What’s the Wildlife in Deschutes National Forest

Chris Smith | 07.29.22

Birds and deer and otters, oh my!

The line may not be as impressive without the predators, but it does represent some of the native wildlife you can encounter on a trip through the Deschutes National Forest. With five distinct habitats that are teeming with resident life, the national forest just outside of Sisters is the ideal spot for those who love to take a walk on the wild side. 

There are multiple viewing areas scattered throughout the forest where you can catch a glimpse of local wildlife thriving in their natural landscapes. It’s common to see deer, birds, reptiles, otters, rabbits, and yes, even bears, and there are hundreds of other, more elusive species you can spot if you know where to look. 

Sound exciting? It is! If you’re ready to break away from the zoo and encounter some of Central Oregon’s coolest wildlife in the great outdoors, here are some tips on where to go and what to watch for in Deschutes National Forest. 

Sparks Lake

At the top of our list is Sparks Lake, one of the most spectacular viewing areas in the forest. The site’s breathtaking lake is surrounded by massive swaths of lake, meadow, marsh, and stream wetlands where you can peek and photograph a wide variety of wildlife residents. You can search the meadows for grazing deer and bashful rodents, scan the skies for predatory birds, and study the streams for fish and playful river otters. 

Featured Wildlife Groups: Birds of Prey, Waterfowl, Hoofed Mammals, Reptiles/Amphibians, Rodents

Cool Species to Spot: Bald Eagle, Golden Eagle, River Otter, Great Blue Heron, Mule Deer

Crane Prairie Reservoir

This scenic Wildlife Management Area is one of Central Oregon’s most popular spots for viewing predatory, migrating, and nesting birds. Waterfowl, Songbirds, and Birds of Prey are known to frequent the area, and rarities like the black-throated blue warbler have also been seen. A short trail on the west bank leads you to Osprey Point, where you can view artificial osprey nesting platforms and interpretive signs. On calm summer mornings, you may even glimpse a grazing elk in the meadows or a busy beaver on the shore! 

Featured Wildlife Groups: Birds of Prey, Waterfowl, Songbirds, Hoofed Mammals, Squirrels/Rodents, Butterflies, Bats, Reptiles/Amphibians, Butterflies 

Cool Species to Spot: Rocky Mountain Elk, American Beaver, Mountain Chickadee

Suttle Lake

If you’re a fan of feathered friends, be sure to stop by Suttle Lake. The lake is bound on all sides by dense conifer forest, creating the perfect shelter for perching waterfowl, especially during fall and winter. Bald Eagle and Osprey also nest here, and the nearby fir forest is a great place to see woodpeckers. You may even spy some spawning fish in the clear, shallow waters of nearby Lake Creek! 

Wildlife Groups to Watch for: Birds of Prey, Songbirds, Waterfowl, Bats, Fish

Cool Species to Spot: Long-tailed Duck, Bald Eagle, Pacific Loon

Metolius River

The mighty Metolius River winds through Deschutes National Forest, a meandering stretch of stream wetland surrounded by a vibrant blend of Ponderosa Pine and Mixed Conifer forests. The wildlife route begins at Metolius Spring and runs north to Bridge 99, offering a wide range of wildlife and passing through three special viewing areas: Camp Sherman Fish Viewing Platform, Metolius Research Natural Area, and the Metolius Fish Hatchery. 

Each spot deserves a stop, but there’s also plenty of wildlife to see along the way. You might spot predatory birds swooping in for a meal, songbirds singing a tune in the trees, butterflies flitting on riverside flowers, or raccoons washing off a tasty treat. You may even glimpse a bear wandering along the forest floor! 

Wildlife Groups to Watch for: Fish, Birds of Prey, Songbirds, Shore Birds, Bear, Raccoon, Weasels/Skunks, Bats, Butterflies, Hoofed Mammals

Cool Species to Spot: Spotted Sandpiper, Rainbow Trout, Flammulated Owl, White-Headed Woodpecker, Swallowtail, Tortoiseshell 

Book Your Stay with Sisters Vacation Rentals

The forest may be fine for our wildlife friends, but you’ll want a cozy and clean place to rest your head and stay protected from the elements during your stay. Sisters Vacation Rentals is here to help! Our Sisters, Oregon vacation properties are the perfect blend of comfort and convenience, and they all provide easy access to Deschutes National Forest. You can even book a cabin on the Metolius River to stay just steps away from one of the top wildlife viewing areas on our list! 

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