Whirling Disease Not Likely in Lower Deschutes River

We received the photo below via social media a few weeks ago and we were asked if the fish in the photo was affected by “whirling disease” or Myxobolus cerebralis.



No diagnosis of whirling disease can be possible without a proper examination by someone knowledgeable in fish pathology despite the appearance of the fish.  There are other causes of the spinal and other malformations that are more likely in the lower Deschutes River trout population.

First amongst those is trauma from electroshocking.  Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) has been conducting electroshocking studies in the lower Deschutes River for several years.  Trauma such as seen in the photo above, although rare, is not unusual.

This fish could also have been the victim of osprey predation as a juvenile, but managed to escape.

Myxobolus cerebralishas a relatively complicated three-stage, two-host, life cycle.  Part of that life cycle requires a tubificid oligochaete(Tubifex tubifex).  Although the lower Deschutes River has seen a large increase in oligochaetes since the implementation of surface water draw from Lake Billy Chinook, this specific oligochaete has not been identified in either of two sampling studies of benthic fauna.

There have also been no other reports of similarly afflicted fish in the lower Deschutes River.  Whirling disease tends to occur in epidemics.

At one time in the 1990s and early 2000s, there were suspicions that whirling disease might be present in the Upper Deschutes River watershed, although no publications that we are aware of substantiate that.  Whirling disease is an ongoing concern and is monitored for in hatcheries.

If you find fish with an appearance similar to that in the photo above, please photograph the fish, and if possible, get it to a local ODFW office (on ice of course!).

Everyone can help prevent the spread of whirling disease (and other invasive species like New Zealand mud snails) here and elsewhere by following guidelines for cleaning waders and wading boots.  Here is information on how to clean your gear:


Helping Neighbors in Need

The residents of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs Reservation have had major problems with their domestic water supply recently.  The problems are so bad that there has been no water delivery to homes or other buildings via the municipal piped water system for weeks now.

The problems include breaks in the water main, and prior to that, boil water notices due to inadequate filtration of the domestic water which is drawn directly from the Deschutes River.

A date for completion of the water main repairs still remains in the future.  Until the water main repairs are complete, residents must use bottled water at home.  Showers have been provided using the mobile showers firefighting camps use.

On Tuesday, June 18, the Deschutes River Alliance delivered 100-gallon jugs of commercial purified spring water to the water crisis command and distribution center in Warm Springs.  This was a veritable drop in the bucket compared to the overall need. But we’ll return again next week with another delivery. We’ve been told that Warm Springs is going through about 600-gallons a day of bottled water.

Wes Noone after loading 100 gallon jugs of water in the back of a pickup for delivery to Warm Springs.


The entire population that lives south of Highway 26 is presently without water.

Our offering of 100-gallons of water was very warmly received.  We’d like to suggest that others make similar donations. Gallon jugs are requested to limit the amount of plastic that will need to be recycled after the crisis is over.


Volunteers unloading our donation at the Warm Springs emergency water distribution center.


Sarah Cloud Named New Executive Director of the DRA

Please join us in welcoming our new Executive Director to the Deschutes River Alliance!  

As you know, Jonah Sandford recently left us to join the Northwest Environmental Defense Center.  We are excited for both his future endeavors and ours as we enter this transition.

Sarah comes to us with over twenty years of non-profit and political campaign management experience and a desire to protect the environment.  Most recently she has worked for non-profits focused on gender equity in the tech industry and housing issues. In addition, she has worked with the Citizens’ Utility Board of Oregon and various political campaigns.

“I have always been drawn to work that fights for the underdog. Unfortunately, the environment is an underdog in our current climate. I look forward to working with a team dedicated to protecting and preserving the Deschutes River as the treasure it is.” Sarah shares.

She has a diverse skill set that includes fundraising, conflict resolution, utilization of mainstream and social media, and data management.

Although not a fly angler (yet), Sarah sees and understands the importance of clean water and citizen enforcement of clean water laws. Some of her fondest childhood memories are of fishing with her dad on Lakes Michigan and Hamilton in the Luddington, Michigan area. These days you will often find her exploring many of the flat waters of the region via her kayak.

You’ll be hearing more about, and from, Sarah in the coming months.  Please join us in giving her a warm welcome.