Running the Little Deschutes River
The beautiful two miles of the Little Deschutes in Vandevert Ranch are bordered by wild flowers, forest, willows, and meadows. The ranch has river access points for Vandevert owners where the river enters and exits the ranch and at the bridge where Hashknife Road crosses the river. These are private landings within the gates of the ranch that are not accessible by the public, though anyone is free to float the river through the ranch as long as they stay in their boat.
Floating the length of the ranch (e.g. on an inflatable raft) takes about two hours. Floating the five miles from the top of the ranch down to the first public access point below the ranch (at Harper Bridge on the big Deschutes River) could take four to five hours. DO NOT START A FLOAT TRIP TO HARPER BRIDGE LATER THAN EARLY AFTERNOON. This warning applies especially to floaters starting at access points above the ranch. THERE IS NO PUBLIC EXIT FROM THE RIVER IN VANDEVERT RANCH OR FROM THE NEXT TWO MILES OF RIVER IN THE CROSSWATER RESORT. Not only does exiting the river in Vandevert Ranch constitute trespassing, no car or truck will be able to enter the locked ranch gates to pick up passengers and boats.
The Deschutes Paddle Trail River Guide (available from Tumalo Creek Kayak and Canoe) is helpful but misleading. It implies river access wherever there is a bridge but this is not the case. At the Montgomery Bridge, where South Century crosses the river about a mile above the ranch, there is no legal access and there is no safe place to unload boats and people from a car. Access from Thousand Trails Campground, near the Montgomery Bridge, is restricted to paying guests of the campground.
The nearest Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife public access point to the Little Deschutes River above the ranch is at Lazy River Bridge, near Pine Grove Road in La Pine, twelve river miles above the ranch (sixteen miles from the mouth of the Little Deschutes where it joins the big Deschutes). There is an unofficial access point at State Recreation Road in La Pine ten river miles above the ranch (and fourteen miles above the big Deschutes confluence). See map.
The nearest access point below Vandevert Ranch is at Harper Bridge where Spring River Road crosses the big Deschutes. This access is three river miles below the ranch.
Floaters especially should note that when the flow in the big Deschutes is high (which happens often) the last two miles of the Little Deschutes have no current. All boaters and floaters have to paddle through all of Crosswater to make any progress.
The summer temperature of the river is about 68 degrees, a little chilly for a prolonged swim but perfect for floating half in and half out of the water on a hot day. Some owners with children float the river almost every afternoon. On a typical summer day the river’s width varies from about fifteen feet to about sixty. Depth varies from two and a half feet to eight feet or more. The river flows three feet per second in the middle of the current. There are no waterfalls or rapids - though a few fallen trees below the Hashknife bridge and a sharp turn by the Homestead (see photo) are best navigated with some quick paddling. In spring high water, when the snow melts, the current can be strong and the river can be dangerous.
For more information see a map of the river on the ranch. For more on river flows, fish, and the environment surrounding the river see the Riparian Section of the ranch Stewardship Plan. Also see a description of the complete course of the Little Deschutes River.