Starting at the south end of Page Springs Campground, the Donner und Blitzen River Trail cuts a short but very scenic path into the small gorge carved out by the state's largest river with no outlet.
This short hike is ideal for anglers hoping to catch wild trout, bird watchers who will likely spot osprey and red-winged blackbirds, hikers with kids, and anyone else looking for a glimpse into this designated Wild and Scenic landscape. The Donner und Blitzen River collects runoff from the massive western slope of Steens Mountain and runs north, dissipating into the arid landscape and creating the vast marshes and lakes of the Malhuer National Wildlife Refuge.
As for the river's name, though it may conjure popular associations with the 1823 poem "A Visit from St. Nicholas," Donner und Blitzen actually stems from "dunder und blitzen," German for "thunder and lightning." In 1864, while pursuing the Salmon Indians, Colonel George M. Curry crossed the river with his troops and named the river. In his book Cattle Country of Peter French, Giles French writes:
"It was storming that day and the little river was high and boiling at Rock Ford - the only spot with the bottom solid enough for a ford. With lightning flashing and thunder rolling, the well-read colonel remembered his German lessons and named the river Dunder und Blitzen..."
The name was later simplified by settlers to Donner und Blitzen.