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Local group Loot the Deschutes begins diving for lost treasures to clean along stretches of the river as soon as weather permits. Photo credit: Oden Tofte

Featured Article

Loot the Deschutes Turns Up Treasures

Local Group Explores the River to Clean Up and Return Lost Items

Article by Juile E. Furnas

Photography by Oden Tofte and Loot the Deschutes

Originally published in Bend Lifestyle

Ever wonder what happens to all the lost items at the bottom of the Deschutes River? With determination and a little bit of luck and river exploration, some items get found and returned to their owners, thanks to local organization, Loot the Deschutes (LTD). Connecting with people who are searching for lost items through emails and Instagram, LTD reunites valuables to their owners. Along the way, they’re also helping keep the river ecosystem healthy by removing trash and making room for new riparian vegetation to grow, which helps keep our river at a high-quality level.

The core members of LTD all met while doing what they had a passion for, gathering lost items, valuables, and even small treasures along areas with high river traffic. Lled Smith – originally from Port Orford, Oregon, dives in the floating channels and whitewater parks. Before LTD officially formed, Smith used to post the valuables that he found on Craigslist. When he found a diamond ring and reunited it with its owner who had received it from her late husband, Smith decided that Instagram would be a better platform to post pictures, check messages and engage with people in real time looking for lost valuables.

Other core members include Lutra Wong, who has lived in Bend for 18 years and usually dives for treasure from Farewell Bend to Riverbend, and Drake Park; Kea and Miranda Eubank, who fill up empty float tubes with items found on the surface and below, between Sunriver and Crooked River; and Bend native, Radley Clothier, who concentrates his dives at the surfing and floating parks around the Old Mill. With the help of other volunteers, the core members all work in unison, searching, gathering, posting, and reuniting.

“There’re a couple different ways we get items back to owners. We all post everything we find in the river whether it's trash or treasure’ and by this time, a lot of people know about us so when they lose stuff in the river, they’ll go and hunt through our Instagram page, hoping to find it in one of our posts. If they don’t see it in our post or know how things work, they’ll reach out to us because someone usually tells them about us when they lose something,” explains Wong. Once an item is identified, members ask the potential owners to give them an approximate location of where the item was lost, a description and pictures if necessary. Members then meet up with the owner and reunite them with their items.

Lost Treasures  

One look at the LTD Instagram page and the wide range of items they’ve found is unbelievable. From countless smartphones, sunglasses, surfing gear, rings to historical items such as an old logging peavey, coins and more – there is almost nothing that this group has not found.

“I think sometimes when people see the pics of our loot, they get angry thinking that the river has been really trashed by floaters or other user groups,” says Wong. “But on the contrary, it is quite clean down there, especially these days now that the awareness is higher. I know I see a healthy ecosystem of fish, plants, crawdads, and other wildlife when I dive. We really want to show people that a small group of friends having fun can make all the difference. And I think the most important thing for people to know is that it’s not all fun and games. It is a river and should be respected as it can be dangerous. Every time you enter a river whether swimming, floating, surfing, diving etc., you do assume that risk,” states Wong.

For more information, find Loot the Deschuteson Instagram. 

@LootTheDeschutes

"We really want to show people that a small group of friends having fun can make all the difference." 

—Lutra Wong, Member of Loot the Deschutes 

  • Local group Loot the Deschutes begins diving for lost treasures to clean along stretches of the river as soon as weather permits. Photo credit: Oden Tofte