Copyright 2014. Deschutes River Film. All rights reserved.


photographed, written & edited by 

Richard Scott Nelson

541.410.8680 - snp@bendcable.com

As part of a four year, self funded, solo project, Bend Oregon photographer Richard Scott Nelson presents the story of the Deschutes River, encompassing the history, science and beauty of a river born 5 million years ago when the volcanic peaks of the Cascade Mountains were born and the spring-fed Deschutes River began it's journey North to the Columbia River.

Known to Native Americans as 'Towarnehiooks', to French trappers as the 'Rivière des Chutes', to explorer Capt. John C. Fremont as the 'Falls River' while Lewis & Clark named it 'Clarks River', by the turn of the century it was known simply as the Deschutes River.

The Deschutes is the most constant flowing river in the United States and the focus of the story, as told by noted experts, is how the snowmelt from the volcanoes of the High Cascades feeds the vast underground storage system that releases cold, clear water day after day into a spring-fed river system that eventually flows North to the Columbia River.

Thought to be named for the many falls that occur in Central Oregon - Benham Falls, Dillon Falls, Shearer Falls, Steelhead Falls - the river is actually named for Celilo Falls on the Columbia River, not far downstream from where the Deschutes joins the Columbia. These ancient falls, the historic gathering spot for Native American tribes, were covered with the construction of the Dalles Dam in 1957.

​In the old West it was said that, 'whiskey is for drinking and water is for fighting'. With this in mind, the film explores competing irrigation and fishery interests and in particular, looks at a 23 mile stretch of the upper Deschutes just below Wickiup Dam where extreme low water flows in Winter, while Wickiup reservoir fills with water to meet Summer irrigation demands, damages a fishery that's been here since time immemorial.

​Conservationists, fishermen and irrigators are still searching for a compromise and solution to differing interests and are slowly making progress.

Rivière des Chutes

​A Five Million Year Journey to the Columbia River