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  • Writer's pictureKelly Romo

Oregon Whitewater Thriller: How Maupin, Prineville, and Bend Became the Backbone of My Thrillers

Whitewater Rafting, Maupin, Oregon
Rafting on the Deschutes, Maupin, Oregon

The rugged terrain, rivers, and small-town allure of Oregon’s high desert inspired every twist and turn of my Whitewater Thriller series. The area is a haven for outdoor living that draws hikers, whitewater rafting enthusiasts, and fly-fishing aficionados alike. It’s there where the rushing waters of the Deschutes and glittering lakes of the Cascades sparked my imagination and became the backdrop for my Whitewater Thriller novels, DEAD DRIFT and I AM THE RIVER.


Maupin, Oregon, a quaint town nestled along the Deschutes River, became the cornerstone of my fictional world. Based on this whitewater rafting destination, I created the fictional town of Lodell, where the pulse of the story beats with the rhythm of the flowing river. To immerse myself in Maupin, I made countless stays along the Deschutes River at the lodge of the Imperial River Company, where I wrote and absorbed the ambiance that would breathe life into my story. I interviewed the townspeople and river guides to get a feel for the culture of a whitewater town. The river guides took me on thrilling rafting trips through class II through IV rapids, where I was able to experience the heart-pounding adrenaline surge and watch how they expertly navigated the river and the people in their rafts. Each splash and swirl enriched my understanding of the river's allure and danger.

The Deschutes River offers more than just excitement—it is a sanctuary for serenity. I spent many peaceful days along its banks, connecting with nature and the age-old tradition of fly fishing. I camped under the stars where the wind rustled the walls of my tent, and the pulsing thump of trains echoed down the canyon. Ospreys nested nearby and swooped down to grab fish from the river right in front of me, and the haunting call of mourning doves added another layer to the symphony of the wilderness—all of which I weaved into the atmosphere of my thrillers.


Prineville, Oregon, with its rugged charm and rich history, captured my imagination as I sought inspiration for the fictional town of Silverdale. Prineville exudes a sense of authenticity that infuses every page of my novels. From its quaint downtown adorned with historic buildings to the surrounding vistas of juniper-dotted hillsides, Prineville offers a glimpse into a bygone era while embracing the spirit of adventure that defines the region. It's a place where the past meets the present, where the echoes of pioneers mingle with the whispers of modern-day explorers, and the Crooked River weaves through the rugged canyon. In Prineville, the allure of the untamed wilderness is palpable, making it a fitting landscape for the resilient characters that populate my stories.

Bend, Oregon, serves as a vibrant outdoor recreation hub that influenced the creation of the fictional town of Rockland in my novels. Nestled at the base of the majestic peaks of the Cascade Range, Bend embodies the spirit of adventure and exploration. Its lively downtown scene, brimming with breweries, art galleries, and eclectic shops, reflects a community that embraces creativity and innovation. From the Deschutes River's serene shores to nearby mountain hiking trails, Bend offers endless opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts to indulge in their passions. I spent many days there imagining my town of Rockland, where through-hikers of the Pacific Crest Trail venture to restock their supplies, get a nice warm meal, and a shower in a city that welcomes them.

Up from Bend and along the Cascade Lakes Scenic Highway, a dozen lakes, including Elk Lake, Lava Lake, and Little Lava Lake, glitter like jewels in the forest. In my novels, the serial killer declares, “I am the river, and the river is me. It is the fluid, and I am the flesh,” making the headwaters of the Deschutes River particularly significant to him. Little Lava Lake serves as the origin of the Deschutes River, drawing both myself and the serial killer to its shores to replenish and reflect.

Maupin, Prineville, Bend, and the Cascade Lakes transcend mere scenery in my Whitewater Thriller series. They are characters in their own right, and each contributes to the rich atmosphere of my novels. From the rush of the rapids to the tranquility of mountain lakes, every vista is a chapter waiting to be written.


In the end, my journey through these landscapes wasn't just about research—it was about immersion, about experiencing the pulse of life that beats within the heart of Oregon. As the pages of DEAD DRIFT and I AM THE RIVER turn, it's my hope that readers, too, will feel the rush of the rapids, the scents of juniper and sage, and the haunting calls of mourning doves as they embark on their own adventure through the pages.

Author Kelly Romo
Whitewater Thriller Series, DEAD DRIFT and I AM THE RIVER by KELLY ROMO

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