▶️ The Great Outdoors: ‘Good Dog’ has new access points to protect streambanks

Here’s a Bend-centric problem: People playing with their dogs in the river, trampling riparian vegetation and eroding the streambanks. It’s happening at Good Dog, a well-loved off-leash area a few miles up the Deschutes River from Bend.

But there’s a project to restore the riverbank while continuing to provide access to the water for dogs and their people.

“It’s a tricky balance what we are pushing for. It’s a really popular site,” said Darek Staab, Pacific Northwest Education Coordinator for Trout Unlimited. “We want to allow plenty of access to the river and places where we can recreate and have our dogs with us, but not see some of the vegetation loss and losing important plants and riverbank health, whether it’s for water quality or fish habitat or songbirds or other species that live along the river.” 

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A portion of the Rimrock Trail Restoration Project that dog owners will notice is installation of split-rail fences to channel their four-legged friends’ access to the river.

It looks successful. The dogs are still having a blast. 

“Yeah, I think it’s an adjustment for folks to see some of the differences. But with the signs of springs, it’s exciting to see the vegetation coming back and then see it have a chance to survive,” Staab said. “For me right now, the greenery and a location like this and seeing the chance of this place continuing to thrive, it does give me hope. I think we’ll measure success in a couple of years in the way that it works for folks and hopefully the habitat will remain intact. We are hopeful at this point.” 

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Years in the making, the project was run through a National Environmental Policy Act review. There was lots of public input including from DogPac, an organization that champions off-leash areas. 

And now the work to protect the riverbank is being done by a diverse group of agencies and organizations including the Deschutes National Forest, Trout Unlimited, the Deschutes Trails Coalition with funding from Visit Bend and the Bend Sustainability Fund.

“We talked to the crew that was down here and they explained what they are trying to do,” said Kristina Maugg of Bend, who brought three dogs to the river. “Basically, rejuvenate because we’ve all been using this whole space. They are just taking off certain spots and keeping us to one space. I don’t think anyone really notices a difference in terms of use. We love the fact that they are rejuvenating certain parts of it.”

“Most of the feedback… there’s just a lot of curiosity,” said Justin Ewer, Trails Manager for the Deschutes National Forest. “There is some concern among folks, are they going to be able to continue coming and enjoying this place and bring their dogs to water? Usually when we have that conversation, we explain we are looking to protect the resource you enjoy and provide access. You see folks put it together and feel pretty good about it at that point.” 

What dogs and dog owners will find when they visit the river at Good Dog are “defined access points,” that were getting shredded by dogs racing up and down the steep bank to retrieve balls and sticks thrown into the river by their well-meaning humans. 

“What we’ve done is we’ve allowed two access points that have been improved for getting in and out of the water. Then we’ve protected some of the riverbank, trying to keep the riverbank healthy,” Staab explained. “The fencing is to discourage the additional spread of trails that could grow from that site because on this side of the fence the vegetation is intact. We want to keep it that way and try to maintain as much as the riverbank in that location as we can. The slope has quite a bit of wood to catch some of the rainfall to catch the erosion that was occurring there. There’s a carefully designed trail that goes down to the bottom.” 

The project includes about two miles of streambank and large sections of trail between the river and the trailhead. 

“With all the use in this area, there’s been a proliferation of unauthorized trails that happened over time. We actually added some official trails to the system. We added about 5.5- trail miles. We are also doing some work in a few places to decommission some trails that weren’t sustainable from a resource point of view. Ones that go straight up and down the hill that are funneling sediment right into the river, things like that,” Ewer said. 

Another positive of the riverbank restoration and trail work is improved signage. It is much easier to navigate with clearly marked trails, distances and directions to help dog owners and other visitors to the areas plan loops and return routes to their starting point.

“I love dogs. I think many of us do in Central Oregon. They are a part of our families and our lifestyle,” Staab said. “I think it’s a matter of how we can enjoy our time with dogs but also make sure we don’t lose the wildlife and some of the habitat that we share with other species. I think that’s the balance we are striving for.”

