In the shadow of Black Butte, water flows out of a hole in the ground and turns into a fast-moving river known as the Metolius River. You can take a short walk to the headwaters, located about 14 miles northwest of Sisters, Oregon. Pine forests enclose the two clusters of springs where this 315-square mile drainage basin begins.
Since the water level is relatively constant, it has a couple interesting characteristics. The flow rate at the headwaters is 6,700 cu ft/min and it reaches 81,000 cu ft/min by the time it reaches Lake Billy Chinook, 28.6 miles away. The water temperature is consistently at about 48° F. Brrr!
The river supports a healthy population of fish including rainbow trout, bull trout, kokanee, and mountain whitefish. There is catch-and-release fly-fishing on the upper Metolius. Click here for more info on fishing there. Wizard Falls Fish Hatchery, 10.6 miles from the headwaters, raises rainbow trout, kokanee, and salmon.
There are almost a dozen campgrounds located along the river. We stayed once at the Pioneer Ford Campground in early September and it was nice. There are also several resorts near the small unincorporated town of Camp Sherman.
Trails border the river and branch out into surrounding areas. Hikers, horseback riders, skiers,and snowshoers enjoy the many miles of trails here. Spring wildflowers and fall foliage are particularly beautiful around this river.
There is a wide variety of wildlife that lives in the habitats near the river. River otters and beaver live in and around the river and other mammals such as mule deer, elk, black bear, bobcat, cougars, and squirrels live in the vicinity. Birds such as osprey, grouse, herons, and many songbirds use the area. Look for the small American dipper bird foraging along the river. I went to the Woodpecker Festival here last year. There are about a dozen species of woodpeckers here so this event draws people from near and far. See my post Where’s Woody for more about that.
This National Wild and Scenic River flows through land owned by Deschutes National Forest, Deschutes Land Trust,Warm Springs Indian Reservation, and private owners. Click here to find out about some of the recreational opportunities on Forest Service lands.