Lower Deschutes River Back Country Byway
Guide

Introduction

If there would ever be such a thing as recreational paradise, then the Lower Deschutes River in Central Oregon would be it. Lower Deschutes River Back Country Byway allows the passerby to take a pause and enjoy thrilling recreational activities such as swimming, hiking, biking, fishing, white water rafting, and much more. The possibilities of enjoying outdoor sports are endless on Lower Deschutes River Back Country Byway.

The Byway runs along the east bank of the Lower Deschutes Wild and Scenic River for 32 miles and allows travelers to get a zoomed-in and up-close view of the steep canyon country and river rapids. The Byway begins from the hamlet of Maupin and unites with the state highway 216 at Sherar’s Falls.

At any point on the Byway, you can stop and admire all that Lower Deschutes has to offer. All along the Lower Deschutes River Back Country Byway are 22 recreational sites and day-use areas which are excellent facilities for camping and picnicking. These sites offer the amenities and facilities that you would need to partake in the many recreational activities available here.

There are four boat launches, seven day-use areas, 140 individual campsites, 21 group campsites, and 10 campgrounds along the river. Deschutes River itself runs through a canyon that offers incredible ecological and cultural diversity as well as various historical features. The river is nationally recognized for its thriving steelhead, salmon, and trout fisheries.

RV Rentals in Lower Deschutes River Back Country Byway

Transportation

Driving

The Lower Deschutes River Back Country Byway is the road that runs alongside the eastern side of the Lower Deschutes Riverbank. It is located about 52 miles from the Deschutes River State Recreation Area.

If approaching from The Dalles, OR, take the highway US 197 to Maupin, OR. Once you get to the downtown area, keep driving down the hill and cross the bridge. Soon enough, you’ll find yourself at the Byway.

This byway is paved for three miles before it turns to gravel. The beginning and the end of the byway is marked by locked gates at either end. High-clearance vehicles are recommended when exploring the Lower Deschutes River Back Country Byway.

Parking

Public Transportation

Campgrounds and parking in Lower Deschutes River Back Country Byway

Campsites in Lower Deschutes River Back Country Byway

First-come first-served

BLM Campgrounds

All along the Lower Deschutes River Back Country Byway, there are plenty of campgrounds to accommodate all campers with different preferences. There are in total ten campgrounds that offer a sum of 140 individual RV and tent campsites, as well as 21 group campsites. These developed campgrounds along the byway are on a first-come, first-served basis.

The majority of these campsites are managed by the Bureau of Land Management. Most BLM campgrounds offer a primitive camping experience. However, there are some that offer more in terms of luxury and comfort.

Macks Canyon Campground

Macks Canyon Recreation Site is a BLM campground located 29 miles north of Maupin, Oregon. Macks Canyon is an archeological site with a rich history that traces back to ancient times. At the end of the access road is a campground with 20 RV and tent campsites.

The maximum RV length at the campground is 24 feet and pets are allowed. The campground provides access to a wide boat launch area. Facilities at the campground include picnic tables, firewood, vault toilets, and garbage disposal.

Jones Canyon Campground

Jones Canyon is another one of the many campgrounds along the National Backcountry Byway managed by the Bureau of Land Management. It’s a quaint and pleasant campground with a total of ten RV and tent sites. Eight of these campsites are individual sites while two are reserved for larger groups. Campground features include fire pits, vault toilets, picnic tables, and garbage disposal.

Sites are well spaced and provide plenty of privacy. All the campsites are grassy and located directly by the river, quite close to the riparian zone, offering fantastic views and a more intimate and secluded camping experience.

Seasonal activities in Lower Deschutes River Back Country Byway

In-Season

Fishing

Fishing is one of the primary recreational activities enjoyed at the Lower Deschutes River by thousands of visitors every year. Fly fishing is especially popular and rewarding too.

The river hosts a healthy population of rainbow trout “redsides”, the notorious summer steelhead, and salmon, among many other species. Anglers from all over the United States visit the byways to enjoy the rewarding and thrilling fishing experience. All the recreations sites on the byway provide fishing docks and shoreline spots. Blue Hole Recreation Site provides an accessible fishing camp.

Whitewater Rafting

Deschutes River has a reputation for being one of the best whitewater rafting spots in Oregon. A Boating pass is a compulsory requirement for rafters and popular rafting spots can be quite crowded during summer months. The influx of visitors for rafting triples in size during the vacation months every year.

Recreation sites along the byway also facilitate the rafters with many amenities such as boat launch areas, life jackets, supplies and more.

Maupin Section Foreman House Historic Site

Located on the Byway is the historic Maupin Section Foreman's House; listed on the National Register. This house was constructed in 1910 by the Des Chutes Railroad Company for there Section Foreman. He would come to relax and sleep at the house after long hours of working under the sun.

Des Chutes Railroad Company was one of the two companies that got involved in the notoriously petty Deschutes Railroad War. The house holds significant historic value and is worth visiting.

Off-Season

Picnicking

There are at least ten day-use areas on the Lower Deschutes River Back Country Byway that allow visitors to enjoy a pleasant picnic along the Deschutes River. The day-use areas provide picnic tables very close to the banks and promise a magical picnicking experience by the river-side.

Nena Day-Use area also provides float boat fishing access whereas the Locked Gate day-use area provides ample parking facilities. Wapinitia day-use area also has vehicle access, picnic tables, toilets, and garbage services for those that enjoy spending time with nature.

Photography

Lower Deschutes River Back Country Byway is an access road that provides a beautiful view of the scenic lower Deschutes River and allows photographers to capture it forever. The river flows through the Deschutes River Canyon which is home to diverse landforms and dense vegetation.

Blue river waters cradled by green vegetation and brown-red cliffs create contrasting colors that make for beautiful pictures and an altogether enchanting experience.

Wildlife

The Deschutes River corridor supports various habitats and ecosystems in its diverse landscape. Wildlife here is diverse and includes many species such as the winter range mule deer, river otter, bighorn sheep, bald eagles, golden eagles, coyotes, peregrine falcon, Lewis’s woodpecker, and California quail, as well as a huge variety of riparian and upland songbird species. This makes it the perfect destination for wildlife and bird lovers alike as they get the chance to witness exotic wildlife species in their natural environments.