Just back from a nice 2-day float from Mecca to Maupin on the Deschutes River from Friday, June 5 through Sunday, June 7, 2015). We camped out Friday night at Mecca Campground (BLM land) and set off mid-morning around 10:30 AM the next day. The second night we camped out at either Lower Rainbow Bend or Hole in the Wall - not sure.
It was my first packrafting trip in Oregon (after many trips in my home state of Alaska) and I was thrilled to finally dust some of those proverbial cobwebs off my boat. Splashy class II-III/II+ rapids to keep us on our toes, but overall it was a casual, calm float. My husband and I did swim twice, but were able to self-recover back into our boats.
For more information online with maps and descriptions, check out --> http://www.boaterpass.com/LDRFrame.htm
Technical Level: Class II with some III/III+. All of the serious rapids (Whitehorse (III+), Buckskin Mary (III), Wapinitia (III), and Boxcar (III)) can be portaged in your packraft. Whitehorse and Boxcar can easily be scouted but Buckskin Mary comes on quick and then you’re going for a great wave-train ride.
Technical Complexity: Low. Most of the rapids on this stretch were pretty straightforward with easily noticeable lines. The two memorable exceptions for us were Whitehorse Rapids, where my husband swam after a large wave flipped him backwards (his first swim!) and Buckskin Mary where we both swam on wave train with waves cresting to the right - both of us had a wave catch us from the side and flip us over. Boxcar is really low this year according to those who rafted this section last year but has a massive hydraulic that we all wanted to avoid.
Predominant Hazards: Boxcar has some massive hydraulics that could easily suck you in. We stayed river right and dropped of a nice ledge avoiding the churning hydraulic totally. Whitehorse has a lot more boulders that one needs to be aware of and quick to respond to. Buckskin Mary and Wapinitia are straight forward lines through nice sized wave-trains. With Buckskin Mary just be aware of the curve in the river and how that changes the wave angle coming at you from the side rather than straight on.
Permit Needed? Yes, a boater’s pass, which can be purchased for $16 pp.
Length: 2 days.
Do-Able with Just Packrafts? Totally.
Do-Able as Big Expedition? Yes. We had 2 oarboats and 2 packrafts.
Rapids are Baby-Hikeable? Yes. I think it would be a great family river. We saw a couple of boats with small children.
Volume: We ran it at 4,400-4,600 CFS (I think).
Climate: High plateau and relatively dry. Bring lots of sunscreen, good hats, and rash guards to keep the sun off!
Bailout Options: Several. Although the river has a remote feel at times, we camped in close proximity to lot of other groups. There are plenty of campsites along the river that are managed well with toilets. We also paralleled a road for quite a while, so it seems you could get off the river for whatever reason.
Overall, it was a great river for my beginner husband and we’re ready to get back out.