Deschutes River Steelhead
When you travel east from Oregon’s lush Willamette Valley, be on the lookout for a “silver lining” in the high desert.
You may find it when you step aboard board a jet boat to travel up the Deschutes River and cast lures for silver-sided summer steelhead!
For when you talk summer adventure, the Deschutes River is a rite of passage for anyone who calls the Pacific Northwest home.
Since 1968, fishing guide Bob Toman has been steering anglers to the right spots on the Deschutes River.
He knows the river’s nooks, crannies and holding areas where the big fish live.
“There are hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of spots to fish,” noted the longtime angler. “Even though it can seem a crowded river at times, there’s always a place to find that you can fish – and there’s fish in all of them.”
It didn’t take long for fisherman Kevin Kaseberg to prove Toman right!
No sooner had Kaseberg cast his lure into the river’s current when a hard charging 8-pound steelhead flew across the river with the lure locked in its jaw.
The gleaming fish made several hard charging runs before Kevin was able to slide it up the riverbank.
Toman said he has lost track of the number of anglers he has helped to discover the Deschutes and all of them love the river’s fishing reliability:
“One of the good things about the Deschutes is that the steelhead bite all sorts of things. If you get a strike and miss it or see one boil at your fly, stay right there and give it a half dozen more casts – you’ll get ‘em.”
Kevin and Patty Kaseberg enjoy the fishing and the dramatic scenery that the ribbon of river provides as it courses more than a hundred miles through the high desert to reach the Columbia River.
“The scenery truly is wonderful, said Kevin. “And it is great to get out and enjoy it.”
Patty added, “It’s like stepping out of the world into a peaceful, beautiful and restful place. It’s really kind of a magical place.”
It may be magical! Anglers are each allowed a generous three-hatchery steelhead limit a day and they usually catch them, while all wild fish must go back.
Toman offered this piece of advice that he’s earned from decades of fishing the river:
“Well, I move and I move a lot! That seems to work because most of the fish get hooked in the first little bit when you start casting at a spot.So if you stay and pound, pound, pound the same spot for hours at a time, you don’t get as many.”
“The “moving” part is a bonus and the reason I like to travel with Toman.
It’s my chance to drink in that special central Oregon scenery that is framed by vistas of wide-open spaces; my chance to reconnect with childhood memories of times and places that helped launch my angling passions more than half a century ago.
The timeless Deschutes River offers big surging rapids that churn to their own rhythms and challenge boaters who must pass thru safely; it’s a place only the experienced dare travel.
“It is a very technical river,” noted ODFW Biologist Rod French. “That’s especially true for power boaters. It is a big river with lots of volume and lots of ledges and you need to know where to go. You need to have some know-how here because you can get yourself in trouble in a hurry. Unless you’re experienced with that or been up it several times or with someone who has, it’s very difficult to read.”
You should wear a PFD when you’re going up the river too. The Deschutes has several Class 3 whitewater rapids and it’s the law to wear one when you’re underway.
If you travel to the Deschutes River, consider a longer stay at Deschutes River State Recreation Area that’s located near the river’s confluence with the Columbia River.
“This time of year, it’s the fishing that draws the crowds,” noted Bruce Meredith, OPRD Park Ranger. “The fishing has been phenomenal and people are scrambling to find spots. At other times of the year folks come for bike riding, horse back riding, hiking and camping. There’s always something to do. We have 32 sites with electricity and water, plus new shower facilities. We also have an additional 60 sites for tent camping or dry r-v camping. So there’s something for everyone!”
“It’s kind of an oasis,” added Meredith. “Folks are used to the desert’s dry landscape and they come here to din that it’s lush and beautiful and right next to the river. It’s a parkland that takes their breaths away.”
Bob Toman says it's a bit of all that – plus, the chance to catch big steelhead - that brings him to the Deschutes River each summer.
And if you cross paths with Bob Toman in summer, chances are you’ll find his 11-year old sidekick –Cobey Pentecost - nearby too.
Cobey said that he had been his Grandad’s “steelhead student” for the past three summers. He is one lucky youngster and he is good fisherman too.
