch in a few places if you aren't used to maneuvering in tight spots. This run begins just below a dam in downtown Bend, so the flows are pretty reliable once they start releasing in the Fall.
(The photos on this report were taken at 750 cfs on the internet Deschutes below Bend gauge).

Like the Canyon section below this run, the Riverhouse run is dewatered much of the year so the brush grows thick along the bank. This makes swimming an unpleasant experience! The one time we had a swimmer on this run I had a very difficult time corralling their boat as it became entangled in the brushy bank. When I was finally able to wedge it into the brush, I couldn't reach it from shore. Finally I got frustrated and dove headlong into the water and bashed my way through the brush to get the boat!

The other significant concern on this run is the geology. The lava rock that forms the riverbed is very jagged and poses a significant hazard to swimmers. There are also some severely undercut boulders and at least one boulder sieve that is quite dangerous at higher flows. That said, this run is probably not suitable for those not totally comfortable on class IV. On the other hand, experienced class IV boaters will find this run to be fun, interesting, and worth doing.

Speaking of the dam above the regular put-in, adventurous paddlers can run this drop if they want to spice up their trip. The dam is pretty easy to find, just hike upstream about 200 yards on a trail through the woods and put in at the lip. The dam drops about 25 feet and has is usually run left of center because the right side is shallow. It is also very easy to hike back up and do laps.. paddlers will find that running the dam is likely to be the highlight of their trip down the Riverhouse section; I know I felt that way at the last time I ran this stretch.

Yee Haw! Dropping the dam above the Riverhouse put-in is lots of fun!

Steve Stuckmeyer cruises downstream below the regular put-in above the Riverhouse bridge.

The put-in is located inside the city limits of Bend, which feels odd given the river's character. (This section gets it's name from the Hotel located just across the river from the put-in). Immediately below the put in the river is off in a rush, starting off with an engaging series of class II-III wave trains and boulder gardens. This section is quite enjoyable and provides a nice warm-up for the harder stuff downstream. The first rapid of consequence is 'The Wright Stuff' (This rapid is named after the paddler who owns the property adjacent to the drop).

This is usually what usually happens when you reach 'The Wright Stuff':

You arrive above the drop and decide to scout because there are people in the group who have never done the run before. You get out on river right and begin walking down along the river. Immediately the Wright's dogs go beserko, at which point either Rick or his daughter (both boaters) will come out to watch. I have met both Rick and his daughter and they are very nice people; we should count ourselves lucky that we have such friendly property owners near this rapid. (I can think of other rivers where I wish the owners were as accomodating!) The main concern with this drop damaging your boat (or body, for that matter) on the wickedly sharp bedrock that makes up the main part of the ledge.

Pete Giordano cruises 'The Wright Stuff'. Note the jagged, evil-looking rocks forming the main part of the rapid.

Immediately downstream from 'Wright' is 'The Flumes of Doom', a rather inappropriately named drop that we usually scout for wood. Here the river divides around an island, with most of the flow going left. The left side route involves a fun slalom with a nice boof at the bottom past a small boulder jumble. Paddlers who get into trouble here should be aware that there is a boulder sieve about a hundred yards downstream on river right; if you end up in the water here be sure to swim hard for the left side of the channel!
This rapid (and the boulder sieve downstream) becomes significantly more consequential at higher flows.

Tom Powers bounces through 'The Flumes of Doom'.

Just below 'The Flumes' the flow converges below the island and the river bends slightly to the left. On the outside of this corner is a boulder sieve that acts like a big catcher's mitt for floating debris. This hazard is very easy to avoid if you are in your boat, but a disoriented swimmer could blunder into it, especially at higher flows. Once again, if you swim in the rapid above be sure to stay on the left side of the channel below the island and you will be OK.

Pete cruises past the sieve below Flumes of Doom. Note the tire stuffed halfway into the 'Nasty Bit' along with a bunch of wood. The water is sluicing through this mess out the other side, which I have labeled 'outlet'. Once again, at regular flows this hazard is very easy to avoid, but at higher flows swimmers could get into trouble here.

Downstream are a few more small drops and then a river-wide tree (as of winter 2001, it was cut out in the fall of 2003) that can be boofed on the right. Below this tree the river bends back to the right and you reach 'T-Rex', the next significant rapid. T-Rex is about fifty yards long and has a nice boof move about halfway down.

Pete Giordano hits the boof halfway through T-Rex.

Below T-Rex are some smaller, easier drops and the river settles down for awhile. Eventually the pace picks up again as you reach the last sizable rapid, known as 'The Ogre'. This rapid has a long runout after you submarine through the hole at the top, so stay on your toes!

Tom Powers plows through the top part of The Ogre.

Below The Ogre the rapids fizzle out and you have a mellow class II float all the way to the take out at Tumolo Park.