It was snowing as I drove through Government Camp, but I hit delightful Central Oregon blue sky once I was on the Warm Springs Reservation. My hike was on the east bank of the Deschutes River across from Warm Springs, beginning at Mecca Flat, which was where the old highway crossed the river. The trail follows, for the most part, the railroad bed of a section of the Oregon Trunk Railway, owned by Burlington Northern, which was abandoned in 1923 when it began to use the route of its rival, the Des Chutes Railroad (Spokane, Portland, and Seattle Railway), where those tracks climb to Madras up the Trout Creek Canyon.
Heading in to Mecca Flat, I stopped at the abandoned railroad tunnel on the road. The tunnel was completed in 1912 but only used for 11 years. It can be a dodgy place, supposedly a retreat for booze-ups by locals, and a Seattle fisherman was murdered here in 2012. There’s a BLM campground at Mecca Flat, and right next to the trailhead is the private Mecca Flats Fly Fishing Club (those picnic tables in the shade cannot be used by the public).
For the first 1 ½ miles or so, the trail keeps off the railroad grade and close to the river. A kissing gate takes you on to private property, and you’ll follow a windbreak of tall poplars, to which the local beavers have applied their ever-growing ivory with some result. Opposite Dry Creek, there’s a much faded, almost illegible sign telling you this is where Peter Skene Ogden crossed the Deschutes. Ogden, a British-Canadian trapper for the Hudson’s Bay Company, was the first European to explore the region. In December 1825, his party came down the west bank of the Deschutes, looking for beaver, and crossed the river here, losing four horses due to a raging winter spate.
Past the private property, the trail joins the railroad grade. Along the way, I encountered a series of BLM outhouses, usually placed above a grassy camping space down by the river. As I got closer to Frog Springs Creek, the canyon got somewhat narrower between walls of Columbia River Basalts. Below Dry Creek, there was no habitation on the reservation side, but on one flat a herd of Indian Horses (yes, that’s a recognized breed) was grazing. I almost bumped into a herd of deer resting in the shade of a juniper, and there was a lot of bird life on the river: ospreys, mergansers, wigeons, buffleheads, mallards, kingfishers, cormorants, etc.
Closer to Trout Creek, I passed the three climbers’ access trails to the basalt colonnades at Trout Creek Bluffs. There’s a wildlife closure for the area east of the trail from January 15th to August 31st because of nesting golden eagles on the bluffs, so it’s basically a fall/early winter climbing season. When I got to the Trout Creek Day Use area, I sat at the picnic table and ate my lunch, and then turned around for the return. I saw my first humans on the hike when a drift boat and then a raft with two people floated by. About 15 ½ miles round-trip; negligible elevation gain.
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Thanks for all the photos. Did my post in the other thread motivate you to do this, or was it merely coincidence?
It's been on my radar for a long time and fit well into the beginning of a three-day trip to central Oregon. Would have done it last year had I not contracted Covid at this time. I did note your question when I was prepping for the trip, however, so I hope the report gives you some idea.