Whychus-Deschutes Proposed Wilderness
Central Oregon’s Wild River Wilderness
Winding through rugged canyons and stoked by the cool waters of Alder Springs, Whychus Creek is one of Central Oregon’s most important waterways. It provides prime spawning habitat for salmon and steelhead as they return to our watershed and is crucial winter range for mule deer and other wildlife. Whychus Creek and the Middle Deschutes River to the east are also incredibly popular recreation destinations, with thousands of visitors enjoying fishing, hiking and exploring the canyons each year, fueling our recreation and tourism economy. In spite of the importance of Whychus Creek and the Deschutes River to our region, the place where these two waterways come together lacks permanent protection.
Whychus-Deschutes is an area that is treasured by thousands of Central Oregonians. By designating this irreplaceable landscape as Wilderness, Congress can permanently protect the rugged natural beauty, cultural history and opportunities for recreation and solitude that make Whychus-Deschutes unique, securing this natural heritage for future generations.
The Oregon Natural Desert Association (ONDA), concerned citizens of Central Oregon and adjacent landowners seek a permanent federal designation for 18,973 acres of public land currently managed as the Steelhead Falls Wilderness Study Area/Inventoried Roadless Area. Some of the unique values that would be permanently protected include:
Spectacular public lands:
As our population grows, there is more pressure on natural areas that are popular for outdoor recreation. The Bureau of Land Management estimated that in 2012 over 12,000 people visited Steelhead Falls to enjoy this spectacular section of the Middle Deschutes River. Thousands more enjoy fishing, kayaking, hiking, hunting or horseback riding in the Whychus-Deschutes canyons every year. The Whychus-Deschutes area needs a designation that reflects its special status, while also giving federal land managers the tools they need to effectively care for our public lands.
Crucial wildlife habitat:
Our community has invested hundreds of millions of dollars towards the reintroduction of salmon and steelhead in the Upper Deschutes watershed. Protecting this irreplaceable habitat ensures that our investment results in thriving populations of salmon and steelhead in Whychus Creek and the Deschutes River. The Middle Deschutes River also provides habitat for bull trout, a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. Whychus-Deschutes also offers a safe haven for mule deer and is home to hundreds of other sensitive species of animals and plants.
Culture and history:
There are multiple significant cultural sites in the Whychus-Deschutes area, including Native American rock art, cave dwellings, fire pits and shell middens. The permanent protection of this area as wilderness will safeguard these irreplaceable cultural resources for future generations to learn from.