I Shot the Deschutes


(Big Eddy | Photo courtesy of Seventh Mountain Resort)

Do you ever remember being a kid and wanting something so bad, but your parents wouldn’t let you have it. Here is a brief story about what I wanted and how it turned into a career.

In the 1970s our family vacation was a week stay at Sunriver. My father would present at seminars allowing for our vacation. As a kid I would ride my bike around the property with a fishing pole looking for that perfect spot. I usually found success at the marina with a worm and bobber just after the ODFW truck came and stocked the river. I wasn’t picky, I just wanted to make sure I returned just after dark with enough fish to fry.

About the year 1980 when I went to my usual spot, I noticed a new shack built at the marina. As an inquisitive young boy I hung out at the shack and asked numerous questions and of course looked at the shirts they had for sale. I was captivated by a black shirt with a purple faded writing that said “I shot the Deschutes”, I had to have it! I wanted the shirt so bad I left fishing early just to tell my parents about it. I got the usual answer, “We’ll see.”

The next day my mother took me to the marina to take a look. I have a feeling it was the $10 price tag that made her reluctant to buy the shirt. Instead she used the excuse, “Well you have to run the river first”. The obvious counter to such a statement is “Let’s go shoot the Deschutes!” At this point any cautious mother is going to look for an out. “The trip costs $7, if you save your allowance you could go next year.” Deal!

For a year I saved quarters from doing dishes, I saved birthday and holiday cash. The next summer we went to Sunriver we went straight to the marina and I dropped $7 in coins on the counter so I could shoot the Deschutes and get my shirt. The man at the counter counted the money and politely said “the trip is $8 now”. My mother said, “Looks like you are going to have to save a little more”. I went ballistic! I made it a personal mission to make sure that if my vacation dreams were squashed that so would everyone else’s. Fortunately my father had a compromise.

The next day we drove to GI Joes in Bend and bought a four-man raft. It became our family tradition to inflate the raft, plug the valves with gum/tape, tie the raft to the car roof, walk the shuttle and float from Harpers Bridge to the Sunriver Marina. I even got my shirt.

When something is as captivating as an adventure down the Deschutes River, impressions are huge. A simple shirt lead to running a river, which lead to a lifetime of employment. It’s also about the interactions we have — my first season guiding on Big Eddy I recognized one of the older guides but couldn’t place it. We contemplated over it for days. I finally told him this story as how I got my start as a raft guide. He then remembered the kid that he had to disappoint by a dollar at the old marina shack. It was how he handled that difficult interaction that helped get me on the path of being a rafting guide.

Now close to 40 years later I have been guiding whitewater rafts for 25 years and manage the rafting operations at Seventh Mountain Resort. We take thousands of families down Big Eddy every year with the focus on making every trip a memorable vacation and hopefully create rafters for life.



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