▶️ The Great Outdoors: How do we save and protect fire-scorched forests?

The Cedar Creek Fire did a lot more than foul the air and force evacuations of resorts and campgrounds. It burned nearly half the shoreline of Waldo Lake, one of the cleanest bodies of water in the state.

So, what happens next? What actions can be taken to protect the lake and the 113,000 acres of scorched forests?

One way to describe what happens next on the Cedar Creek Fire is to look at the response to the Archie Creek Fire that burned a similar amount of acreage on the Umpqua National Forest two years ago.

“BAER is Burned Area Emergency Response,” said Joe Blanchard, Watershed Program Manager on the Umpqua National Forest. “It’s a forest service program that once the fires are contained, we have a team of specialists come in and look at the fire itself. How has that changed the landscape? What kinds of emergencies might we face in future years from flooding to invasive weeds coming in?”

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We visit the Wright Creek Crossing that leads to a trailhead on the very popular North Umpqua trail. Here, at the advice of Burned Area Emergency Response Team scientists, a culvert is being replaced with a bridge. 

“The culvert that was in place was undersized and at risk of being blown out by a flood or debris flow. What we did is we calculated the percent increase in flow and determined the culvert was in need of replacement,” Blanchard said. “When engineers looked at it, due to the size of the crossing here, they decided a bridge would be a better option.”

The Archie Creek Fire impacted the most popular recreation areas on the North Umpqua Ranger District, including trails, trailheads, campgrounds and raft launch sites, many of which remain closed.

“Typically, the fire comes close to 100% containment, the BAER team comes in. They operate for seven to 10 days. The work very quickly. Within two weeks, the assessment is done. Hopefully funding is starting to roll at that point, and we scramble to get the projects implemented as fast as possible. The goal is to get them in place before a damaging storm event.”

Shortly after the Archie Creek Fire, the Umpqua River was fouled with ash and sediment. Several downstream communities including Glide and Roseburg, which pull their drinking water from the river, were forced to upgrade filtration systems.

Here we are almost two years later from the start of the Archie Creek Fire and the Wright Creek Crossing bridge is just now being installed. 

“We were set to do it last year but then we had another round of large fires on the North Umpqua. Over 100,000 acres burned including upriver from the Archie which impacted this area because of the fire closure. We couldn’t get contractors in here to do the work. So now we have a window, and we are getting it done,” Blanchard said.

Volunteers from the National Forest Foundation, local partners and non-profits are helping rebuild fire-damaged trails. 

Blanchard says those who volunteer see firsthand how big the fire was, how much damage was caused and how long it can take to restore.

“I’m a trail runner and a rafter and I hear from the community I engage with. Folks are patient. They understand that this was a big fire and that it takes a while to recover from something like this.”

Near the Wright Creek Crossing, some of the forest is regenerating, starting with maple trees.

“Yes, big leaf maple. We’ve also got some blackberry we are going to need to treat. It’s a mix but in general the recovery has been pretty quick,” Blanchard said. “It’s been two years. You can see the re-sprouting and the vegetation coming back. In places, it’s great. In others we want to reseed, replant because we have lost the seed source in some of these stand-replacing fires. 

Bottom line: Restoring a forest after a major fire is a complex, expensive and time-consuming process.

▶️ The Great Outdoors: Chasing tornadoes on a guided storm tour

You’ve probably seen the movie Twister, for which a sequel is now in production. You’ve probably wondered why anybody would want to get close to violent storms. 

I chose to go storm chasing a couple of weeks ago with Roger Hill. He holds the Guinness Book of World Records for sighting and documenting more than 820 tornadoes.

He’s been storm chasing for 37 years. His tour vans are loaded with equipment for monitoring the atmosphere, which helps him figure out where to be when storms start cooking. 

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On one of these storm chases, I asked him what we were looking at on his laptop.

“A cluster of high based thunderstorms,” said Hill, who owns Silver Lining Tours. “They are steadily growing. They could produce high winds. They should be producing lightning. I’m surprised they’re not. My radar says there have been a few lightning bolts. Hopefully they’ll start becoming visible shortly. They are growing and intensifying.” 

