The Deschutes is a river unique in the entire United States, we are told. It is a stream that never floods.
But in the weather records reaching back to the beginning of the century and in old files of The Bend Bulletin there is some information that casts doubt of that belief.
The oldest of the old-timers living here will recall an occasion when the Deschutes did reach flood stage here. That flood occurred in November 1909, when a heavy storm, similar to the one of the past week, struck the Deschutes country.
Torrential rains fell around November 20 that year, and a few days later word was received from Laidlaw (now Tumalo) that the Deschutes was flooding in that area, with a heavy flow pouring in from Tumello (now Tumalo) Creek.
The Bulletin’s editor scoffed at the suggestion that the Deschutes could flood and hinted Laidlaw residents were in error in reporting high water there.
Then on November 25, 1909, the Deschutes flood hit Bend.
First damage was to the old Bend Company Mill’s log pond, in the upper reaches of the Mirror Pond of the present. The high water broke the pond barrier and sent afloat, in a rushing stream, 250 logs.
Downstream a short distance, the Bend Water Light & Power Co. dam was well under construction. The wild logs bumped into coffer dam and pillars at the site of the new dam, causing much damage.
The flood of 1909 occurred just prior to the creation of the Mirror Pond, which formed behind the power company dam in later months. Through the pond area of the present, the Deschutes water, log laden, churned in a muddy flow.
Just upstream from the village of Bend of that day, the ferry operated by John Peters went out. Also destroyed was the footbridge that crossed the Deschutes from the east side to the Bend Company mill.
That was the flood of 1909, which was forgotten in later years as federal hydrologists in various publications said the Deschutes River of Oregon was the only river in the entire United States that never reached a flood stage.
Could a flood similar to that of 1909 occur again? Hardly.
It does not appear probable that the Deschutes ever again will witness a flood such as occurred in late November 1909.
The recent storm, even heavier than that of 51 years ago, provided adequate proof of the even flow of the Deschutes. It is a river, which it can safely be said, never floods.
Source: The Bulletin