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Learn about the Upper Deschutes watershed of Oregon virtually

Participants in a Trout Unlimited STREAM Girls event explore the Metolius River in Central Oregon.
Melyssa Graeper

New Trout Unlimited story map created to connect students with iconic river

Back in 2009, Trout Unlimited started an initiative for the Upper Deschutes watershed in Oregon with the desire to create projects and engage volunteers to help improve this important resource. We knew Central Oregon communities would want to be involved with hands-on restoration methods and sharing their voices for the river. 

We noticed students and new residents loved field opportunities and yearned to learn more about our unique watershed. Water is the blood for our region, and recreating and living along rivers is our backbone and passion. This initiative was a great way to spotlight the importance of the Deschutes and empower more people to care for this spring-fed river.

This new story map allows us to do that virtually from our school or home.   

For our initiative, our organization started volunteer events right away with our members and interested locals who wanted to help our rivers. We reached out to community partners and agencies to offer support and help meet restoration and science priorities. We slowly started adding new projects and educational programming, connecting students to growing opportunities to study and restore important habitat.

Now 11 years later, it is exciting to reflect on where we have come from and where we are going in our efforts for the Deschutes River. To help tell the story about our students, teachers, and volunteers, and our hopeful vision for the future, we launched a story map as a new online hub for learning about the Deschutes River and how to get involved. 

If you aren’t familiar with story maps, they are an interactive tool that leverages maps, text, images, videos, and more to tell stories right in your web browser. TU uses story maps to tell stories about the problems our fish face, and the successes and challenges we have in addressing them. We like to think of them as a self-guided PowerPoint. Most story maps are centered on one or more interactive maps that allow users to step through a place-based narrative based on guided waypoints or invite users to explore on their own. 

Local fourth grade students during a visit to the Metolius River.

This unique story map is called “Harvesting Hope for the Deschutes Basin,” and it has been designed for students and adults who want to study and help the river system and our wildlife. It provides a great platform to explore how the river works and how we have engaged students and volunteers.

Over the past 10 years, we have worked with students from nine distinct communities, and provided field trips to four local watersheds. Students have connected to our restoration projects and helped us improve sections of five watersheds and 50 river miles for our fish and wildlife. Our goal has been to inspire students to study their local river, appreciate the unique habitat, and empower our youth and families to care for each river now and into the future. 

College students and Trout Unlimited members work on a fish salvage effort. Darek Staab.

As Central Oregon continues to grow, we believe this educational work and these projects are critical to build awareness of the importance of water and the health of our local rivers. We hope this story map provides an inspiring introduction to the Deschutes River watershed and plants some seeds of hope for getting involved. In this story map, take your time and discover each option, to EXPLORE, INVESTIGATE, CELEBRATE and find HOPE for our local rivers. Make sure and find the SPOTLIGHT on local species and tributaries for the Deschutes. We hope to see you out on a local river and please do your part as we all live downstream. 

Thanks to the “Harvesting Hope for the Deschutes Basin” Story map crew – Darek Staab, Matt Mayfield and Cheryl Renwick – for providing a unique way to interact with the environment.