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  • Writer's pictureKelly Romo

Behind my WHITEWATER THRILLER SERIES: Research and Murder in the Cascades.

Updated: Nov 11, 2023

Cascade Mountains, Oregon
Headwaters of the Deschutes River

The research for book two of my Whitewater Thriller Series took me into the Cascade Mountain Range and to the headwaters of the Deschutes River, which begins at Little Lava Lake. I drove along the Cascade Lakes National Scenic Byway, where some of the volcano peaks still have snow in the summer. There are fourteen different lakes, as well as inactive, extinct, and active volcanos with large swaths of lava flows that go on for miles.

On my first visit, I cheated and "glamped" at Elk Lake instead of bringing all my own camping gear—but hey, it was the end of the school year, and I was exhausted. "Glamping" is luxury camping, but still a few steps down from a Motel 6 since there is no running water, and you need to use a porta potty. It is much easier than camping because it is already set up, and the futon is much cozier than a cot or a sleeping pad. Elk Lake Resort provides a propane heater, but the tent is so large I had to point it directly at the futon and my sleeping bag to keep warm enough.

Five miles down the byway from Elk Lake are Lava Lake and Little Lava Lake. At one time, they were a single lake until a lava flow separated them. Lava Lake has a small campground, store, and marina. The owner of the store is second-generation and very friendly. Of course, I gave him a DEAD DRIFT book, and we had a great conversation about serial killers. Apparently, there was a real-life serial killer at the lake in the winter of 1923/1924.

Three trappers, who lived in an isolated cabin by the lake, were murdered. Someone shot and bludgeoned them with a hammer before dumping their bodies into a hole in the frozen lake. The incident was called the Lava Lake Murders. A former Elk Lake Lodge employee was blamed for the murders, but he disappeared. He was found five years later in Montana, but there was insufficient evidence to convict him. To this day, the murders remain unsolved.

The second book in my Whitewater Thriller Series is titled I AM THE RIVER. The very first photo in this blog was taken at the headwaters of the Deschutes, where my serial killer sits to contemplate his fate at the end of part one. Two significant things occur at this point in the novel that forever alters the lives of the characters.

All three lakes, Elk Lake, Lava Lake, and Little Lava Lake, appear in my novel. If you are ever around the Bend, Oregon area, I highly recommend the Cascade Lakes National Scenic Byway. It is one of the most beautiful drives I have ever taken. I have already returned several times and will continue to explore the fourteen lakes and countless hiking trails. Next time, I'm bringing my kayak.


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