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Donner und Blitzen River facts for kids

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Donner und Blitzen River
Donner und Blitzen River, Harney County, Oregon.jpg
Donner und Blitzen River near Page Springs campground
Country United States
State Oregon
County Harney
Physical characteristics
Main source southwest of Steens Mountain
Harney County, Oregon
6,527 ft (1,989 m)
River mouth Malheur Lake
Harney County, Oregon
4,101 ft (1,250 m)
Length 60 mi (97 km)
Discharge
  • Location:
    3.5 miles (5.6 km) southeast of Frenchglen
  • Minimum rate:
    4.2 cu ft/s (0.12 m3/s)
  • Average rate:
    126 cu ft/s (3.6 m3/s)
  • Maximum rate:
    4,270 cu ft/s (121 m3/s)
Basin features
Basin size 791 sq mi (2,050 km2)
Type: Wild
Designated: October 28, 1988

The Donner und Blitzen River[needs IPA] is a river on the eastern Oregon high desert which drains a relatively arid basin, the southern portion of Harney Basin, from roughly 20 to 80 miles (30 to 130 km) south-southeast of Burns including Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Though much of its course is marsh, it offers scenic glaciated canyons, unique ecosystems, and exceptional wild trout fisheries. Named by soldiers of German origin, the Donner und Blitzen River translates as "thunder and lightning". The name usually brings to mind two of Santa Claus's reindeer, but the river is named for a thunderstorm the soldiers experienced as they crossed the river; dry lightning is an almost daily occurrence in the region during certain times of the year.

The Donner und Blitzen River arises as an intermittent stream on the lower slopes west of Steens Mountain at the 6,500-foot (2,000 m) level at 42°32′02″N 118°43′52″W / 42.533779°N 118.731023°W / 42.533779; -118.731023 (Donner und Blitzen River source), roughly 80 miles (130 km) south-southeast of Burns and 11 miles (18 km) northwest of Alvord Lake and empties at 43°17′30″N 118°49′12″W / 43.291542°N 118.8199273°W / 43.291542; -118.8199273 (Donner und Blitzen River mouth) into Malheur Lake. Numerous nearby springs create its tributaries including South Fork Blitzen River, Little Blitzen River, Big Indian Creek, Little Indian Creek, Fish Creek, Mud Creek, and Ankle Creek. It collects these and runs north or northwest descending rapidly to the plateau floor then turns northward to Malheur Lake which has no outlet. It does not pass through any cities, though it comes within 2 miles (3.2 km) of Frenchglen. Much of the river runs through what was once the P Ranch, one of the largest ranches in the west, until the ranch was purchased by the United States Government in 1935.

The Blitzen is home to a native species of Great Basin Redband Trout amongst many other unique forms of flora and fauna. Over the last century, the population of fish has decreased in numbers following an increase in human activity in the surrounding areas. As part of the 2000 Steens Mountain Protection Act, congress and President Clinton signed off on the creation of the Donner und Blitzen Red Band Trout Reserve. The Reserve was designated “to conserve, protect, and enhance the Donner und Blitzen population of redband trout and the unique ecosystem of plants, fish, and wildlife of a river system.”

In 1988, 72.7 miles (117.0 km) of rivers in its basin were designated Wild and Scenic, and another 14.8 miles (23.8 km) were added in 2000. The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) lists seven temperature impairments on the river system. The maximum recorded flow of 4,270 cubic feet per second (121 m3/s) occurred on April 26, 1978, and was extrapolated from a calibrated value of 1,900 cu ft/s (54 m3/s). The minimum recorded flow 4.2 cu ft/s (0.12 m3/s) occurred December 9, 1972, caused by widespread freezing.

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