Wednesday, November 23, 2022

The Marvelous Metolius

Bubbling out of the ground in the shadow of nearby Black Butte, the Metolius River winds through Central Oregon directly east of the Cascade mountain range until joining the Deschutes River at Lake Billy Chinook.  Designated a wild and scenic river, it's a popular place for photographers, especially in the fall.

The Metolius River in early October

My neighbor Cheri and I visited the mighty Metolius in early October.  We were hoping to photograph some fall colors along the river.  Although the Metolius at Wizard Falls was impressive, it's rapids a vivid bright blueish hue, we were disappointed to discover the autumn foliage was just getting started. 

Wizard Falls on the Metolius 

However, I got a second chance to photograph the Metolius.  In late October, I spent 10 days in Central Oregon, doggy-sitting for my daughter.  Because my grand-puppies didn't require constant attention, I was free to explore the nearby trails.  One of the places on my list was to revisit the Metolius River.  So, now in Central Oregon once again, it was time to see if the leaf color had progressed any.

The same spot three weeks later in early morning shade

I headed out on a chilly morning and was delighted to discover the bushes lining the Metolius now decked out in vibrant yellows and reds.  The only problem - it was so early in the morning that the river itself was still in shade.  Lack of sunlight meant it's unique aqua-blue color wasn't very prominent.  But because I was there, I snapped some images anyway.

Another early morning shot from the bridge

I'd have to wait for the sun to crest over the tall trees to get my river lighting.  To pass the time and warm myself up, I decided to take a hike along this lovely river.  Trails lined both sides of the Metolius, stretching both up and downriver.  I chose to head upriver from the Wizard Falls Fish Hatchery.

Sunny spot along the river

The first 11 miles of this lovely river are open for recreation, mainly fly fishing, hiking, and rafting.  The lower 17 miles flow through the Warm Springs Reservation, where public access is difficult or nonexistent.  The upper portion of the Metolius is lined with thick forests of pine, cedar and fir, along with numerous other bushes.  The vegetation makes a lovely backdrop to this super-clear mountain stream.

Ponderosa pines

I didn't venture far down my trail of choice before sunshine broke over the trees and lit the river's waters.  Swirling eddies in the center churned a vibrant aqua color.

Golden ferns

Although much of the adjacent forest was coniferous, the bushes and plant understory was a riot of color.  One area was covered with ferns, all a lovely shade of gold.


Riverside scenery

With all this beauty, hiking progress was mighty slow.  My only problem was finding a clear enough spot to get down to the water.  But I managed to find access via numerous fishing trails.

River rapids

I hiked as far as Metolius Spring, where several clusters of springs gushed from the banks, creating this beautiful river.  Having hiked about 2.5 miles in distance from Wizard Falls, it was time to turn around and see if the sun had finally illuminated the river there.

Red vine maple leaves

Vine maple also grew in these forests.  It's autumn leaves are the prettiest of all, turning shades of yellow, orange, and fiery red.  I passed by a huge thicket of vine maple, and my camera found all sorts of vibrant subjects.

Multi-colored vine maple

Upon my return to Wizard Falls, I was delighted to discover the sunlight had made it's way to the river, illuminating nearly the entire width.

Wizard Falls in midday sun

Compared to my morning's photos, this was much better.  The sunlight made the water colors absolutely pop.  It's amazing the difference light makes on an image.

A bit of daylight makes a difference!

One of the many gorgeous scenic spots in Central Oregon, I was glad I'd made the trip back to revisit.

Lovely spot in autumn

Enjoy the photos, and happy Thanksgiving to those who celebrate!


  1. ...beautiful images, I wish that I could hear the sounds.

  2. Thanks for taking us on a beautiful hike!

  3. So glad you had the opportunity to return this autumn! All the images are wonderful but the final one is superb! Happy Thanksgiving.

  4. How I love this river! It's color is absolutely magical. Thank you for the reminder.

  5. What a beautiful river! Glad you captured the autumn colors.


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