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Birding and Natural History of Central Oregon's High Lava Plains

Program Number: 14709RJ
Start and End Dates:
5/19/2013 - 5/24/2013; 5/22/2016 - 5/27/2016;
Duration: 5 nights
Location: Bend, Oregon
Price starting at: $825.00 - Price may vary based on date, departure city
Program Type: Birding; Natural History
Meals: 15; 5 Breakfasts, 5 Lunches, 5 Dinners    

Home to more than 200 breeding bird species, this beautiful region of central Oregon offers a fascinating range of habitats, from forest to desert to wetlands. Observe a range of birds, potentially including White-headed Woodpecker, Ferruginous Hawk, Barrow's Goldeneye, Townsend's Warbler and others. Volcanic features abound with landforms such as lava flows and cinder cones, as well as the Three Sisters and Broken Top, young volcanoes of the Cascades.


Embark on a circular route around the Cascade Mountains to study the area's natural history and native Western bird species.
Daily excursions with Audubon instructors target varied habitats for sightings of songbirds, shorebirds, waterfowl, hummingbirds and raptors.
Visit the Lava Lands Visitor Center and the High Desert Museum.

Activity Particulars

Walking daily one-quarter to 1.5 miles, 1-3 stops. Uneven terrain and elevation gain. Bend elevation 3,625 feet.

So you can get the most out of your experience, all of our birding programs have a maximum participant-to-instructor ratio of 14:1.

Coordinated by the Audubon Society of Portland.


Tucked between the Cascade Mountains and the high desert, Bend is a popular destination for those seeking sunny days, cool nights, clear lakes and snowcapped mountains, as well as for those interested in pioneer history.

Comfortable motel on the banks of the Deschutes River. Indoor/outdoor pool, spa and tennis courts.

Road Scholar Instructors
These instructors are participating on at least one date of this program. Please note that changes may occur.
Dan Van Den Broek

Dan van den Broek has been enthusiastically birding for 30 years and has traveled extensively internationally and in the Pacific Northwest to identify and observe myriad species. Dan is the lead instructor for Portland Audubon's Master Birder program and the Portland Audubon School of Birding.
Meals and Lodgings
   Bend Riverside Motel
  Bend, OR 5 nights
 Bend Riverside Motel
Type: Hotel
  Description: Nestled along the banks of the sparkling Deschutes River in Bend, the motel is close to everything, but away from it all.
  Contact info: 1565 NW Hill Street
Bend, OR 97702 USA
phone: 541-388-4000
  Room amenities: Balcony/porch area, full kitchen.
  Facility amenities: Indoor/outdoor pool, spa, tennis courts.
  Smoking allowed: No
  Additional nights prior: $70.00 If you wish to stay overnight at Bend Riverside Motel before the trip make those reservations on your own. Check out of your room at the regular time and plan to check in to your program provided room at 5pm.
  Check in time: 4:30 PM
  Additional nights after: $70.00 If you wish to stay overnight at Bend Riverside Motel before the trip make those reservations on your own. Check out of your room at the regular time and plan to check in to your program provided room at 5pm.
  Check out time: 12:00 PM

Travel Details
  Start of Program:
5:00 PM at the Bend Riverside Hotel You will be staying at Bend Riverside Motel that night.
  End of Program:
Ends after breakfast at 9am for those traveling on their own. Those taking the shuttle back to Portland will have lunch and arrive at Doubletree Hotel-Lloyd Center by 1 PM. You will be staying at Bend Riverside Motel the night before.
  Required documents:
The Participant Information Form is required.
  Parking availability:
Free parking is available at the Bend Riverside Motel for those wishing to drive their cars to the program.
To Start of Program
  Location:  Bend, OR
  Nearest highway: Portland hotel where program begins is nearest to junction of I-5 and I-84.
  Nearest airport:  Portland International Airport because program begins in Portland.
  From End of Program
  Location: Bend, OR
    (Additional transportation information same as above)
Travel Details

Portland, OR


From Airport




Commercial Van/Shuttle
Van Shuttle provided by Portland Audubon from downtown Portland
phone: 503-292-6855 x119
Advanced Reservations Required


Per Person/One Way:


Prices are subject to change.


