Water in the Desert, A Photographic tour of Central Oregon’s Diverse Landscapes!
I recently captured a new image with my 4×5 film camera which is seen below. I was and am still very excited about this image. I have taken several other beautiful images from Central Oregon’s Smith Rock State Park, so I was struggling to come up with an original title for this Photograph. One of the working titles under
consideration for this print was “Water in the Desert”. In the end the name didn’t quite suite this image but the title did give me the idea for this blog entry, a photographic tour of the lakes, rivers, and streams of Central Oregon. Central Oregon is located in the high desert, on the eastern edge of the Cascade Mountains. ”Desert” is defined by the New Oxford American Dictionary as: “A dry barren area of land, especially one covered with sand, that is characteristically desolate, waterless and without vegetation”. Well, Central Oregon is certainly dry by Pacific Northwest standards, averaging between 12-15 inches of precipitation per year. However, Central Oregon certainly is not “without vegetation” nor is it “waterless”. As a matter of fact, I would argue that because of its various water supplies, Central Oregon is one of the most environmentally diverse areas of the United States.
The cultural hub of Central Oregon is most certainly the City of Bend and the backbone of Central Oregon’s water is the mighty Deschutes River. With this in mind, it seems logical to start a photographic tour of Central Oregon’s watery desert in the City of Bend and its historic and scenic Mirror Pond, which is actually a section of the Deschutes River which is dammed up in the middle of Bend. Below is a photograph of Mirror Pond in Bend’s Drake Park at sunset.
Incidentally, this view is one of the reasons I moved to Bend almost 15 years ago. This scene is in the middle of downtown Bend and features the glacier covered Middle Sister and North Sister mountains as an amazing backdrop. Did I mention that this “desert” had some diversity? Not far South of the recreational paradise of Bend is the Deschutes River Trail, where I captured the following photo of the Deschutes River in it’s Autumnal glory.
This image of the Deschutes River is clearly far from arid. The riparian areas along waterways in Central Oregon are filled with vegetation and on some years offer stunning fall color. South of the city of Bend and along the Cascade Lakes Highway is an elegant chain of lakes simply referred to as the Cascade Lakes. These lakes are filled primarily via winter snowmelt. Some of the better known lakes along the Cascade Lakes Highway are Wickiup Reservoir, Crane Prairie Reservoir, Little Cultus Lake, Cultus Lake, Lava Lake, Hosmer Lake, and Sparks Lake which is seen below.
I captured this beautiful image of Sparks Lake at sunrise, the morning after an autumn snowfall had blanketed South Sister and Broken Top Mountains. The still reflection and gorgeous morning light on the clouds make this one of my favorite fine art prints. To see this image and many others, please visit the galleries page of my website , by clicking here Oregon Landscape photos.
Closer to the town of Bend is Tumalo Creek, which is fed by snow melt from the Central Oregon Cascades. Tumalo Creek is a tributary of The Deschutes River with which it connects just north of the city of Bend. West of the city of Bend, Tumalo Creek takes a 97 foot plunge and forms one of Central Oregon’s iconic features, Tumalo Falls. Incidentally, the following image of Tumalo Falls is currently the cover image for Visit Bend‘s annual guide to The city of Bend and the Central Oregon area.
Once again, we are not talking about your typical desert. The lush riparian areas along Tumalo Creek are beautiful any time of year but especially in summer and fall, which is when I captured the following image of Tumalo Creek as it courses through Bend’s Shevlin Park.
I believe that this image of Shevlin Park captures the park and Tumalo Creek at their very best. Elegant yet dry ponderosa forests give way to rich riparian areas which include Engelman spruce, larch trees( the vibrant golden trees seen in this image) and many others. Shevlin Park is a phenomenal resource for Bend and the Central Oregon area and I feel that this photograph does an excellent job of capturing its beauty.
Due west of the city of Bend lies the wondrous Three Sisters Wilderness Area. This wilderness area is included in this photographic tour because the heavy winter snows which accumulate in the Three Sisters Wilderness Area are a primary source of the water for streams and rivers in the Central Oregon area. The Three Sisters Wilderness Area can be accessed from multiple locations in the Central Oregon area. The following image, titled “Summit Sunrise” was taken from the summit of Oregon’s South Sister Mountain, which lies at the heart of the Three Sisters Wilderness Area.
Much of the snow in this sunrise image from the Three Sisters Wilderness Area eventually will end up as water in the Deschutes River and its tributaries. I captured this image after a hard climb and a restless night atop of South Sister. It was my third expedition to the top of South Sister, purely for the sake of capturing this image. It turns out that the Third time was a charm! Included in this image (from nearest to farthest) are Middle Sister, North Sister, Black Crater, Black Butte, Three Fingered Jack, Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Hood, Mt. Adams, Mt. Rainier, Mt.St Helens and the Chambers Lakes basin is in the lower right hand corner. To see three volcanoes in the state of Washington(Mt Adams, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. St Helens) taken from the middle of Oregon in the same photographic print is pretty special and that is part of what makes this image one of my favorites!