The first storm we encountered was west of Lubbock, Texas, near the New Mexico state line. It did not generate a tornado, but it put on a thunder and lightning show that lasted for hours. And then came torrential rain and hail that flooded roads and filled up the pool at our hotel.

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People come from all over the world to watch storms in the Midwest. On this tour there were people from New Zealand, England, Canada and the eastern seaboard.

“The energy that a supercell produces is like nothing else on earth. Mankind can’t control it. I love it. We have no control over the weather, that force of nature. It just gets me buzzing and I love it,” said Helen Anderson, from Wellington, New Zealand

I was the only one from the west coast on this particular tour.

“One time we went out on what was called an arrival day chase. We got in the vans. We left. We went for about an hour. We got out. We were standing there, kind of chatting and twin land spouts—one tornado,” said Donna, from Cocoa Beach, Florida. “It looks like a tornado, but they call it a land spout. And right next to it is another one. It had just finished raining. It was bright out. We were just kind of in awe. No one really expected it. Our guide sort of did but he wasn’t really sure. But he knew where to stop and wait and then it happened, and it was amazing.” 

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My impression of storm chasing is that it’s a lot of driving. You get somewhere and then you have to move because you’re not in exactly the right spot. 

“One thing about storm chasing you have to be ready for is, it’s not for the faint of heart. It’s not for a lightweight. It’s hard. You ride and you ride and you ride and then you get out and you stand there and then they say ‘get in.’ And then you ride some more,” Donna said. “But if you understand that weather is going to do what weather will do, then you expect that and you just wait for that moment. It’s great.” 

We chased storms across Texas into Oklahoma, driving an average of 500 miles a day, looking for supercells.

The towering cumulous clouds reach 40,000 to 50,000 feet into the atmosphere. Planes go around them because the cells are loaded with violent winds, baseball size hailstones, prodigious lightning and incredible amounts of rain.

And if all the conditions are right, tornadoes — which I did not personally see — will touch ground.

“The supercells have been amazing. The one thing I’ve loved are the lightning storms. They’ve just been beautiful,” said Gillian Hall from County Durham, England

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Hall said they don’t experience this kind of weather in England.

“Nothing like that at all. We don’t get the level of lightning, the frequency and it’s not as violent in the UK.” 

One storm we followed dropped an ominous wall cloud down to near ground level and triggered tornado warning sirens in the town of Bowie, Texas.

Another storm we followed dropped 8 inches of rain and hail in less than an hour on Bartle, Texas causing flash floods and closing roads.  

“This is my sixth tour and it is definitely addictive. It’s just great. I’ve learned so much,” Donna said. “The first time I came I knew I loved the weather. I understood basic weather patterns. But that compared to now… It’s totally different. It’s a learning experience. It can be spiritual. If you love weather, it can get you really close to yourself. It’s great.”

There’s beauty on the Texas plains. The roads are lined with wildflowers, seeded by the state highway department, nurtured by the rain. 

“I’ve done one tour previously in 2018. I was determined to come back in 2020 but couldn’t because of the pandemic,” Helen said. “I’ve come back this year 2023. It’s a long way from New Zealand. It’s expensive. I thought this might be my last opportunity, that’s why I’m doing two tours back-to-back. But even now I’m already thinking about when I will be back again. I can’t stop this.” 

If you like violent weather, the rush of the chase and the awesome power of nature, storm chasing is a heck of an escape from the ordinary. 

My advice is do it with somebody who knows what they are doing.

▶️ The Great Outdoors: Youth and Family Day with Oregon Hunters Association

(Editor’s note: This story was first published on June 30, 2021.)

If you have children or grandchildren who want to learn how to fish and hunt but you know nothing about those activities, here’s an event you should know about. 

The Bend chapter of the Oregon Hunters Association is hosting its annual Youth and Family Day on June 3. You can register at this link.