Travel Time:






140 miles


Accommodations are in Bend, OR where our program actually begins at 5pm. If you wish to fly/train/bus to Portland and reserve a spot on our van shuttle to and from Bend, let us know. The van departs the Double Tree Hotel Lloyd Center in downtown Portland at 1 pm first day of program (Sunday) and returns there at 1 pm on last day of program (Friday).


Portland, OR


From Airport




Car Rentals
Wide selection of rental companies at airport
Advanced Reservations Required


Per Person/One Way:


Prices are subject to change.


Travel Time:


3.5 hours 




140 miles


Contact car rental agency directly


Portland, OR


From Bus Terminal




phone: 180-023-1222 x2
Advanced Reservations Required


Per Person/One Way:


~ 60.00
Prices are subject to change.


Travel Time:







Greyhound service from Portland to Bend is currently a single departure/day that leaves Portland early in the morning. If you plan on arriving in Bend via Greyhound be sure to let Portland Audubon know your travel plans so we may assist getting you from the Bend Greyhound depot to the Bend Riverside Motel in whatever way we can. Keep in mind that it may be necessary for you to take a taxi.

Driving Directions
  From the East Directions are to the Bend Riverside Motel in Bend, OR: Driving from Burns on Hwy 20, past 27th street and the Forum Center, past Pilot Butte, continue on Greenwood avenue, past Hwy 97 to Bond street. Turn right on Bond street to NW Hill street. Turn right on NW Hill Street, through the first stop light. We are on the left next to Pioneer Park.
  From the North Directions are to the Bend Riverside Motel in Bend, OR: Driving from Redmond on Hwy 97, past the Mt. View Mall. Stay on the alternative Hwy 97 Parkway. Take the 137 exit before Downtown/COCC exit. Go through the light and we are on the right next to Pioneer Park.
  From the South Directions are to the Bend Riverside Motel in Bend, OR: Driving from La Pine on Hwy 97, stay on the alternative Hwy 97 parkway. Take the 137 exit before Downtown/COCC exit. Turn left on Revere Avenue. Turn left at next stop light, which is NW Hill street. We are on the right, next to Pioneer Park.
  From the West Directions are to the Bend Riverside Motel in Bend, OR: Driving from Sisters on Hwy 20, past the Mt. View Mall. Take the alternative Hwy 97 Parkway south. Take the 137 exit before Downtown/COCC exit. Go through the light and we are on the right next to Pioneer Park.
Elevation Note: Program activities will take place in the 3,000 to 5,000 feet range. Bend elev. is 3625'.

Equipment Requirements: Binoculars required for full participation. 10 Power Hand Lens recommended for rock and flower identification. Spotting scope optional.
The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Daily Schedule

Day 1: Travel to Bend on your own -- OR -- join the Portland Audubon van shuttle departing at 1pm from Portland. Cost of shuttle is $20/person one way. Contact Steve Engel at Portland Audubon to sign-up for shuttle.
(Sunday, May 19)

Note: We travel across the Cascade Mountains on our way to Bend with a couple of rest stops to take in the scenery, see a few birds, learn a bit about the plants and geology.

 Arrive To: For those choosing to ride to Bend in the Portland Audubon van shuttle: Meet in lobby of Doubletree Hotel-Lloyd Center (1000 NE Multnomah St.) in Portland at 1 PM on first day. We will arrive in Bend at 5pm with rest stops along the way. Lunch is not provided.
 Dinner: Our dinner tonight is at our hotel catered by an amazing local food caterer, Annie's Kitchen. Feel free to bring a bottle of wine to dinner with you.
 Evening: We take time to meet everyone now that we are all together and we go over the basics of the week with details about Monday and answer questions you may have.
Accommodations: Bend Riverside Motel
Meals Included: Dinner

