OwSR No. 12: Donner und Blitzen River

Kayaking the Donner und Blitzen River

Kayaking on the Donner und Blitzen River | Photo: Zach Collier

Quick Facts

  • Managing Agency: Burns District (BLM)
  • Designated Stretch: Headwaters of South Fork of the Donner und Blitzen to Page Springs including it's tributaries Fish Creek, Little Donner und Blitzen, Big Indian Creek, Little Indian Creek, Mud Creek, Ankle Creek, and South Fork of Ankle Creek.
  • Designation Length: 87.5 miles (87.5 miles Wild)
  • Outstanding Remarkable Values: Scenic, Geologic, Recreational, Fish and Wildlife, Vegetation, Cultural (Traditional practices/prehistoric sites), and Cultural (historic sites)
  • Wild and Scenic River Designations: October 28, 1988 and October 30, 2000

More Information

Celebrated by Zach Collier, Daniel Martin, and Doug Wiedwald by kayaking from Blitzen Crossing to Page Springs on March 22 & 23, 2017.


Camping on the Donner und Blitzen RiverDan Martin: When Zach suggested that we might have a chance to catch the Donner und Blitzen I said "Sweet, let's do it, what is it?" I was intrigued not only by the moniker reminiscent of reindeers and tough Germans, but also this this section of water is in an area of our country that I've never had a reason to check out. In driving into the Southeast High Oregon Desert, I was captivated by these occasional deep gashes into the earth that divided up the prairie. I was hoping that Donner und Blitzen was one of these deep gashes.

Turns out it's even awesomer... To get there we headed up the south road of the Steens Mountain, which is a striking snow covered mountain range growing out of the high desert. The put-in was reasonably easy and our lightweight IKs were perfect for the overnight trip. As we started, the bony water gave us continuous class II/III rock dodging with shrubbery down to (and in) the river. On the first day, every half mile or so we had a fun, mildly technical section to keep things interesting. Camping at Tombstone Canyon split the trip up perfectly -- and if we weren't so lazy -- yields a really sweet waterfall a short hike up the creek. Day 2 was a bit spicier with more frequent technical(ish) class III/III+ sections getting us out of our boats 2 or 3 times to scout. The water mellowed for last couple of miles giving us a chance to take in how fortunate we were in that moment to be with friends we love in an such an amazing place.

The Little Donner und BlitzenDoug Wiedwald: A few days earlier we had paddled by the confluence of the Little Blitzen and the Donner und Blitzen. It was mostly sunny, great for paddling. Now, we were hiking in fresh snow in the Little Blitzen watershed. It was storming and cold, quiet. I love how the snow absorbs all noise. Everytime I look into a drainage I imagine boating it. The Little Blitzen was too low and steep, but as always, fun to imagine going down it in a kayak, picking your lines. As we headed back down the road after hiking we left the storm behind. Microclimates just a thousand feet apart.

Kayaking on the Donner und Blitzen RiverZach Collier: I've wanted to paddle this river ever since I ready about it in Soggy Sneakers when I moved to Oregon in 2006. After one failed attempt due to the locked gate I finally paddled it with my friends Dan and Doug as an overnight trip. We put in at Blitzen Crossing on the South Fork of the Donner und Blitzen and paddled down to Tombstone Canyon where we spent the night. The next day we had a beautiful sunny day and paddled the rest of the river to Page Springs. Yes, it is worth the effort. Read the full story on ONDA's web site.

Learn about Oregon Wild and Scenic River No. 13: The South Fork John Day River >>


Northwest Rafting Company Exploratory Division