“The concept is to get the youth and the family excited to come outside and do stuff like this. Our motto is: No kid left inside,” said Kevin Borst, Youth Activities Coordinator for the Bend Chapter of Oregon Hunters Association.

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We followed 9-year Iris Hansen, and her neighbor, 9-year old Jacob Smith as they explored the exhibits at Youth and Family Day.

They were excited and animated at some exhibits; focused and quiet at others.

And full of witty observations.

“We like to get them away from the electronics for at least a day. Get them outside and explore some of these outdoor activities that some people may have forgotten or they’re just not sure,” Borst said. “This is an opportunity to learn different things, see different things, meet different people.”

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This is a hands-on event where kids get to see and touch things most have have never seen or had the opportunity to try.

Turns out Iris is a dead eye target shooter. And Jacob is a budding carpenter.

“I think it’s important to get younger kids involved in this stuff. A lot of them need an outlet or a source to do it. This is a good source to do it. We’ve been approached by a few single moms that say ‘I have kids that want to do outdoor activities or learn to hunt.’ This is perfect. Get their feet wet, see what they like. See what they want to pursue,” Borst said 

“Great event,” said Jon Hansen, Iris’s father. “Lots of cool stuff for them to do. Lot of new things to experience. New stuff to learn about.”

This was Hansen’s first time attending Youth & Family day with his daughter and neighbor. 

He was impressed.

“It’s a good way to get out and appreciate the outdoors. Learn about the importance of hunting and fishing.”

There are activities for all ages, from decorating a corn snake to seeing a mountain man shoot a muzzle loader. And it concludes with a barbecue lunch that interests everyone.

The next youth-friendly event is a guided upland bird hunt for kids ages 10-17 in November. You must be a member of the Bend chapter of the Oregon Hunters Association to participate in that event.

“If I could just get Iris to fly fish. She’s not a fan, yet. We are working on it,” Jon Hanson said.  

To which his daughter Iris quickly responded: “Bait fishing rules.” 

“It’s a point of contention,” Hansen admitted. 

▶️ The Great Outdoors: Twin Lakes Resort’s new owner reveals plans for future

Twin Lakes Resort, one of the Central Oregon’s best loved family vacation spots, is under new ownership. And that owner has a lot of work to do.

“We are sticking with the basics,” said owner Drew Eriksson. We are doing some add-ons and improvements. This year, I’m focused on trying to understand the business, trying to understand the clientele and how it all works.” 

Eriksson is a geologist. He traveled the world exploring for oil and gas and managing large energy projects. 

“It’s going to be great. It’s going to be chaotic and it’s going to be a little scary but I’m looking forward to it. It’s an adventure for me and my family.” 

>>> Have you checked out Central Oregon Daily News on YouTube? Click here to subscribe and share our videos.

He says taking on ownership of Twin Lakes Resort with its 14 cabins, well-patronized restaurant, busy country store, almost always full RV park and fleet of boats is a completely new challenge.

“We’ve been open for one week. The people I’ve met here already, that have come in for dinner, it’s amazing. We had a 70-year-old man here whose been coming up here for 68 years, since he was 2 years old. How can you beat that? How important this place is to so many people. I think you need to honor that. You don’t need to make radical changes. I want to keep this place traditional and just add little by little and see where it goes.” 

Eriksson is planning improvements. Among them is a new dock called Party Barge One that people can rent for the day.

“Put it out a little way in the lake, anchor it, give them a boat, let them paddle out. This is an area they can stay. We’ll put a table, chairs and an umbrella on it. We’ll have a ladder, an area to jump off. You can fish from it. You can swim from it. You can just have a great time.

Eriksson has already built a stage on which he plans to host live music performances on Saturday afternoons.

“There’s a patio area that is quite popular in the afternoons. We want to keep people outdoors so we built a stage. We will have music from two to about five o’clock. Have live bands, see how it goes.” 

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Inside the historic lodge and restaurant, a new chef is livening up the menu with fresh ingredients.