Day 2: Birding Bend: Enjoy a 360 degree view of the area from top of Pilot Butte. Practice group birding etiquette. Visit two distinct wetlands - Hatfield Lakes and the Deschutes River at Tumalo Falls State Park.
(Monday, May 20)

Note: A short drive from our hotel to the top of Pilot Butte where we spend ~ 45 minutes. Another short drive to Hatfield Lakes where we walk ~ one mile round trip to the lake shore. Lunch at Tumalo Falls and exploring along the Deschutes River afterwards. We plan to see a variety of birds including Black-billed Magpie, Clark's Nutcracker, Hammond's Flycatcher, Wilson's Phalarope, a variety of waterfowl, Townsend's and Wilson's warblers, a variety of swallows and more.

 Breakfast: Early risers make a pot of coffee in your room but then join us in our meeting room for more coffee and a catered breakfast.
 Morning: Practically in the middle of town is Pilot Butte - a cinder cone now a city park. We drive to its summit for a 360 degree view of the landscape surrounding Bend. With clear weather we should be able to see no fewer than 8 volcanoes and countless cinder cones. This is also our first opportunity to bird together and practice the etiquette of group birding. There should be plenty of great birds for us to focus on with possibilities like Clark's Nutcracker, Rock Wren, and passing raptors such as Cooper's Hawks and Red-tailed Hawks. After Pilot Butte we visit a local wetland situated in the midst of sagebrush and pine trees that attracts waterfowl, shorebirds and song birds. We may see Wilson's Phalaropes, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Mountain Bluebird, Ring-necked Duck and Pied-billed Grebe.
 Lunch: Depending on the weather, we may stop back at our hotel to make our picnic lunch or have our lunch along the Deschutes River.
 Afternoon: Tumalo Falls State Park is right along the beautiful Deschutes River and offers several habitats in a small area. Rimrock, riparian, forest and bitterbrush & sagebrush are nestled together and offer a wide variety of birds. We should see Tree, Violet-green and Northern Rough-winged swallows, Vaux's and White-throated Swifts; Yellow-rumped, Wilson's and Townsend's Warblers; Western Wood Pewee and Pygmy Nuthatch to name a few.
 Dinner: We enjoy another of Annie's catered dinners at the hotel.
 Evening: Typically we have our evening meeting before heading out to a favorite local restaurant for dinner. We review bird sightings of the day, preview the coming day and present information on geology and natural history of the area. Tonight we will likely reverse that order and have our evening presentation after dinner.
Accommodations: Bend Riverside Motel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3: High Desert Loop: We explore far and wide today heading east from Bend and enter into the Great Basin region as we cross Horse Ridge. Ponderosa Pine forest birding and unique geological features with great birds are highlights.
(Tuesday, May 21)

Note: We prepare sack lunches after our catered breakfast and depart for Horse Ridge where we spend ~ half hour birding and learning about the ridge's geological history and significance. Then it's across sage brush flats and into the Ponderosa Pine forest surrounding the Cabin Lake bird blind. Lunch in the field and then on to Fort Rock, a fascinating geological formation rising out of the high desert. Walks at all our stops are short and on mostly flat ground.

 Breakfast: We enjoy a catered breakfast at our hotel this morning.
 Morning: After we make our sack lunches we drive east to Horse Ridge; the sage brush flats of the Millican area; the Ponderosa Pine forests around China Hat where we enjoy our lunch and view birds at a local blind. Lewis's Woodpeckers and Mountain Bluebirds are sure to make an appearance and we have good chances for Cassin's Finch, Red Crossbill, Gray Flycatcher, Green-tailed Towhee and more.
 Lunch: Lunch in the field at a campground among giant Ponderosa Pine trees.
 Afternoon: We continue on after lunch and drive out of the pines and back into the high desert sagebrush landscape. We visit Fort Rock National Natural Landmark rising out of the barren, immense flatness of Oregon's high desert. An enormous near-circle of towering jagged rock walls make it seem like a fort. It's an old tuff ring set in what was a shallow sea in prehistoric times. We should see Prairie Falcon, Canyon Wren, Sage Thrasher and more here. Nearby agricultural fields offer good chances for Ferruginous and Swainson's Hawks.
 Dinner: Tonight we venture out on the town for a group dinner at one of Bend's excellent restaurants.
 Evening: Before we depart for dinner we gather to review of days sightings and view a short slide show on Pacific Northwest Geology by Steve Engel.
Accommodations: Bend Riverside Motel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4: Woodpecker Quest: We explore the eastern slopes of the Cascade Mountain range today in search of several sought after birds. We visit where a fully-formed river emerges from between rock layers. We have time to spend in quaint Sisters, OR.
(Wednesday, May 22)