No surprise really! The young angler is learning the river from a living legend who knows the water and fishing strategies like the back of his hand.
“A couple weeks ago I told my Grandpa, ‘I never catch any fish’ and he said – ‘you’re not fishing with confidence,” noted the smiling youngster. “So Grandpa gave me a whole speech about staying confidant no matter what happens and not ten minutes later, I caught a fish. So I am confidant all the time.”
Patty Kaseberg agreed and added that there is much to love about steelhead fishing on the Deschutes River:
“I tell folks that once you have caught one, you’re hooked and you’ll be back. The Deschutes is simply irresistible.”
If you go, keep this in mind: a Deschutes River Boater’s Pass is required for all folks who travel the river in a motorized or non-motorized watercraft.
In addition, there’s approximately 16 miles of graveled road on the east side of the river that is open to the public. The roadway is perfectly suited for hiking or for a mountain bike ride to fish or camp along the Deschutes River.
Oregon Caves National Monument
When you trek inside “Mt Elijah” at the Oregon Caves National Monument, you must go through a locked gate. It’s just the other side of that gate that you discover it’s a national park land unlike any you’ve visited before.
“Imagine what it may have been like here in the 1870’s,” said NPS Park Ranger Sandy Gladish. “Elijah Davidson went into this cave to rescue his dog named Bruno. He thought the dog was in trouble because it had chased a bear into the darkness. So, Elijah did too and that’s how Oregon Caves was discovered.”
The half-mile long trail thru the Oregon Caves offers shadowy glimpses into a timeless world of mystery and adventure.
Park rangers like Sandy Gladish can teach you much about the place that - despite its century old national designation - remains surprisingly foreign to many visitors.
“It’s called “Oregon Caves” because early explorers thought there were a lot of caves here,” noted Gladish. “The name just stuck even though there’s but one cave.”
“Visitors tend to think the cave is all there is but there’s a lot more – in the monument and the area around us,” added George Herring, the NPS Monument’s Chief Interpreter.
He said that the 480-acre national parkland – established in 1909 - offers miles of trails with stunning scenery of mountains, creeks and waterfalls.
“It really is an opportunity for folks to explore their own Oregon backyard and discover geologic complexity that parallels any other place on the planet. You also learn that a little bit of intellectual curiosity can go a long way toward experiencing a very different world.”
The adjacent “Chateau at the Oregon Caves” provides a base camp to launch your adventures. It is a five story wooden lodge built of locally milled lumber, plus massive hand hewn doug fir posts and beams.
The Chateau at the Oregon Caves opened to the public in 1934 and the lodge’s rustic simplicity (surprisingly, there are only 23 spacious rooms) provides a warm setting supported by down home family comfort that’s based upon a simple idea:
“It is a cool cave with a warm hearth,” chuckled Menno Kraai, the Chateau’s General Manager. “When you walk in the lobby, see a fire in the fireplace and then gaze up to the large fir beams and posts, it all says Oregon!”
There are few distractions at the Chateau – no phones, radios or TV contribute to a sense of isolation, but that’s a good thing. The lack of distractions offers a wonderful chance to reconnect with your family or friends that makes the time here so fulfilling.
The Chateau also offers a super cool Oregon Caves Coffee Shop that will also make you feel right at home.
“Our counter is like a huge S-shaped serving tray,” noted Laura Empems, the Chateau’s Hospitality Manager. “Each person can be served from behind the long counter – plus the knotty pine paneling on the walls adds up to an experience that’s like stepping back in time. People love that – and the milkshakes too.”
Back down in the Oregon Caves, the temperature is a constant 44-degrees, so be sure you are prepared for the 90-minute tour with a jacket, cap and comfortable shoes.
Don’t forget a camera to capture stunning stalactites that drop from above and stalagmites that reach to the roof.
“These form drip by drip by drip, noted Gladish. “They can take anywhere from a hundred to a thousand years to grow just an inch.”
“The true adventure is coming up the highway, letting go of the present and spending time in the past,” added Herring. “You will relax here – nature doesn’t give you any choice!”
