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The Little Deschutes River

A Description of its Course, Tributaries, and Water Management

LDR near sourceSix Horse SpringsThe Little Deschutes River, sometimes called the Little River, runs ninety-two miles from south to north.  It meanders two miles through Vandevert Ranch shortly before it joins the "Big" Deschutes near Sunriver.  The river rises at 6,000 feet of altitude in the Mt. Thielsen Wilderness Area. One of the river's sources, pictured at left, is Six Horse Springs. A trail leads down to the springs from the Pacific Crest Trail.  The river descends steeply down through the forest between Cappy Mountain and Clover Butte. (See photo to the right.) The first twelve miles, down to Hemlock Creek, are federally designated Wild and Scenic River. 








The Little Deschutes continues running to the east, below the south side of Burn Butte.  The picture to the left shows the river about 3 miles below its source, soon after Burn Creek and Clover Creek flow into it.  The water temperature was a chilly 52 degrees Fahrenheit on August 1, 2007.  (All temperatures are as of August 1, 2007 unless otherwise noted.)  A grassy meadow, broken by lodgepole pines, stretches to the north of the river here, toward the crags of Burn Butte (photo to right).  









As the river turns to the north, it passes a ruined corral, designated as "Cow Camp" in the gazeteer.  Four inch trout were spotted here in 54 degree water.






After turning north, the river is joined by Hemlock Creek (see photo).  The photo was taken from Two Rivers Road where it crosses over the creek.   There were six inch trout visible in the 60 degree water.  Other  nearby tributaries include Swamp Creek and Spruce Creek.

Near Mowich, just south of Oregon State Highway 58, the Little Deschutes passes under the Union Pacific railroad tracks (photo to right).  The famous Amtrak passenger train, the Coast Starlight, passes over the Little Deschutes here on its route between Los Angeles and Seattle. 











From Mowich and its crossing under the railroad and under Highway 58, the river parallels US Highway 97 (the Dalles-California Highway) north to the towns of Crescent and Gilchrist.  The water is captured in a large pond next to the Interfors lumber mill (formerly the Gilchrist lumber mill).  The pond and the dam that holds it back, shown in the photo on the left, are not used to control the flow of the river.  The river flows out at the same rate it flows in.  Note the fish ladder to the left of the spillway. 










Crescent Lake and Crescent Creek

The largest tributary of the Little Deschutes is Crescent Creek, shown in the photo on the right shortly after leaving Crescent Lake (the photo on the left).  The temperature of the creek at the location shown, where the creek crosses the Crescent Lake Highway, is the same as the water in the lake - 66 degrees.  The Crescent Lake Dam plays a critical role in managing the flow of water in the lower Little Deschutes River.








The photo to the right shows Crescent Creek just below where it crosses Highway 58 and runs northeast to join the Little Deschutes north of Gilchrist.  Odell Butte is in the background.  Big Marsh Creek flows into Crescent Creek above Highway 58 and the water in Crescent Creek had risen to 70 degrees where this photo was taken.








The first photo below shows the Little Deschutes less than a hundred yards above its junction with Crescent Creek.  The second photo shows the junction looking downstream with Crescent Creek coming in on the left and a cove that the Little Deschutes flows into on the right.  On September 23, 2008, when these photos were taken, the temperature of both rivers, before they joined, was 43 degrees.







The Little Deschutes in La Pine and Below

LAPO Gauge


Near La Pine a gaging station maintained by the U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Reclamation, the "LAPO" gauge, is on private land and pictured at left.  Data from the gauge can be accessed at http://www.usbr.gov/pn-bin/graphrt.pl?lapo_q.  On August 1, 2007 the river was flowing at 111.87 cubic feet per second here and its average temperature was 70.01 degrees.







Vandevert Ranch (See the photo on the left.) is the next to last property the river passes through before it joins Deschutes River.  On the morning of August 3, 2007, the water temperature from one end of the ranch to the other was a consistent 64 degrees.  Below Vandevert, the river runs through the Crosswater golf course (photo to right), where some of the more challenging shots require players to hit over the river. 

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