Below is another image which illustrates the geographic diversity of the Central area and more specifically the Three Sisters Wilderness Area. This image is of the mighty and elegant Proxy Falls.
Proxy Falls is an enormous veil of water located on the wet ,west side of the Three sisters Wilderness Area. It is one of the most beautiful waterfalls I’ve ever seen and its mossy richness also helps to visualize the diversity of the Three Sisters Wilderness Area. Below is photograph of Broken Top Mountain which is also located in the Three Sisters Wilderness Area. Broken Top Mountain is best accessed via trail heads located off of the Cascades lakes Highway near Bend, Oregon.
This beautiful wildflower filled image is actually taken from the dry side of the Three Sisters Wilderness Area. The thick stand of wildflowers is fed by spring snow melt from Broken Top Crater seen in the background of this image. Yes, the Three sisters Wilderness area is an amazing and diverse place. One of my more recent Large format fine art prints from the Three Sisters Wilderness Area is seen below.
This enchanting image of the Three Sisters Wilderness Area includes a nearly full moon and South Sister as a backdrop to an elegantly curving alpine stream. I accessed this image via the Obsidian area on the west side of the Three Sisters. It is a long backpack to this area but seeing this amazing stream lined by thousands of spring wildflowers was certainly worth the aches and pains. I was accompanied on this trip by old and new friends. I’d like to thank Rod, Troy, Matt, Froy, Bob and Jessie for the great adventure that allowed me to capture this recent fine art print.
East and slightly south of the city of Bend, Oregon lies yet another jaw-dropping location, Newberry Crater National Volcanic Monument. Newberry Crater is an enormous volcanic cauldron( much like Oregon’s Crater Lake National Park) which has two large lakes, East lake and Paulina Lake in is basin. I’ve scouted there countless times and this is definitely the best image I’ve captured yet from Oregon’s Newberry Crater.
This image of Newberry Crater does an excellent job of capturing the juxtaposition of desert and water. Newberry Crater is a relatively dry area but snow melt feeds Paulina Lake which is seen in the image above. I enjoy the warm morning light bathing both the pinnacles of Paulina peak in the foreground and the Three Sisters Mountains in the background.
No photo tour of Central Oregon’s waterways would be complete without a visit to the Metolius River Basin southwest of the city of Sisters, Oregon. due west of the Metolius Basin lies the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness Area. Within that wilderness area lies Three Fingered Jack Mountain and the lupine filled Canyon Creek Meadow which are seen below.
Canyon Creek is almost entirely fueled by snow melt from Three Fingered Jack. This mountain is one of the jewels of the Central Oregon Area and is only a short drive from the city of Sisters, Oregon. The waters of Canyon Creek flow into the enchanting Metolius River. The Metolius River is magical on any day but is especially so in autumn. Below is one of my favorite images of the Metolius river.
Turquoise tinted waters, old growth ponderosas, the Wizard Falls Fish Hatchery, excellent fly-fishing, rustic cabins, and the delightful Camp Sherman Store all make the Metolius River a fantastic place to visit for both children and adults.
I hope this photographic journey of Central Oregon helps to illustrate that while the Central Oregon area is arid, it is far from a desert. In fact it is blessed with countless waterways both small and large and that these waterways are bountiful with vegetation and beauty. Of course, it should be noted, once again, that virtually none of this beauty would be maintained with snowmelt from the amazing Cascade Mountain. Skiers and boarders love it and snowbirds hate it but winter snow fall is the key to the diversity and beauty of our wonderful Central Oregon landscapes. As a tribute to our life giving snow I’ll share one more image in this Central Oregon photo tour. This image is ”Sunrise from Tumalo Mountain”. It includes Central Oregon’s Broken Top Mountain and the Three Sisters Wilderness Area covered in a heavy blanket of life-giving winter Snow!
A few notes about the images in this photographic tour of Central Oregon’s diverse landscapes: All of the images in this tour and all of the images in my Fine Art Photography collection were captured with an old ,wooden 4×5 film camera and real film. For more information about the camera gear I use to capture all of my fine art prints, please visit here, Large format Photography Gear. Additionally all of the frames that I include with my framed fine art prints are hand made by me from Cherry wood lumber. For some information about my framing, visit here Landscape Photography framing. The best resource for up to date information about my many photography exhibits and new print releases is the facebook page for my photography business. Facebook: Mike Putnam Photography.
I hope you enjoyed the tour and Thanks for visiting!