First Hand Oregon
You may get your hands a little dirty and your feet a little wet, but you will gain appreciation for what it takes to protect and preserve Oregon’s fish and wildlife resources.
Each spring, as the days grow longer and the promise of summer grows closer, you feel better spending more time outdoors. So, isn’t it nice to learn a little more about Oregon while you’re out there?
Susan Barnes does what many of us only dream about: she gets to know Oregon’s wild places better than we know our own backyards.
In fact, she gets paid to learn about St Louis Ponds near Woodburn.
Best of all, she’ll help you to learn more about the place too - First Hand!
“It’s a wet native prairie and there aren’t many places like this in the Willamette Valley,” noted the state conservation biologist as she led a small group of curious folks through the 260-acre site.
“Be sure to wear boots because you will get wet,” advised Barnes.
Each had signed up to spend half a day with Barnes to see and learn more about an increasingly rare habitat type in western Oregon.
Barnes specializes in Oregon’s non-game species; the animals that are not hunted: “I think it’s important to learn what we have in our own backyard because that‘s what we have the greatest influence over,” noted the longtime biologist.
Barnes shared her knowledge with folks who had signed up for a tour of St Louis Ponds in a program called “First Hand Oregon.”
The program is the result of a new and unique partnership with the nonprofit “Oregon Wildlife Heritage Foundation.”
“If we care about places like this, it’s best to experience it first hand,” noted WHF conservation expert, Claire Puchy. “Only by getting out here, can people truly learn not only about fish and wildlife species but also the conservation issues associated with them. First Hand gives folks the chance to do that.”
The Oregon Wildlife Heritage Foundation has ‘walked the talk’ of protecting, preserving and enhancing Oregon’s natural resources for more than thirty years through programs, outright land purchases and public projects across the Oregon outdoors.
Back in the early 80’s they spearheaded the purchase of the lower 12-miles of the Deschutes River and secured public access for hiking, biking and fishing.
They designed and built the popular sturgeon exhibit at the Bonneville Fish Hatchery in the Columbia River Gorge where visitors can see “Herman the Sturgeon” and his buddies anytime.
Most recently, they developed a new Willamette River fishing dock at West Linn so anglers have a riverside location to cast for salmon and sturgeon.
“We do a lot of habitat work,” noted former OWHF Director, Rod Brobeck. “But we also try to provide access; something we can look at and even stand on - like this fishing dock. It’s great for everyone.”
The “First Hand Oregon” educational tours partner with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s land managers, field biologists and others who will spend a day with you, talk about their work and show you the lands that they are responsible for in Oregon.
For example, on a recent tour of the Sauvie Island Wildlife Area, Assistant Manager Dan Marvin explained how successive years of flooding from the adjacent Columbia River have deposited increasing amounts of sediment in Sturgeon Lake.
The lake is a critical water body on the wildlife area and it’s beginning to fill in. That could lead to long lasting effects for hundreds of thousands of waterfowl that migrate to the island each Fall season.
“Basically the lake is shrinking,” noted Marvin. “The overall value of this wetland area will be lost as more sediment is deposited through the years.”
The range of “First Hand” classes is remarkable too – including hatchery visits for the chance to learn how salmon spawning is done – to turtle trapping techniques to see and learn more about Oregon’s native amphibian populations – plus many more classes emphasizing outdoor education – it’s a perfect for the curious.
“It’s a great opportunity for informing the non hunting public which is the majority of folks we see on these tours,” said Marvin. They can see what our programs entail and what goes into it to make it such a successful program.”
Back at St Louis Ponds, Barnes said she enjoyed the chance to teach others with “First Hand” wildlife observation techniques.
Bryce Peterson said he enjoyed learning how Barnes does her job:
“It’s an opportunity for me to learn more for sure; about native birds, their habitats and how I can help – even if it’s just in my backyard by protecting and enhancing native plants.”
It’s real science that’s fun, takes you to a new place and can help determine conservation strategies that will make a difference for the future of Oregon wildlife.
“Getting people outdoors to see ‘First Hand’ what’s in their backyards can make all the difference in the world – for information, awareness and appreciation,” noted Barnes.