“On Friday’s do a fish fry. Traditionally on Friday it’s been ribs. We are going to do that all summer. We kicked it off last Friday and we filled the place up. The reviews were excellent. People said it was the best fish fry they’d ever had. We’ll still have prime rib on Saturday nights. We are trying to spice and freshen things up. Oregon Country beef for our burgers. Still simplistic menu but elevate it a little. We’ll have steelhead for dinners. Smoked dip for some appetizers. Just trying to elevate the menu a little bit.” 

Twin Lakes Resort has 14 rustic cabins all with views and easy access to the lake which means they fill up quickly. Reservations are required months in advance.

“This is one of our bigger cabins. This is cabin No. 2. They are quite rustic. There are two bedrooms downstairs. Full kitchen. A living room here then a loft upstairs with four to six beds.”

That’s the theme of the resort: Bring the family and enjoy the place together.

“That’s right. Pile in. And no TVs. You have to interact with each other. He adds that a Wi-Fi signal does exist, but says it’s “bad.”

Twin Lakes is a place to disconnect from the digital world and reconnect with family and friends. A place to go swimming, boating, hiking, sunbathing and fishing.

“I was teaching my daughter how to fish last weekend,” Eriksson said, admitting he caught nothing. “But they just stocked 2,500 new fish in there so it’s a whole new ballgame.” 

A new game indeed, with a new owner who understands the history, meaning and importance of this place to generations of people.

▶️ The Great Outdoors: Tribal fishing on the Warm Springs reservation

Is the grass greener on the other side of the fence?

When it comes to fishing on the lower Deschutes River, many anglers would say yes.

On this edition of The Great Outdoors, Brooke Snavely takes us fishing with Native American fishing guides on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation — essentially private property.

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▶️ The Great Outdoors: Smith Rock Spring Thing

(Editor’s note: Spring Thing 2023 is set for April 29. Volunteer registration for Spring Thing is now open but you must volunteer in advance at SmithRockGroup.org.)

More than 1 million people visit Smith Rock State Park every year to climb the steep canyon walls, hike the trails and marvel at the scenery and wildlife. 

All those visitors, no matter how careful they are, have impacts on this beautiful natural area.  

“A great example is when I started climbing here the dirt in this area was up here,” said Dustin Ebel, President of the Smith Rock Group, pointing to an area at the base of Morning Glory, one of the park’s famed climbing walls. “That much has eroded away. That was a huge problem, so creating these platforms and these fences so we can concentrate people in the correct areas so that gear is not being thrown everywhere is important to protecting the future of this park.”

Spring Thing is one of the best ways for people who love the park to give back and help ensure that the climbing routes and trails everyone loves are available for future generations. 

Over the years, Spring Thing volunteers have conducted hundreds of projects throughout the park aimed at stabilizing and rebuilding high-traffic areas, reducing erosion and clearing invasive weeds.

“We get about 250 to 300 people to volunteer a day in April. The main reason most people come is to give back to the park and the community. It gives to so many people: hikers, climbers, birders. There are so many people that enjoy this amazing natural resource that we have. To give back and leave a piece of yourself here that you are proud of just adds to that legacy and to that experience,” Ebel said.

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The idea for Spring Thing originated with a few locals who wanted to clean up the park and fix the trails. 

They came up with the idea, started working with park staff and rallied the volunteers for the first ever Spring Thing in May of 1993. 

The faces of the organizers and the ranks of the volunteers have changed over the years, but the spirit of the event remains—preserving Smith Rock State Park, one of the crown jewels of Oregon.

“One of the biggest issues is erosion. We hope to create better trail systems so that the hillside doesn’t wash away,” Ebel said. “This area we are in right now is a great example of an area needing some help. All of this is starting to erode down onto the trail. One of the projects this year will be coming up here to help this area to build a more sustainable architecture around what this trail will become. It’s going to help this trail and access up into The Gulley for significantly longer.” 

Volunteer registration for Spring Thing is now open but you must volunteer in advance at SmithRockGroup.org. There are no day-of signups. The reason is the amount of planning, supplies and coordination required to stage an event that spreads team leaders and volunteers all over the park.   

