Perched along the Deschutes River near Bend, Oregon, the 184-acre Riley Ranch Nature Reserve (RRNR) features riparian habitat, open grasslands, juniper and pine forests, unique lava flows, cliffs, and the river’s rocky canyon.

Why does this project matter?

Inspired by a deep sense of place, the planning and design of RRNR establishes long-term protection, enhancement, and stewardship of natural, cultural, and recreational resources on site. It provides educational opportunities, access for people of all physical abilities, and unique recreation experiences while protecting fish and wildlife habitat and native vegetation communities.

What is ESA doing to help?

ESA assisted Bend Park & Recreation District in developing master and management plans and a construction bid package, as well as helping to secure all necessary permits. The resource management plan guides restoration, enhancement, and stewardship of natural, cultural, and recreational resources. The master plan identified visitor amenities suited to the site and located them so they minimize visual and ecological impacts while connecting to other regional recreational facilities.

The final concept offers an extensive trail system, riverfront access, and trail connections to nearby lands while protecting important wildlife habitat. Following adoption of the master plan, the ESA team developed a comprehensive construction package, including plans, specifications, and cost estimates. ESA permitting specialists successfully navigated the county land-use process and secured all necessary building and site development permits.

ESA landscape architects, civil engineers and permitting specialists collaborated with consulting surveyors, signage designers, and engineers to craft a trail system, scenic overlooks, and a parking area that celebrate the dramatic landscape while providing safe and welcoming visitor access. The main trailhead includes a gathering space, custom juniper benches, wayfinding signage, a gateway structure built with juniper timbers, a pre-engineered restroom, and bicycle racks lighted with solar-powered bollards. Plantings at the parking area and trailhead recall the high desert landscape and feature native trees, shrubs, and grasses. The relatively flat upper terrace accommodates a one-and-a-half-mile accessible trail peppered with viewpoints.

The dramatic Canyon Overlook is cantilevered over fractured basalt high above the Deschutes River canyon while the Ben Newkirk Mountain Overlook captures views of the Three Sisters and commemorates the life of a deceased climber. The Sage Flat overlook orients visitors eastward and locates sunrise on both the summer and winter solstices.

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Client Bend Parks and Recreation

Location Bend, OR


2019 People’s Choice Award, ASLA Oregon

BPRD’s first nature reserve offers extraordinary recreation and educational amenities focused on the landscape, wildlife, and geology of Central Oregon’s high desert.

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