Dirt Track Racers
Each Saturday night, there’s music’s in the air across many Oregon small towns…where flood lights glimmer and flags fly over the hundreds who gather at the Banks Sunset Speedway.
But out here in the western Washington County countryside, the “music” isn’t a guitar performance.
Rather, it’s the sound from a dozen 400-hundred horse powered engines that growl and roar and whine as a stock car drivers jostle their cars for position and a green flag start.
“You’re going to get dirty, it’s going to be noisy and it’s a whole lot of fun,” noted Banks Speedway announcer, Charlie Weaver.
This is dirt track racing and it’s unlike any getaway you’ve ever experienced.
“Yep, Saturday night is short track racing,” added Weaver with a smile. “Its a summer time getaway that more people need to see and hear at Sunset Speedway.”
“You pick a favorite car – either by looks or the driver’s name,” said longtime dirt track racer Bob McGrotty. The 83-year-old is something of a fixture on the Sunset Speedway. In fact, McGrotty raced his first car in ‘48 at the old Portland Speedway and he continues to race each weekend at the Banks track.
He said that most of the drivers are amateurs who have a need for speed and the racetrack is their outlet: “They’re from all walks of life really. In most cases, they do something else – it isn’t their trade.”
That’s especially true of Andrea Tardio, the driver of the only pink racecar on the speedway track.
When Andrea puts her pedal to the metal she screams around corner number four on the 1/3 mile long oval dirt track and her tires screech as she hits 60 miles an hour.
She never lets her work interfere with her sport and that’s easy to understand for she is a self-proclaimed “grease monkey” who has the oil-covered hands to prove it.
Andrea does the heavy lifting right alongside brother Joey Tardio – (also a dirt track racer) at Transaction Transmission in nearby Forest Grove.
Joey showed her the ropes when she joined the family business in 2008.
But after she’d spent a year of rebuilding transmissions and replacing old brakes, Joey saw something special in his younger sister; something unexpected:
“She is so aggressive and competitive and she hates to lose. She’ll do anything to win and puts in a lot of hard work to make it happen.”
He dared her to try something new – race car driving - and Joey made that happen too!
“I drove by the race track one day and thought I can build a race car and that’s where it all started…something challenging to try.”
Joey was looking for a different sort of challenge after his tour in Iraq and the former Marine thought that stock car racing would be a perfect fit for him and for his sister too.
“You can have a good car and put anyone in it but that doesn’t mean you’re going to win. You must have good reaction time because you often have only have a split second to decide where to go and fast to get there.”
Andrea said she was drawn to racing because of the competition although stock car racing is a far cry from the timed horse competitions she did in high school or cheerleading competitions she also enjoyed as a student at Banks High School.
Now, they are a brother and sister racing team who like to go fast and win.
The Banks Sunset Speedway has hosted dirt track racing for nearly 25 years.
It is one of many Oregon speedways that are scattered across the state and offer dirt track racing each summer.
The races draw a dedicated crowd!
“We try to put on a good show for everyone and entertain them for three or four hours a night,” noted Weaver. He added with a knowing smile, “We do put some dirt in their hair.”
The Tardio’s compete in different divisions and varied stock car events; but usually they each will race several times on a typical Saturday night.
Each has also taken first place many times.
Andrea said that she has learned many lessons by watching her older brother on the racetrack.
“He’s just as competitive as me as he swerves back and forth to get around other cars,” said Andrea. “I actually watch him closely to see how he puts the car in the corners, how he passes people and where he is coming down the stretch. I learn something new each time he races.”
Andrea’s goal win the ‘Women’s Stock Car Division’ and soon – so far this summer she is on track with multiple first place wins to do just that.
How does she do it?
“As the race starts, I focus on the car in front of me, “ she said. “I take each car one at a time and it’s funny but if I don’t go out there thinking I am going to win the race, I don’t win.”
She added that the exhilaration that comes with racing at high speed on an uneven dirt track is unlike anything she’s ever experienced.
“It’s powerful and a whole of a lot of fun. Sure it’s dirty, but that’s part of being outdoors, right?” with a giggle she added, “It’s great to hold that trophy at the end of a race and say, “I beat people this time!”