The Crooked River in Central Oregon is one of the state's trout fishing gems. From Bowman Dam the river flows northward toward Prineville. This section of the river is the easiest to access and the most popular for anglers, as the Crooked River Highway meanders along its banks for 20 miles with ample campgrounds and pull-outs to access the river. Once a spawning ground for Chinook salmon and other species of anadromous fish, the construction of the Bowman and Ochoco dams blocked their passage to the sea, and compromised their habitat. As a result, hatchery grown trout are now the overwhelming demographic, although native redband trout can still be found in the Crooked River.
The history of the Crooked River and Prineville reservoir is not unlike that of every tailwater river system in the American West. At the turn of the 20th century ranchers and homesteaders flocked to the Crooked River Basin, lured by cheap pasture land and somewhat reliable access to water. As the population boomed, so too did the demand for reliable irrigation water. Landowners formed the Ochoco Irrigation District, raised bonds and eventually built the Ochoco Dam in 1921.
In 1957, under pressure from landowners, Congress approved the Crooked River Project and construction of the Bowman Dam was completed in 1961. But ranchers soon found out that they weren't the only ones relying on the watershed, and for the next thirty years recreational interests battled agricultural over use of the Prineville Reservoir and the Crooked River. Today the reservoir is strictly for flood control and irrigation purposes, and sections of the river are protected under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.