Our Deschutes River in Bend, Oregon
The Shevlin-Hixon and Brooks-Scanlon lumber mills came in to existence in 1916. These lumber mills, made possible by the railroad’s (Oregon Trunk/Des Chutes Railway) arrival in 1911, sparked a boom that fueled the town’s growth for the next half century. Bend was a bustling town of 5,414 by 1920. For the next several decades, both Brooks Scanlon and Shevlin-Hixon mills operated as the world’s largest pine sawmills. For close to 80 years the mills were the primary source of jobs, revenue and growth in Bend.
Pine production neared record levels and central Oregon’s economy prospered as people flocked to the area. The Brooks-Scanlon Mill took over Shevlin-Hixon Mill in 1950 due to dwindling log supplies. In 1960, Bend was a thriving town of 12,000 and the Brooks-Scanlon Mill would continue to turn out a large volume of pine lumber for more than two decades. In 1993, Bill Smith formed the River Bend Limited Partnership and acquired 270 acres encompassing both sides of the river.
The area was leased back until 1994 when the Brooks-Scanlon Mill closed production.
Land and river restoration occurred in stages from 1994 – 2001. The Old Mill District restoration master plan included a voluntary cleanup of contaminated portions of the abandoned lands and creating a new zone for the City of Bend (Mixed Use Riverfront) to provide a wide range of uses, including protection and enhancement of natural features and wildlife, residential, office and commercial uses. The Old Mill District was honored with the EPA’s Phoenix Environmental Award in 2002 for brownfield redevelopment. (A brownfield site is land previously used for industrial purposes where the land may be contaminated and has the potential to be reused once it is cleaned up).
Access to this large section of the Deschutes River (14,000 linear feet) was closed to the public since 1920. Now it is a vital wildlife habitat and during the summer is used by kayakers, floaters, anglers, outrigger canoeists and athletes. The River Trail is accessible year round for running, cycling and dog walking. The Les Schwab Amphitheater (former site of the Shevlin-Hixon Mill) hosts several concerts each summer.
Animals & Wildlife Viewing
The Deschutes River is teeming with animals and wildlife surrounding the Old Mill District in Bend. In fact, we go to great lengths to protect the wildlife in and around the Old Mill because we love animals and birds as much as you do. If you are looking for a nature escape without having to leave town, this is it! On any given day, you may see a beaver or the occasional otter along with a variety of magnificent birds. You can seek out the endangered Oregon Spotted Frog that lives and thrives in our protected marsh areas. And, say hello to the marmots who runabout amongst the wildflowers and rocks.
The next time you’re down here, check out a free pair binoculars and pick up a birding guide from the Ticket Mill to see how many birds and animals you can spot in an afternoon.
Video: Animals & Wildlife Viewing in Bend, Oregon
Ever wonder what kind of animals you could see along the Deschutes River in Bend? Chelsea’s taking you along with her on a wildlife safari through the Old Mill District and introducing you to a few of the critters that call the banks of the Deschutes River home. If you happen to spot a marmot, beaver, otter or the endangered Oregon Spotted Frog, snap a photo and share it with us by tagging @OldMillDistrict #OldMillDistrict on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.