Photo by Nate Wyeth
On a hot summer’s day in Bend, it can seem like the entire town is in the Deschutes River. According to the Bend Park and Recreation District, in recent summers, more than 200,000 river users floated and paddled the river between Memorial Day and Labor Day. For the uninitiated, it can seem intimidating. You see the people in the river, but how did they do that? Here is the how-to and know-how for safety, fun and floating this season.
The river doesn’t come with lifeguards. You are responsible for yourself and your teammates in this adventure. Know that life jackets are required by state law—each boat or paddleboard must carry one per person on board. Boaters and paddleboarders are also required to carry a whistle.
The section of river through town is very friendly for floating, but it’s still a river; there is risk of harm, and the waters can be cold. Pay attention and have a good plan before you set out. Choose solid equipment, such as durable tubes that can be purchased at local retailers and rented at local shops. Wear solid shoes that protect your feet and that you can walk in comfortably. Flip flops can easily fall off and bare feet can be injured by rocks, gravel and hot sidewalks.
Carry a waterproof pouch for your car keys or your phone, and buy a floatable sunglasses strap in case you go for a sudden swim. Finally, remember that alcohol is not allowed in the parks, parking lots or on the river.
Be an Eco-Warrior
We want the river and its ecosystem to be preserved for generations of floaters to come. Please remember that plants and animals live here and depend on us to keep the river clean and unharmed by our presence. Enter and exit the river at designated boat landings and portage paths. Secure your gear to avoid losing personal items into the river, and never dispose of garbage in the river.
Get the Goods
Visit the Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe at the main Bend location off Industrial Way to rent standup paddleboards (SUPs), kayaks, canoes and more. Rent a SUP or kayak at Tumalo Creek and Kayak’s location in Riverbend Park. Reservations are highly recommended; same-day tube rentals are walk up only and first-come, first-served.
The Bend Park & Float station, next to The Pavilion on Simpson Avenue and Bradbury Drive, is your center stage for all things floating. Rent a professional-grade tube with up-to-date safety standards, and buy sunscreen and snacks. You’ll find changing rooms and a shuttle connection there, too.
Parking can be tight all along the river corridor, and maybe hoofing it isn’t what you had in mind for your day’s fun. Try the Ride the River shuttle service! The shuttle starts and ends at Park & Float through Labor Day. Shuttles depart every 15 to 20 minutes from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. with $5 round trip advanced tickets available at Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe. See their website for reservations. On your reservation date, check in at Park & Float for the wristband valid the entire day.
If you’re planning to walk, the best option is to park across from The Pavilion and split the walk up to one mile before and one mile after your float. Shuttling vehicles isn’t recommended as parking is limited, but is available at Riverbend Park, Farewell Bend Park, Miller’s Landing Park and Park & Float (across from The Pavilion)—one block away from McKay Park and about a one mile walk to Riverbend Park. Mind the new neighborhood parking permit required in the areas by Riverbend Park and Drake Park.
The Bend Whitewater Park
The river between McKay Park on the west side, and Miller’s Landing on the east side, is the site of the state-of-the-art Bend Whitewater Park. The three channels included are: a rolling passageway for floaters, a whitewater channel for experienced paddlers and a nature habitat channel designed to preserve wildlife.
Bend Park and Recreation District has eleven riverfront parks including Farewell Bend Park, Riverbend Park, McKay Park, Drake Park, First Street Rapids Park and others. Some parks are better than others for sunbathing, watercraft access, river surfing and other activities. Find a park locator at bendparksandrec.org.