Deschutes River Rafting [My first time white water rafting]

Located in central Oregon the Deschutes River is a tributary of the Columbia River, collecting water from the Cascade Region. The Deschutes was once an important resource for Native Americans, in the 19th-century pioneers of the Oregon Trail, and there are plenty of beautiful waterfalls to discover. Now Deschutes river rafting is a must-have experience.

The river is utilized for recreation purposes, such as fishing and white-water rafting. Lots of companies run trips from Bend, Oregon all the way to the Columbia River. Most of the rapids are class 2 and 3, with names like Boxcar, Surf City, and upper and lower elevator.

Deschutes River White Water Rafting

White Water Rafting with the River Drifters

The River Drifters runs several types of trips depending on the adventure you’re looking for. They’re located in the Lower Deschutes region, a stretch of 100-miles, and a great weekend trip from Seattle. The company offers half-day, full-day and multiday rafting trips, with the full day trip being the most popular.

 Photo Credit: UnCruise

The full-day tour covers about 14-miles of the Lower Deschutes, an approximately 5-6-hour trip, which I did as part of an excursion with UnCruise. But you can schedule your own trip with River Drifters, with a half-day trip costing around $55 and a full-day trip at around $80. They also offer group trips, family trips and again multi-day trips. This was my experience with them.

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 White Water Rafting in Oregon on the Deschutes River. My first time white water rafting with UnCruise. #oregon #riverrafting #whitewaterrafting #uncruise #deschutesriver

My First Time White Water Rafting in Oregon

This was my first-time white-water rafting, ever. It was October and mid-50s outside and the water was cold. The company gave us all full wetsuits, a fleece, a windbreaker jacket, and booties but it was still frigid. When I first pulled the clothes on, I thought, “Well this won’t be so bad, I’m quite warm.” Boy was I wrong.

 deschutes river rafting

We all piled into two buses to head to the river. During the drive, one of the guides explained the rules and what to expect. As he went over what to do if you fall out, he demonstrated at the front of the bus. On the floor. I, of course, was in the back of the bus and couldn’t see a thing.

As I got into the boat, in the front of course to get the most action, I regretted my decision to not ask for a clarifier on what to do if I fall out.

We pulled out into the river and started on a Class 1, basically flat water. The guide on our boat did most of the work, occasionally asking us to paddle. Approaching our first set of rapids my heart began to race. From the front you get to see the rapids as they approach.

 white water rafting oregon

As the “huge” (by my standards) wave came towards us I was sure I was going to fall out and be pummeled by the waves. That first one shoved me back into the person behind me but I held on, drenched to the bone.

Once you get through that first one the thrill takes over and you are ready for more. What surprised me is that it wasn’t a continuous onslaught. There were long stretches of flat water, where you could take in the scenery and chat with the guide about the local area.

White Water Rafting Oregon

When we would approach another set of rapids and get thrown around like clothes in a washing machine before being spit out the other side. The more rapids I went through the more I wanted.

Some seemed huge on the approach and then as you went through them nothing would happen. I thought, “Oh man, I’m going to get soaked on this one,” but nothing happened.

It was a great introduction to white water rafting and left me wanting more. By the end of the 14-miles my whole body was shaking from the cold.

 Photo Credit: UnCruise

Most companies are done leading river trips by October. Most of the tourism has died down and the days are getting colder. River Drifters stays open a bit later mostly for UnCruise, as they provide this trip to their guests during each cruise sailing.

I was soaked through and through. As I exited the raft, I was so stiff from the tension of holding myself in place. And I was so cold that I could barely hobble my way back to the bus. My shoes sloshing as I walked. When I finally pulled them off and turned them over water poured out of them.

Concluding thoughts on Deschutes Rafting

It was surprising that there were many times when we were just floating down flat water; Interspersed with some rapids while on my white water rafting trip down the Deschutes river.

I had built up in my head, thanks to movies like White Water, as something that was a constant thrill ride. However, it was still a thrill and a great way to see an untouched part of Oregon. After that experience, all I want is more.

 Photo Credit: UnCruise

If class 2’s and 3’s are not enough for you, other rivers offer a more adrenaline-packed ride. If you want more thrills check out Hells Canyon, White Salmon River, and the Clackamas. Some of River Drifters tours in Washington might interest you too.

About the Author

Nicole is an adventure travel blogger and wildlife veterinarian. She hopes to inspire and empower others to get out of their comfort zone and get outside. Her writing focuses on nature, wildlife, and exploring cultures around the world. It is her wish that we all strive to leave the world better than you found it, whether through volunteering, ecotourism, or conscious travel. If you are looking for an adventure or some travel inspiration, look no further than

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