Did you know that you can surf on the Deschutes River? Yes, thanks to the creation of the Bend Whitewater Park you too can hang ten on the river that flows through Bend, Oregon. Maybe you would rather float down in an inner tube – you can do that too. Maybe you want to get a glimpse of some wildlife – that’s also an option. The river was split into three channels: the Habitat Channel for wildlife; the Whitewater Channel for kayaks, surfboards, and stand up paddleboards; and the Passageway Channel for inner tubes and small rafts.
A 100-year old dam was recently removed from the river near the Colorado Avenue Bridge and an “amusement park” was put in by Bend Parks and Recreation. At a cost of nearly $10 million dollars, some questioned its value. Bend Paddle Trail Alliance, one of the local groups in support of this park, contributed over $1 million towards the project. The voter-approved bond said that water recreationists would have “safe passage” once the project was completed. That’s a good idea since people were injured or lost their lives because of the dam.
A wild river does not always cooperate with the plans of engineers. Inner tubers were getting hurt on the rocks last spring when water levels were still high. That section was temporarily closed down. Now that water levels are lower and some additional work has been done on the channels, tubers can once again enjoy the river.
However, you may not want to try to go down this section in a canoe. The guy in the red canoe on the right side of the photo above capsized. There is a portage route where you can walk around if you don’t want to try the rapids.
The course of the channel that is for surfers, paddleboarders, and kayakers can be altered by adjusting 25 bladders in the river. A Wave Master controls the course with an app on his iPad.
I walk right by here looking for wildlife. I am hoping some of the critters that used to be here will return when all of the construction is completed. This was a great spot to see swallows, mergansers, osprey, cedar waxwings, and the occasional dipper. See my previous post on Birding Around Bend for more info. I have also seen beaver, river otter, and muskrats near the Whitewater Park. You never know what animals you will find here.
Many people start their float at Riverbend Park and get out at Mirror Pond in Drake Park. You can also do a shorter float by starting at McKay Park, where the Whitewater Park is. A Ride the River shuttle can take you and your inner tube back upriver where you parked for a small fee.