Soak Up Long Summer Days

BLM-Oregon and Washington   Website

For a Perfect Summer Day, Head to a Desert River

With the sun rising before 6 am and twilight extending after 9 pm, summer days leave plenty of space for exploration. In Oregon’s high desert, the best way to enjoy the long daylight hours without exhausting yourself in the summertime heat is to keep a river handy. 

Today, we’re going to share three of our all-time favorite desert rivers for rest and relaxation. All three are gorgeous places where you can pick and choose from numerous activities and campsites. But wait! Before you head out, take a moment to tell Oregon’s senators that these rivers deserve lasting protection. As a river advocate, you’ll feel that much more refreshed when you come back from your river trip.


Cregg Large, member since 2009

Cregg Large, member since 2009

“I came to Oregon 12 years ago from Texas. Texas, for all its size, has very little public land. Coming to Oregon has made me realize the special gift we as Americans have in our public lands. Volunteering with an organization like ONDA is my way of reciprocating for this gift. Through restoration efforts, I feel we are helping leave a better place than we found it. Through advocating for protection for public lands, we safeguard migration routes for animals and keep the land where it belongs: with the public.”




The Oregon Swallowtail butterfly is the official state insect of Oregon and a true native of the Pacific Northwest. The Swallowtail can be seen in the lower sagebrush canyons of the Columbia River and its tributaries, including the Snake River drainage area.  Source: State Symbols USA

Latin name: Papilio oregonius


Sarah Graham, Sage Sustainers Member

Sarah Graham, Sage Sustainers Member

“I contribute to ONDA monthly because it adds up to a larger annual gift than what I’d be able to comfortably afford if I were to do a simple one-time donation annually. I’m able to give more to ONDA this way and have greater impact which is important to me, and my dog Polly.”

Above the John Day River

Sage Brown   Website

John Day River

Home to one of the last remaining wild fish runs in the Pacific Northwest, as well as a diversity of raptors, songbirds and iconic mammals such as elk, bighorn sheep and bobcats, the John Day River is not to be missed. 

Located in Wheeler County, the John Day River winds around the base of Sutton Mountain, Oregon’s newest proposed National Monument, which lies next to the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument and one of the seven wonders of Oregon: the Painted Hills. Stretching 281 undammed miles, the John Day River is one of the longest free-flowing rivers in the country. You can choose from a wide variety of recreational activities along this incredible river, ranging from thrilling whitewater rafting to phenomenal fishing, camping, swimming, birdwatching and hunting. 

In recognition of its incredible nature, the John Day is protected under two noteworthy river preservation systems: the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act and the Oregon Scenic Waterways Act. As a National Wild and Scenic River, a permit is required to float the segment between Service Creek and Tumwater Falls, which can be obtained on recreation.gov. 

Above the Crooked River

Wendy Gorton

Crooked River

Ogle fifty million years of geologic history and enjoy the babbling Wild and Scenic Crooked River, in Crook County, just east of Prineville, Oregon. 

Your first order of business will be choosing a spot at one of the nine different campgrounds along the Crooked River which are easily accessible from the Crooked River Hwy 27. Each of these campgrounds offers similar space and tranquility with campsites tucked in amidst juniper and ponderosa pine trees, just above river banks graced with white alder and red-osier dogwood.

Once your tent is up, you have so many options. A bike ride is one lovely way to enjoy this large basin characterized by colorful layers of basalt, ash and sediments. Or, go for the 2.6-mile (round trip) hike to Chimney Rock to take a closer look at the basalt formations and enjoy expansive views of the Crooked River Canyon and Cascades. If fishing is your activity of choice, you probably already know that the tailwater section from Bowman Dam back downstream towards Prineville to Mile Marker 12 offers some of the best fly fishing for trout in all of Oregon.

Above the Chewaucan River

Corinne Handelman

Chewaucan River

For a respite from the hot summer sun, a short drive west out of Paisley, Oregon, in Lake County, will transport you to a forested oasis.

Numerous campgrounds line the shores of the Chewaucan River where the cold water provides essential habitat for redband trout and numerous other aquatic species. What will your day hold? You could go for a hike, as the 750-mile Oregon Desert Trail crosses the river at Chewaucan Crossing (about 8 miles from Paisley) and from there, hikers can meander 11 miles through draws and canyons to reach the active Morgan Butte fire lookout over 1,000′ above the river. Or, the trail is also part of the long-distance bike route, the Oregon Timber Trail, so mountain bikers can ride to the top and cruise down the shaded single-track trail back to your river-side campspot. Or, a road bike ride along the paved road offers a pleasantly scenic ride, too. Then, again, the ponderosa pines in the campground appear to be perfectly spaced for a hammock and you might want to curl up with a good book. Whether you choose to hike, bike, or read, be sure to pack a swimsuit as the cool waters of the Chewaucan will definitely be calling you to splash around in the midday sun.

For more ideas on visiting Oregon’s high desert and taking part in its care, subscribe to ONDA’s e-newsletter.