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.




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


Young Desert Horned Lizard

Young Desert Horned Lizard

In the summer these lizards begin foraging for food as soon as their body temperature rises as the heat of the day increases. They feed on slow-moving, ground-dwelling insects. In the fall they hibernate by burying themselves in the sand.

Latin name: Phrysonoma platyrhinos


Central Oregon’s “Backyard Wilderness”

Central Oregon’s “Backyard Wilderness”

Our quest to protect the Oregon Badlands

Located just 15 miles east of Bend, Oregon Badlands is a 30,000-acre wilderness area filled with fascinating lava flows and ancient juniper trees Arriving in the Badlands, so named for its rugged and harsh terrain, can feel like stepping

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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.