Brown’s Crossing, 24 miles south of Sunriver, is one of my favorite spots to observe a plethora of local wildlife. This 2- square mile habitat is a lush home to a variety of waterfowl and birds of prey, hummingbirds, beavers, deer, and bats. In early Spring I visited and found several deer carcasses from the previous Fall and dozens of beaver felled trees. I had the place to myself except for the Dam’s caretaker, who was only visible by the plume of smoke from his cabin. Now, in July, the exposed beach is dotted with fishermen. There is the distant churn of motor boats. A Bald Eagle stalks the shore. In another month the Kokanee Salmon and Brown Trout will leave Wickiup Reservoir to migrate upstream two miles to Brown’s Crossing.
On the South side of South Century (Road 42) next to The Deschutes River Bridge is a viewing area. There is a wooden platform built out and over the river so that visitors can get a good look. A short walking trail tells about the abundant wildlife found in this area. This is a delightful ‘roadside attraction’ one easily accessible to people of all ability.
Crane Prairie Dam was originally built by several irrigation districts to service The Central Oregon Irrigation District. The Dam was rehabilitated by The Bureau of Reclamation in 1940 to improve hazardous conditions. The Dam is under current scrutiny by a conservative group who seeks to protect The Oregon Spotted Frog, a threatened species. The group claims The Dam drains the dam too quickly, stranding eggs upstream while flooding the frog’s downstream habitat.
There is a trail that runs along The Deschutes to Crane Prairie Dam up to Brown’s Mountain Boat Ramp. The Dam acts as a Division between Lake and River, there is a noticeable contrast between the two ecosystems. Beaver stumps and fallen trees line the lake side of the trail, an Old-Growth Pine Forest towers river side. I am refreshed after only a short time here, there is so much to see!
Crane Prairie sunsets are a magical thing! On hot summer nights the sky lights up like rainbow sherbet! An homage to the famous Crane Bows that swim in the water below? Brown’s Mountain Boat Ramp is an excellent spot to witness such a sight, stay through twilight and see the bats. They won’t hurt you, actually quite the anti-vampires, they eat the blood-sucking mosquitos. Speaking of blood suckers, I did find leaches on the beaches….but everyone knows Crane Prairie is a fishery, not a swimmery.