Deschutes River: Lava Lake to Crane Prairie

lava lake to crane prairieThe river's beautiful setting, ease of access and relatively shortdriving time from major population centers of the state makes it popular for both daily, weekend, and vacation use.

The Deschutes River originates at Little Lava Lake and flows south for approximately 8.4 miles before entering Crane Prairie Reservoir. There are no inlet streams to Little Lava Lake so all water comes from percolating snowmelt, so essentially the headwaters is a spring creek. The sources for the groundwater inflow to Little Lava Lake are snowfields in the Mt. Bachelor and Three Sisters area. In extremely high water years, water flows from Big Lava Lake to Little Lava Lake in a shallow overflow channel. That there is usually no surface inflow to Little Lava Lake indicates a very large groundwater reservoir upslope of the lake (McCammon 1984). One of the most dominant controls over streamflow is the prevalence of groundwater inflow. This is due to past volcanic activity within the basin, The complex geology of lava flows, pumice, thick ash layers and glacial activity is conducive to subsurface flows traveling in large quantities and at relatively rapid rates.

Cover for fish is predominantly woody material, usually found near banks and overhanging vegetation. Occasional large trees provide scour pools. Streambed substrate is predominantly gravel and cobble with a relatively even distribution of pools, riffles, and glides. The 1979 Forest Service stream survey (Satterthwaite) found a total of 18,900 square yards of gravel in the Deschutes River upstream of Crane Prairie. Of that total 3,000 square yards was rated as good and 15,990 square yards as marginal.

Boat launches are avilable at the campgrounds along this stretch of the Deschutes River.


River and Stream Fishing

What To Expect

  • Vehicle Access:
  • Fishing Access: Forest Service Road 46, road access from Deschutes Bridge Campground, crossing of FS Rd 40, and at Cow Meadow Campground.
  • Boating Regulations: See boating regulations.
  • Fish Species Present: Rainbow trout, brook trout, kokanee, and mountain whitefish
  • Physical Characteristics: Size: from headwaters to Crane Prairie is 7 river miles; Elevation: 4790'-4445'.
  • When/How to fish: Get a weekly fishing report from Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife
  • Popular Fishing Methods: Bank fishing, floating, and fly fishing
  • Bait/Lure Fishing Method: Angling with night crawler, eggs, drifting, plunking, and spinners
  • Fly Fishing Methods: Use of bobber and leader
  • Insect Hatch/Flies to Use: Check the Middle Deschutes River Major Hatches chart below.
  • Camping Information: Lava Lake, Little Lava Lake, Deschutes Bridge, and Cow Meadows Campgrounds

Source: Upper Deschutes River Subbasin Fish Management Plan, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Upper Deschutes Fish District, October 1996.

Recreation Areas

Recreation Activities