On the Lower Deschutes River, Smart Home Design Combines History, Recreation and Sustainable Living

For many of us, family runs as deep in our blood as fish run in the Deschutes River.

One Central Oregon man spent his youth in Maupin, located in Wasco County, with nothing more than a silver Spartan Aircraft trailer passed down from his grandfather and then father. It was filled with simple pleasures from fishing rods to fly lures, and the cold, rushing whitewater along Lower Deschutes River was just outside the door. For more than 75 years, the family used the plot of land as a retreat, watching as the river changed through the seasons, just as they did.

As the Spartan aged and generations of children and outdoor memories amassed, that man, now grown, and the extended family finally decided to build a permanent retreat in 2004, but they wanted to maintain the land’s ecological value with smart, sensitive and sustainable design.

Today, a dreamy, small house is nestled between Maupin’s hillsides in the same spot the Spartan once sat. The family home, designed by award-winning, custom-home designer Rick Wright, owner of Wright Design Studio, is an unbelievably roomy 1,050 square feet.

Wright, who himself is a waterman with training under the Sustainable Building Advisor program, worked to ensure the riverfront home would fit into the natural features of the property by reducing its visual and environmental impact on the surrounding wilderness.

“It’s our responsibility to care for our rivers,” said Wright, who serves as the board of director’s president for the Upper Deschutes Watershed Council, a nonprofit working to protect and restore the river through habitat restoration, watershed education and monitoring. “We can’t use up our resources, and home design should aim for a net zero impact whenever possible.”

Apart from its remarkable small size and low maintenance materials, this tightly built home was made to withstand fire and has a vented foundation to allow floodwater to move through. Timber trusses that make the home feel larger extend from the interior ceiling out to a south-facing porch, which creates a natural sunshade in the summer and reduces energy use. Plus, a sleeping porch provides a cozy space for new members of the family to stargaze, birdwatch and enjoy the river.

For Wright, home design that considers natural habitat is an important step toward the health of the region’s river and recreational future. The Spartan has since moved on to another family, but the small home, now known as “The Trailer,” pays homage to simple living by keeping the same old fishing reels and books, and the original trailer’s rusty and watchful license plate hanging above the door.