Photo by Amanda Close

Photo by Amanda Close


4 days/ 3 nights: From Warm Springs to Maupin

Group Size: Minimum: 7 Maximum: 9


Join Orion Guides, Geologists, and an Astronomer for a River Trip exploring 44 miles of The Deschutes River Basin. Experience exceptional views, intriguing geologic formations, and star-filled desert skies.  On a Lower Deschutes Whitewater River Rafting trip you river raft by columnar basalt cliffs and float through canyons carved into the Mutton Mountain range. Campsites feature exceptional views, intriguing geologic formations, and star-filled desert skies.

The overnight whitewater river rafting trip includes numerous rapids with the most notable being Whitehorse, Buckskin Mary, Wapinitia, and Boxcar. On the Deschutes river rafting trip, you are introduced to the white water gradually until the exciting conclusion on the final day. The Class III whitewater is ideal for river rafting enthusiasts of every age bracket. An overnight river rafting trip with Orion Expeditions includes all meals from lunch on the very first day through lunch on the last day, professional guides, 3 expert staff, a courtesy shuttle arranged at the river, and all necessary river gear.



A little background on the Geology of the Deschutes:

Quote from Geology and Geomorphology of the Lower Deschutes River Canyon, Oregon by Robin A. Beebee, Jim E. O'Connor, and Gordon E. Grant

“The basin is formed in sedimentary, igneous, and metamorphic rocks ranging from 250 million to 1.3 thousand years old, but rocks are Tertiary and Quaternary lavas or other eruptive materials emplaced during the past 65 million years. The present canyon and river course reflect a 20 million year struggle among volcanic, tectonic, and fluvial processes.”

Program Features

  • An all-inclusive river trip including delicious meals, all necessary river gear, professional river, geology, and astronomy guides, and a courtesy shuttle arranged at the river.

  • Float 44 miles of the Deschutes River.

  • Enjoy Class I - III Rapids, and riverside overnight camping.

  • Learn through outdoor explorative activities and hands-on experiential learning.

  • Visit unique geologic formations along the Deschutes, accompanied by Geologists.

  • End each day relaxing in camp while our guides prepare sumptuous and satisfying dinners.

  • Astronomy star party under the star-filled skies each night at camp.

  • Retire each night to your tent or lay out under a brilliant sky full of stars.

Photo Credit: Lizzie Bridges


Day 0 (evening before the trip). Meet and Greet. Your guides will meet you at Maupin City Park (Maupin, OR) the evening before the trip. Here you will get to briefly meet your guides, and other participants. You will receive a river bag that will house your belongings for the duration of the trip. You will have the option of camping with the group this night or may arrange your own hotel accommodations in town.

Day 1: We will shuttle everyone to the river and enjoy an early morning breakfast before starting our trip. Following a few introductory activities we will float 7 miles downstream to our lunch spot just before Trout creek. After lunch we will go into an overview of geology and what to look for on the Deschutes River Basin Plateau before seeing some cool features in the afternoon. We will have another 11 miles on the river before ending at Lone Pine camp for the evening. After guides have prepared a delicious we will wait for dark to transition into one of our nightly star parties. After the star party you are welcome to retreat to your tent.

Day 2: After breakfast we will get on the river, and shortly there after we will pull over to scout White Horse Rapid. This rapid is full of great geologic features that form the whitewater. Our geologists will discuss the natural history of the river, including how some of the rapids were originally formed. The guides will discuss the way we will be navigating through the geologic features. It will only be about 3 miles down to lower whitehorse camp, where we will camp for the evening. Evening star party takes place again after sunset.

Day 3: Wake up and have breakfast at Lower Whitehorse Camp. After finishing breakfast we will hike to the cave above camp for another geology field trip. After lunch we will have another 10 miles down the Buckskin Mary camp. After the sun goes down we will our final star party to end another beautiful day on the river.

Day 4: After breakfast we will take a Geology field trip to observe Buckskin Mary Rapid. After getting into our river gear and getting all packed up we will raft down through Boxcar and Wapinitia rapids. Our final day will consist of 12 river miles before ending in Maupin, Oregon.

Activity Level: Requires fitness adequate for day hiking up to 3 miles round-trip, over moderate terrain, willingness to camp, readiness to enjoy a group/family experience.

Cost per person: $849 before December 1st, 2016, $899 after December 1st, 2016. Costs include all food from breakfast on Day 1 through Lunch Day 4, 3 expert staff, 4 river guides, group equipment, transportation from Maupin to Warm Springs, and supplies. Personal items, speciality snacks and beverages, and transportation to and from Maupin, OR are not included. Tents, and sleeping cots can be rented in advance upon request.


May 25th-28th, 2017
what is unique about this trip date?
There will be a new moon located on the same side of earth as the sun. It will not be visible in the night sky making it the best time of the month to observe galaxies and star clusters as there is no moonlight interfere. This time of year we are also allowed to have controlled fires which means camp fires, and dutch over cooking for a majority of our meals!
August 20th-23rd,2017
what is unique about this trip date?
There will be a total solar eclipse on August 21st, 2017 where the moon completely blocks the sun, revealing the sun's beautiful outer atmosphere known as the corona. Many have described this as a "rare, once-in-a-lifetime event" for United States astronomy viewers. Last time it took place was 1979, and will not be seen again until 2024. The  TOTAL eclipse will be visible in parts of Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, and South Carolina before meeting the Atlantic Ocean. The partial eclipse will be visible in parts of North America and South America. Oregon will be the perfect place to watch the total eclipse. 




Bruce Bjornstad

Bruce Bjornstad is a licensed geologist/hydrogeologist and recently retired as a Senior Research Scientist at Battelle's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. He received a Bachelor’s degree in geology from the University of New Hampshire and a Master’s degree in geology from Eastern Washington University.  During his 35-year career he has written numerous documents and reports on the geology of the Northwest as well as two geologic guidebooks on Ice Age floods that transformed the region as recently as 13,000 years ago. Bruce is also the creator of an online YouTube Channel titled: “Ice Age Floodscapes”.  For recreation he enjoys skiing, windsurfing, hiking, and aerial photography.

Nick Zentner

Nick has been with CWU Geology since 1992. He teaches a popular "Geology of Washington" course to CWU students every quarter - and his course is open to townspeople for free!

He also teaches "Pacific Northwest Geology", GEOL 351, and Nick is an academic advisor and teaching mentor to most of the students in our program.

Nick's outreach to the general public includes leading the Ellensburg Chapter of the Ice Age Flood Institute, and working on CWU video projects "Central Rocks" and's "2 Minute Geology" and "I-90 Rocks".

Nick has received CWU's Most Inspirational Faculty Award and Presidential Faculty Award. In 2015, Nick received the James Shea Award, a National Association of Geoscience Teachers award that recognizes exceptional delivery of Earth Science content to the general public. Past Shaw Award recipients include Stephen Jay Gould, John McPhee, Jack Horner, and Robert Ballard.

Nick's wife, Liz Zentner, teaches science at Ellensburg High School. The Zentners have three boys - Max (24), Sam (22), and Jack (20).

For Recreation Nick enjoys hiking, basketball, guitar, and singing in choirs.


Cassie Fallscheer is an astronomer in the physics department at Central Washington University.  She has taught astronomy courses at CWU, Whitman College, and on the Semester At Sea ship while traveling around the world.  Though she has never owned her own telescope, she has used large telescopes in Arizona, Hawaii, Spain, France, and outer space.  She has been heavily involved in astronomy public outreach for most of her adult life.  She is also an avid outdoor enthusiast.