About 10 miles from Sisters is the second-largest tributary of the Deschutes River, the Metolius River. Known simply as “the Spring,” the water wells up out of the earth at a constant 48°F. The warm spring-fed waters of the upper Metolius are ideal for insect egg and larval development, which in turn provides an abundant food source for rainbow, brown, brook, and bull trout, kokanee salmon, and whitefish.
Consequently, some of the best fly-fishing in Oregon is found on the upper Metolius. This was no secret to the Native Americans. The name Metolius derives from an Indian word for “floating fish” because of the dead salmon carcasses found in the river after they spawn.
A beautiful riverside trail follows the Metolius as it meanders through the ponderosa pine trees past many excellent fishing holes. Drift boats are used to tackle the harder-to-reach places along this 25-mile waterway.
Other streams merge with the Metolius, lowering the water temperature to an average of 35°F. While the fishing isn’t as good as in the warmer upper reaches, the white-water rafting is better downstream. The increased water volume coupled with steeper flow gradients provide plenty of exciting rapids for river-runners to splash around in. The Metolius was designated a National Wild and Scenic River in 1988, creating a 4,600-acre corridor within the unique 86,000-acre Metolius Conservation Area.
Five miles downstream from Camp Sherman (7 miles from the head of the Metolius Trail) is the Wizard Falls Fish Hatchery, which is open to visitors daily. Over 2.5 million fish, including Atlantic salmon, brook and rainbow trout, and kokanee salmon, are raised here annually. The hatchery is the only place in the state that stocks Atlantic salmon, which are transferred to Hosmer Lake.
Getting to the Metolius River
To get to the Metolius River, take the Camp Sherman Highway off U.S. 20 five miles west of Sisters. This road will take you around Black Butte. On the north face of this steep evergreen-covered cinder cone lies the source of the Metolius. A 0.25-mile trail takes you to a railing where you can see the water bubbling out of the ground.
by Judy Jewell and W. C. McRae from Moon Oregon, 8th Edition, © Elizabeth & Mark Morris and Avalon Travel