Maupin: 95 miles N of Bend, 100 miles E of Portland, 40 miles S of The Dalles

Dominated by two rivers -- the Deschutes and the John Day -- north central Oregon is the driest, most desertlike part of this region. It is also the closest sunny-side destination for rain-soaked Portlanders, which has long made it a popular spot for weekend getaways.

Hot springs, canyon lands, and some of the best rafting and fishing in the state are the main draws in this part of central Oregon. For many visitors, the high-desert landscape is a fascinating change from the lushness of the west side of the Cascades. For others it is just too bleak and barren. But there is no denying that the Deschutes River, which flows through this high desert, is one of the busiest rivers in the state. Rafters and anglers descend en masse throughout the year--especially in summer--to challenge the rapids and the red-side trout.

Even if the Deschutes is not your primary destination, this region has several unusual attractions that make it worthwhile for a weekend's exploration. First and foremost of these is the Kah-Nee-Ta Resort, which, with its warm-spring swimming pool and its proximity to Portland, is a powerful enticement after several months of gray skies and constant drizzle west of the Cascades.

Not far from the resort, in the town of Warm Springs, is a fascinating modern museum dedicated to the cultures of Northwest Native Americans. A forgotten page of pioneer days can be found at nearby Shaniko, a ghost town that once made it big as a wool-shipping town. Much older history, up to 40 million years of it, is laid bare in the three units of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. If the stark hills of the national monument don't give you enough sense of being in the desert, be sure to visit The Cove Palisades State Park, where three steep-walled canyons have been flooded by the waters of Lake Billy Chinook.