Springtime on the Deschutes - Natural History Chronicle


    The Deschutes River in Central Oregon is a lifeline for all creatures living in this Great Basin High Desert ecosystem. The Great Basin is the northern most desert region of the four major desert types in North America (Chihuahuan, Sonoran, Mojave, Great Basin).

   This past week I was lucky enough to once again descend a 96 mile section of this river from Mecca Flat to the river's outlet into the Columbia. The waterway contributes to the Columbia along with the Snake, Salmon, Willamette, and Yakima (named for the indigenous Yakama people).
Yakima River Map

   Every time I spend time on this river I am surprised at the diversity of life along the banks to the top of the Canyon. Unlike rivers in the northwest protected under the Wilderness Protection Act of 1964, the Deschutes has a distinct human element. There is an active train route, cabins, small homes, and farms that surround the banks. The left side of the river is mostly made up of the Warm Springs Indian Reservation. The Confederated Tribes of Wascoes (later Warm Spring), Walla Walla, and Paiute (southeastern Oregon) Native people. Each tribe brought together had their own language, culture and food sources. It is hard to imagine being forced into a land holding with other groups of people who have distinctly different language and culture than one's own. This was the case for many reservations in our country. Can you imagine having your culture placed on a piece of land way smaller than the land you once roamed? Not only placed on the land, but also forced to live with another culture of people.

"Language is a solemn thing, it grows out of life, out of its agonies, and its ecstasies, its wants and its weariness. Every language is a temple in which the soul of those who speak it is enshrined."      Oliver Wendell Holmes 

  The Wascoes have made this river home for a very long time. Surviving largely on the river's abundant fisheries, local roots and berries. These days the Salmon do not return to the river like they once did due to Columbia River Dams that obstruct their upstream root. Dams that serve as a means of electricity for Portland and surrounding areas.  'Turn your lights down low.'

Ever wonder why more buildings are not built using passive solar?
Passive Solar Design


Deschutes Species List: April 22-28, 2012

mink, otter, beaver, raccoon, bighorn sheep, mule deer, muskrat, vole, humans, bats (what species?)

red - winged blackbird, yellow-rumped warbler, great horned owls, belted kingfisher, crow, raven, song sparrow, savannah sparrow, western bluebird, European Starling, great blue heron, white egret, california quail, osprey, Bald Eagle, Northern Harrier, red - tailed hawk, Merlin, Peregrine, kestrel,  prairie falcon, mergansers, mallards, buffleheads,  geese, commorant, stellar jay, brewer's blackbird, gulls, chickadee, coots, American Dipper!, turkey vulture, northern flicker, black-billed magpie, Red Breasted Nuthatch, violet-green swallow, barn swallow, tree swallow, spotted towhee, canyon wren, lewis's woodpecker,  Western Meadowlark

Central Oregon Bird Photos

Canadian Goose nesting on Osprey Site, Deschutes River confluence with Warm Springs River

Western Fence Lizard

Western Fence Lizards may reduce the incidence of Lyme Disease in their range!  It has recently been discovered that when infected ticks feed on the blood of these lizards, the Lyme disease spirochetes they carry are destroyed. In areas with Western Fence Lizards, about 5 percent of ticks carry the disease, while in other areas 50 percent of ticks harbor the disease.
— Reported by the NY Times News Service, April 19, 1998.

Sceloporus occidentalis, Western Fence Lizard- Smith Rocks State Park

other reptile sightings -- northwest garter snake, common garter snake, western rattlesnake, night snake

No sightings this week. Common fish include, rainbows, cutthroat, whitefish, suckers, steelhead, occasional salmon

Missed a chance at a frog sighting.... newts, salamanders ? etc.

juniper, ponderosa pine, netleaf hackberry, alder, willow, incense cedar, mountain mahogany,
stinging Nettle, hedge nettle, sagebrush, shooting stars, common mullein, thistle, cheatgrass, miner's lettuce, wild rose, himalayan blackberry, rushes, honeysuckle, horsetail, arrowhead balsamroot

Arrowhead Balsamroot Spring Bloom
mayfly, golden stone flies, caddis flies, midges, diversity of spiders, ticks

Thanks for reading!

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