Native Americans used the Deschutes River and Little Deschutes River for transportation and as sources of food and necessary supplies. After Europeans came to the West, a wide range of users traveled the rivers. In the last century, the rivers were a major corridor for moving logs to the mills. Two other activities have also had an impact on the rivers: generation of hydroelectric power and use of the major source of irrigation water for Central Oregon agriculture.
More recently, the rivers have become very important to the recreational life of the region through fishing and boating. With this in mind, a group of paddlers has formed the Bend Paddle Trail Alliance (BPTA), with the purpose of enhancing recreational opportunities in Central Oregon. The BPTA’s mission is to promote and establish a navigable paddle trail within Deschutes County that will enhance river and lake appreciation for a wide variety of water enthusiasts, while promoting river safety, education, and stewardship. To carry out this mission, the BPTA has collaborated with a number of partners (listed under "Resources- Community- Partners" within this website). The National Park Service–Rivers and Trail Program provided invaluable technical and planning assistance for the establishment of the Paddle Trail at a number of stages in its development. The BPTA has also raised funds to develop this guide, with the assistance of many public agencies, private organizations, and generous public-minded individuals. The major contributors are listed listed under "Resources- Community- Partners" within this website. In particular, the guide was made possible by a grant from the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department through the Recreational Trails Program of the U.S. Department of Transportation. grant also provided funds for developing signage to enhance safety, education, and stewardship along the Deschutes Paddle Trail and a website for up-to-date information.