Information Centers
Local Currency / Barter

Sound Hours

Hour 4 Hour Time Exchange

Public Transportation

Intercity Transit

Bike Trails


Columbus Park

Offut Lake Resort

Olympia Campground

Local Indigenous Tribes

Squaxin Tribe


Deschutes Watershed Council

Watershed Description

The headwaters of this river system begin their decent through the Bald Hills highlands which are basically foothills of the Cascade mountains. A maximum elevation of only 909 meters, the hills are just that, not comparable in height to the headwaters of the neighboring Nisqually watershed which begins on the slopes of the ever present Tahoma. Modest origins give way to sets of waterfalls which are perhaps the gems of this small watershed. The western edge of the watershed is formed by the black hills and to the east are rolling hills and numerous lakes that provide less than a definitive border between the Deschutes and Nisqually watersheds. The river and the watershed it drains leave land for sea through what was once the Deschutes estuary, now a shallow reservoir. Beyond this is the Budd Inlet and the fresh to salt water transition ends as the inlet fades into the Puget Sound.

The river itself takes its name from the French language for “waterfall”. Long before this name was applied it held a host of others depending on which tribe your might have asked. Some included dus-chut-wit, pac-al-ups, low-hum, and tu-wa-na-hi-ooks. The Nisqually tribe word for the river was p-kal-ubsch, and near the mouth of the river, tumchuck was used in reference to the “Tumwater” falls of today.


Geology (& Tectonic Activity, Landforms)

The Black and Bald hills are at the southern terminus of a long gone glacial ice sheet that stretched down from the north of Salish Sea. They consist mainly of old sedimentary and volcanic rock and have extensively weathered forms due to a lack of glacial activity. The glaciers had “oozed” down between the Olympic and Cascade mountains and pushed their way out into the plains between the present day Black and Bald hills. Sediment pushed into place by the glaciers created a small, nearly imperceptible ridge that today forms the southern boundary of the watershed.

Hydrology (& River Systems, Watersheds, Water Temperature, Water Salinity)

In the early 1950's the Deschutes River was radically changed by the introduction of anadromous salmonid fish due to the placement of fish ladders at the previously impassable Tumwater Falls. The 5th Ave dam now blockades what was once a free flowing estuary. Stopped up to create a “reflection pond”, its’ proponents continue to drown the natural estuary in stated needs for a tourist attraction. The dam though is only but the latest alteration to the waterway. The main river channel was dredged for sea going ships and to provide access to the brewery, which at one time was found at the base of Tumwater Falls. The falls provided newcomers a source of electricity, but was before this time a sacred site for the indigenous. Ages after the first brewery more incarnations of the brewery sprung up and altered the surrounding falls to a greater extent

The watershed has four major aquifers layered on top of each other with two clay-rich layers between them. Much of the Black and Bald Hills as well as uplands near Tenino do not contain groundwater aquifers. In these areas the groundwater flows toward the closest large body of surface water. Some small ponds and streams of the watershed are dry for parts of the year due to lowering of the groundwater levels in the upper aquifer. In at least one part of the watershed minor flows from the Deschutes river were found to be recharging the groundwater.


Climate (& Weather Patterns, Ocean Currents)

With only 52 clear days out of every 365, watershed residents live under some form of cloud cover 86 percent of the year, with more than a trace of rain falling on almost half the days of the year.


Forest Species:

Riparian/Freshwater Species:

Marine/Shore Species:

Prairie Species:


Marine/Shore Species:

Riparian/River Species:

Forest Species:

Prairie Species:


Native Cultures (& Languages)

The Deschutes was originally home to the Squaxin people. The Squaxin, or “the people of the water” was a culture rooted in a lifestyle tied to the Salish Sea and it’s southern watersheds. They worked and played, fished, hunted and gathered here in the waters of the 7 inlets. The Squaxin were not the only native inhabitants who used the area. The Puyallups and Nisquallies of the corresponding riversheds used the area as a gathering place and for fishing grounds. Even the Duwammish and Suquammish from the Lake Washington area came to camp on the beaches of these Southern Inlets. They, like the Squaxins used the area for food gathering and preparation.

Modern Cultures (& Modern Settlement Patterns, Languages, Shared History and Destiny, Current Land-use Patterns and Problems)

Local Amenities

Waste (& Garbage, Recycling, Sewage, Stormwater)

Areas exclusively in the watershed and not pat of a community have individual septic systems.


Groundwater in the county is of generally high quality with some exceptions. Projected population increases will require additional groundwater withdrawals to serve the new residents. There have been scattered leaks and spills which have contaminated small areas of the aquifers with fuels or solvents. In several areas, wells have been abandoned because of pesticide contamination. A few areas in the county have nitrate levels that are significantly above background levels, but in most cases water quality exceeds the "official" drinking water standard.

Energy (& Electricity, Fuel)

Food Markets
Restoration Projects
Community Discussion Board

Feel free to discuss the map of this location (how it is depicted), the contents of the side boxes, or the watershed description as it appears in the box above.

Restoration Groups / Volunteer

Stream Team

People for Puget Sound

SPS Prairie Working Group

Wolf Haven

Capitol Land Trust

Social Services / Volunteer

Crisis Clinic

Volunteer Center

Catholic Community Services

Sustainable Businesses

Black Lake Organic

Sound Diaper and Laundry Service

Windfall Lumber

Alternative Medicine

Dynamic Duality School of Energy Healing

Farmers Markets