It’s been three decades since a Bend resident took out a newspaper ad and spread the word among like-minded friends: Come by Thursday night if you’re interested in protecting public land in Oregon’s high desert. At that time, few were paying attention to the amazing natural values of the more than 13 million acres of public land on the state’s dry side. Yet these lands are filled with natural treasures ripe for exploration by boat, bike or foot.
The quintessential Oregon that comes to mind for many is one of wet, lush forests, rocky coastlines, and snowy peaks, but on the other side of the Cascade Mountains lies a high desert landscape that covers almost half of the state. For Brent Fenty, Oregon Natural Desert Association’s (ONDA) executive director, this immense desert has captivated him since childhood, and one sleepless night a few years ago he began imagining a way to connect the highlights of this amazing landscape.
The experience of a rafting trip is a thrill: flat water interspersed with rapids, exhilaration alternating with relaxation, the adventure undulating with every twist and turn of the river’s course. On a summer day, a float is one of the best things you can do to relax and shake off the summer heat. While some may choose to enjoy the waters within the comfort close to home, a much bigger venue for the ultimate summer float awaits in the canyons and gorges of the West.
We know about the erosive power of rivers, the torrents that cascade from a lip into basaltic amphitheaters, mountains incised with the long, sinuous scar of water pulled earthward and into the ocean.
Maybe your happy place is on the stretches of lazy water where you can watch the current silently twirl along eddy lines; maybe your spot is at the oars surrounded by big water as you read the workable line and try with everything you have to get there; then again, maybe you're happiest at the campfire, toes in the sand, beverage in hand, listening to someone else do the dishes.
Hundreds of cases of poisoning by plant occur every year, and these aren’t your murder-by-number type mysteries of who drugged whom. While common sense would suggest that the average adventurer would pass by a particularly lurid plant without considering the taste of its leaves, petals, or berries, the fact of the matter exists to the contrary.
Oregon State is an untamed tangle of ecology and natural beauty. Sometimes, driving through the state can feel surreal: One moment, your car is kicking up dust in the high desert, the next, the windshield is dotted with dew within a towering, misty, old-growth forest.
Rivers exemplify many values, both intrinsic and tangible. Whether you want to paddle, fish, swim, float, sight-see, or simply spend time with friends and family by the water, rivers are an incredible place to spend time outside, and are natural resources that deserve continued protections.