Note: We breakfast in Sisters, about a 20 minute drive from our hotel and then go in search of our target birds. We spend quite a bit of time out of the vans today as we make several stops to explore the forest habitats but our walks are short and mostly on flat ground. Bring your wallet as you'll have time to explore the unique shops in Sisters in the afternoon.

 Breakfast: Prepare your first cup of coffee in your room this morning as we drive ~ 20 minutes to Sisters Oregon for breakfast at the Gallery Restaurant.
 Morning: There are several sites around the town of Sisters where we will search for Pinyon Jay, White-headed Woodpecker, Williamson's Sapsucker and other forest birds, ending up at a campground featuring a grove of quaking aspen where we enjoy our picnic lunch.
 Lunch: While birding the surrounding forest a picnic lunch spread is being set up for you to return to and make your own sandwiches, etc.
 Afternoon: We continue our field trip moving further west and slightly higher in elevation. Exact locations visited will depend on what birds we have encountered so far. Our final stop is time on the ground in the quaint western town of Sisters where you can window shop or more, have a latte or ice cream cone, before we head back to Bend.
 Dinner: The evening is free for you to explore downtown Bend and enjoy a restaurant of your own choosing. Shuttle service from the hotel to downtown will be available but you may also choose to walk - it is only four blocks away!
 Evening: You have the evening free to explore the delightful town of Bend after dinner tonight. It is a 15-20 minute walk from the downtown area to our hotel. You may choose to walk after dinner or ride in the vans.
Accommodations: Bend Riverside Motel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5: High Desert Geology and Geography: We visit two excellent interpretive centers today: Lava Lands and nationally acclaimed High Desert Museum - dedicated to broadening the understanding of the High Desert's wildlife, culture, art and natural resources.
(Thursday, May 23)

Note: We take time both inside and outside the Lava Lands visitor center to learn about the volcanic features of the area. Two short walks on paved surfaces. Depending on the weather we may enjoy a two mile round trip walk on an old railroad grade along the Deschutes River after lunch and before we visit the High Desert Museum.

 Breakfast: We take a short drive to a delightful local restaurant for breakfast this morning.
 Morning: The Lava Lands visitor center offers a chance to learn about the volcanic origins of our surroundings from interpretive displays, movies and short walks through a young (7000 years old) lava flow and views from a fire lookout perched on top of a cinder cone.
 Lunch: Lunch in the field.
 Afternoon: Not far from the Lava Lands visitor center is the site of one of the first lumber mills in the area, right on the shores of the Deschutes River. Now a historically interpreted park with very nice walking trails we may enjoy our lunch here if weather allows and then walk some of the trails. Birding can be very good with species such as Western Tanager, Townsend's Solitaire, Osprey, and several swallow species. When done we head to the High Desert Museum, a nationally acclaimed museum with beautiful grounds that feature exhibits on native wildlife, pioneer history and native vegetation. A gift shop and coffee shop are part of the museum.
 Dinner: We dine out on the town again tonight, as a group.
 Evening: Wrap-up evening program.
Accommodations: Bend Riverside Motel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 6: Portland Bound: Our program ends at 9 am for those with their own transportation. Shuttle riders will enjoy a trip across the Cascade Mountains to the Willamette Valley and a visit to the Audubon Society of Portland Sanctuary and Visitor Center.
(Friday, May 24)

Note: A 3.5 hour drive with rest stops from Bend to Portland for those riding the shuttle. Birding and rest stops along the way. We have excellent chances for Barrow's Golden-eye and Hermit Warbler today. Lunch at the Audubon Society of Portland Sanctuary and visitor center. Return to the Double Tree Lloyd Center Hotel by 1pm.