What always impresses me is how much gets accomplished in one day. Is it because there’s enough hands and good planning? 

“I’d say there’s two or three pieces to it. I have to give a huge shout out to the park staff here because they do a ton. Their communication with our group is massive. Our board does a huge amount of planning. We start planning months in advance to make this day as impactful for the park as possible. As usual, we would never be able to do it without our volunteers that come out. They are the most important part. They give us the ability to be successful and do what we do every year,” Ebel said. 

Spring Thing begins at 8am at the park and concludes with a dinner, auction, and raffle starting around 4:00 p.m. 

Parking passes, snacks, water, sunscreen, work gloves, tools and supplies, and dinner are provided for all volunteers.

“These steps have been replaced to make sure they can stand up for many more years of use. On this hillside you can see how much of this dirt and rock is loose. We’ve built out these terraces. This rock wall right here, every single one of these rocks was carried up from the river trail from volunteers and placed here. The hope is to continue building these terraces down the slope.”

I sense a cross training workout opportunity. 

“Yeah. You want a workout? We can help you with that.”

If trail work isn’t your cup of tea, consider donating cash or supplies to the Smith Rock Group—the grass roots, all-volunteer, non-profit organization that organizes Spring Thing.

“I myself have a daughter and I’m excited to teach her about that. She’s three years old and she’ll be out here with the park cleanup. It makes me happy thinking about that. To give that experience to others is extremely meaningful.” 

▶️ The Great Outdoors: Plan a Lava River Cave visit

Formed by lava flows, the Lava River Cave is a unique geological feature in the High Desert.

Last year, the Forest Service implemented a reserved ticket system to accommodate the thousands of visitors who show up to go underground.

Brooke Snavely shows you how to plan your next visit.

▶️ The Great Outdoors: Birdwatching on the Hatfield Lakes

Birdwatching is one of the easiest ways to enjoy the outdoors. All you need is a pair of binoculars and a willingness to look and listen.

The Hatfield Lakes are a series of evaporation and percolation ponds at the City of Bend’s wastewater treatment plant off McGrath Road near the Bend Airport.

Birds love this oasis of water in the high desert.

“There’s water in the ponds so it’s a magnet for birds. Mainly waterfowl and shorebirds,” said Damian Fagan, a naturalist.

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We tagged along on a Deschutes Public Library birding field trip to Hatfield Lakes. 

The group included a mix of newcomers and experienced bird watchers.

They walked on levees surrounding the ponds, which provide excellent views of ducks and geese on the water, and shorebirds feeding along the edges.

“It’s a great location, close to Bend with easy access. The City of Bend allows birds, dog walkers and bicyclists to come out, walk the dikes. For bird watchers, because of water in the ponds, it’s a magnet for birds. You get waterfowl, shorebirds, some birds of prey. There’s a really good diversity of birds out here,” Fagan said. 


Birdwatching doesn’t require much in the way of equipment: A good pair of binoculars gets you started.

“A decent pair of binoculars you can see well out of, that’s a good starting point for most birders. They’ll be able to see birds up close and at a distance. Next step up would be a spotting scope for long-distance viewing, especially if you are looking at shorebirds that you can’t approach too closely. It helps with that magnification to bring them in closer.” 

Many birders carry field guides to help identify the birds they observe.

But birding has gone techie, with a handful of mobile apps that help identify birds and contribute your observations to databases of bird populations and migration patterns.

For example, on the E-bird app from Cornell University, once you’ve found a bird you know by sight or sound, the fastest way to add it is in the quick entry bar. 

“There’s a lot of great apps. One I use in particular is E-Bird,” Fagan said. “It is a recording of your sightings so you can not only list what you’ve seen and where you’ve seen it, you can also search. Let’s say looking at Hatfield Lake, what’s been seen in the last week? What’s been seen in the last year? It has great descriptions, photographs, those sorts of things.”

You can find birding apps, such as E-bird, on your smart phone app store.