Short and sweet hike
The Mill A Loop is a short and easy hike that starts on the flag bridge in the Old Mill district of Bend. This 1.1 mile trail is paved and mostly flat. You walk along the Deschutes River for most of the hike. At certain times of the year, kayakers, stand up paddleboarders, and innertubers will float by you on the river.
The Flag Bridge is a well-known sight in Bend. The flags are changed to celebrate different holidays and events. I am always impressed by these flags of many colors fluttering in the breeze. They also fly over a smaller pond near the restaurants.
You will walk past a few notable landmarks. Yes, you start out in a shopping center, but you’ll also go by the Les Schwab Amphitheater, Deschutes Brewery, and the Bend Whitewater Park (adjacent to McKay Park). The amphitheater is where many concerts and outdoor events take place here in Bend. Deschutes Brewery, founded in 1988, was one of the first craft brewers in the region. The brewery has a nice tasting room and guided tours. The Whitewater Park was completed in 2015 and it divides the river into three channels. One channel is for wildlife, one is for innertubers and rafters, and one is for whitewater surfers, kayakers, or paddleboarders. I have seen people out surfing in wetsuits in all kinds of weather. See my post Bend Whitewater Park for info about the park and a few videos.
There is a lot of artwork on display along this route. Look for a large metal sculpture of a horse outside Tumalo Art Company close to the Flag Bridge. Be sure to take a closer look at this piece. A tall sculpture that incorporates steel wheels from one of the old lumber mills is just outside of Anthony’s restaurant. The Colorado Avenue Bridge has artwork inside and outside of the pedestrian tunnel. The amphitheater has beautiful murals on both sides of the stage. On the east side of the Whitewater Park, there is a tall metal sculpture that was designed as a perch for kingfishers. There is a sculpture of a group of Canada geese on the west side of the river.
Flora and Fauna
I have to mention the beautiful flowers in the landscaping along this route. I really like the blooming border plants on the west side of the amphitheater. They are gorgeous in the spring and summer months. Watch for the occasional hummingbird when the flowers are in full bloom. There are also some delicious smelling hops plants near the amphitheater.
I walk this trail regularly and the types of wildlife seen varies by season. Ospreys and bald eagles can be seen near the river. Common waterfowl include Canada geese, mallards, mergansers, and American coots. You may see songbirds such as red-winged blackbirds, scrub jays, robins, cedar waxwings, and goldfinches. Swallows drift over the river in pursuit of insects. There is a beaver dam a little ways south of Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe and you may get a glimpse of them in early morning hours. I have also seen river otter and muskrats. A small population of the Oregon spotted frog breeds in this vicinity.
There is also a one-of-a-kind 12-station fly fishing course here. You may notice circles on land and in a couple of the smaller ponds. Each station has a sign nearby and you can try your hand at various casting challenges.
A little history
This district was named Old Mill because there used to be two lumber mills located here, one on each side of the river. The three iconic smoke stacks you see were part of a powerhouse that ran 24/7. The stacks were preserved when REI took over the space. This spot was very important for the economy of Bend in the early 1900’s. Timber was hauled into Bend and floated in the river until processing at the Brooks-Scanlon or Shevlin-Hixon mills. The Oregon Trunk Railroad had a line that went to the mills to pick up lumber.
To see a map of this hike and others nearby, look at this brochure from Bend Parks and Recreation. The Mill A Loop is the yellow trail on the inset map. I think you will enjoy walking this easy trail, no matter what season it is.
To find out more about the Old Mill District, click here.