 Depart From: Program ends after breakfast for those traveling on their own. For those taking the shuttle van back to Portland we will arrive at the Audubon Society of Portland center at ~ 11:30 am for a pizza lunch, tour of the center and a visit with some our education birds, before dropping participants at the Doubletree Hotel-Lloyd Center by 1 PM. IMPORTANT: Do Not make any travel plans/reservations for later in the day that you cannot make by departing from the Doubletree Hotel at 1pm. From the hotel, allow 25 minutes by taxi to the airport; 10 minutes by taxi to train/bus depots. Allow 45 minutes by Light Rail to the airport; 20 minutes by Light Rail to the train/bus depots. There is a Light Rail stop one block from the Hotel entrance.
 Breakfast: Brew up some coffee in your room this morning! We'll have a slightly earlier breakfast, say our goodbyes to those traveling on their own and then load the vans and depart for Portland.
 Morning: Depart for Portland. Our return route will take us over Santiam Pass and into the Willamette Valley south of Salem. Stops along the way will offer final opportunities for birding and learning about how the most recent geological story in the Pacific Northwest, the Bretz Floods (a.k.a. Ice Age floods), impacted the valley. Potential species include: Barrow's Golden-eye, American Dipper, Winter Wren, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Townsend's and Hermit Warblers. We arrive at the Audubon Society of Portland Sanctuary and Visitor Center in Forest Park just before noon. You will have an opportunity to tour the center, visit our complete Nature Store, view birds at the bird feeders and visit with some of our education birds. We have a catered lunch and then transport you to the Lloyd Center Double Tree Hotel by 1pm.
 Lunch: Hot Lips Pizza is a local company that uses local and organic ingredients in making its delicious pizza. We will have a variety of pizzas to eat and beverages available in our Heron Hall.
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch

Free Time Opportunities
  Bend, OR Bend Tourism Info
Links for Where to Stay, What to Do, How to Get There, Event Calendar, Bend Buzz Blog, Request a free Visitors Guide For additional information, visit
  Tin Pan Theater
We are a 28 seat original programming movie theater, located downtown Bend next to Lone Pine Coffee. 869 NW Tin Pan Alley, Bend. General Admission $6. For additional information, visit
  Brew Pubs
Bend is home to many fine brew pubs where you can sample famous Pacific Northwest beers, have a fine meal and listen to live music or see a movie. For additional information, visit
  Old St. Francis School
We may dine here one night as a group, but if not, it is fun establishment to visit for food, movie, drink or just to explore the grounds and enjoy the artwork. The Mcmenamin Brothers are well-known in Oregon for acquiring historically significant/interesting properties and renovating them to be enjoyed today in many ways. For additional information, visit
Important information about your itinerary: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the information featured on this website. Itineraries are based on our best information at this time. Circumstances beyond our control may require us to adjust itineraries or other details. We regret any inconvenience this may cause and appreciate your understanding. Information will be sent to you from your Program Provider approximately three weeks prior to the program start date. The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Suggested Reading List

The National Geographic Field Guide to Birds of Western North America

Author: National Geographic

Description: This is the field guide we will be using during the program.

The Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior

Author: David Allen Sibley

Description: An excellent book for the reader interested in going beyond field identification of birds. Written in an accessible style, great illustrations.

National Audubon Society Field Guide to the Pacific Northwest

Author: Peter Alden, Dennis Paulson

Description: A good general field guide for all of the Pacific Northwest.

Oregon Geology

Author: Elizabeth L. Orr, William N. Orr

Description: The author's latest edition. A comprehensive look at Oregon geology.

In Search of Ancient Oregon

Author: Ellen Morris Bishop

Description: A look at Oregon's geology from a natural history perspective

Bend, Overall

Author: Scott Cook

Description: A local author's guide to hikes, walks, scenic stops in the Bend, OR area

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