Bend Whitewater Park News

In addition to our Bend Whitewater Park Facebook page, we will be sharing updates and important information about the Bend Whitewater Park on this page.

Bend Park and Recreation District Press Release | December 2, 2016

Winter work begins at the Bend Whitewater Park

The Bend Park and Recreation District will proceed with winter work modifications to improve performance in the whitewater and passageway channels at the Bend Whitewater Park.

Beginning Monday, Dec. 5, river access will be closed at 8 a.m. due to construction activity.

Winter work will include modifications in the whitewater channel to improve wave features and safety within the whitewater channel.  Work will include:

  • Raising the pool elevations above the lower two features by raising the shoulders of the drops,
  • Grouting in the shoulders to eliminate entrapment hazards, and
  • Shallowing the pool below the upper most wave by installing a concrete “floor” below the wave to help stabilize the wave.

Work in the passageway channel will help direct water through the center of the channel by installing boulders to decrease the risk of dropping over the shoulders and flipping floaters, and inspect for entrapment hazards.

In an upstream area of the river, a floating buoy will be installed near the portage area to allow for additional river signage and to protect the riparian area on river-left.

The District’s Board of Directors approved the work to be completed by Hamilton Construction Company. Funding comes from the project’s original funding allocation, remaining bond funds from the Farewell Bend Bridge project, and property tax revenue.

More information is available at

Media Contact:
Julie Brown
Communications and Community Relations Manager
Office: (541) 389-7275

Bend Park and Recreation District Press Release | July 20, 2016

BPRD board approves reopening of passageway at Bend Whitewater Park

Bend, Ore. – (July 20, 2016) – The Bend Park and Recreation District Board of Directors voted to approve a plan to reopen the passageway channel at the Bend Whitewater Park. The vote occurred at the public meeting on July 19.

District staff presented information about the evaluations done after the recent closure, and recommended that the passageway channel is ready to reopen because of the operational changes made and improvements to inform river users about the experience.

The staff presented a reopening plan that includes operational management of the passageway, removal of the boom, signage, in-person education, online information and media messaging.  The reopening date is scheduled for Saturday, July 23. 

“Water flow conditions have been changed, so it is very different experience than during the first hot weekend of June,” said Don Horton, executive director, Bend Park and Recreation District. “We’re also communicating with increased signage and in other ways about how to use the park, the proper gear to wear and the conditions that exist in the passageway.”

Safety education efforts for river users

The District is working collaboratively with the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office and the Oregon State Marine Board to inform river users about safety.

An informational kick-off event will be Saturday, July 23, at Riverbend and McKay parks. At each park, District park stewards and members of the sheriff’s office swiftwater rescue team will talk with river users about proper equipment and preparation for recreating on the river. From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., there will be information available and staff members and volunteers to answer questions at beach locations at each park.

“Preparing river users for what to expect in flat water as well as the Bend Whitewater Park is important and we appreciate the support of our partners to reach more people before they enter the river,” said Horton.

New signage along the river, as well as updated media communications and website information is also being introduced this week.

Design and engineering modifications being evaluated

In addition to operations and education improvements, a third aspect of enhanced functionality is design engineering.

The intent of the passageway channel design was to:

  • Remove hazards associated with the old Colorado Avenue pedestrian bridge and Old Mill Pond Dam;
  • Provide for an easy transition from the Mill Pond elevation to the Mirror Pond elevation for a range of flotation devices, kayaks and stand-up paddleboards.
  • Accommodate fish passage upstream and provide habitat improvements

“Two of the three goals met the design intent of the project, so we have more work to do to meet our full expectations,” said Horton.  “The design team has provided recommendations that will be evaluated, discussed and brought back to the board of directors at a future meeting.”

Horton also noted that permitting for any in-channel engineering or construction work may require more than one season to fully realize.

More information is available at

Media Contact:
Julie Brown
Communications and Community Relations Manager
Office: (541) 389-7275

Bend Park and Recreation District Press Release | July 7, 2016

Portage path improves; moves inside McKay Park

The Bend Park and Recreation District is improving the portage path at McKay Park and the Bend Whitewater Park beginning the evening of Friday, July 8.

River users now will be able to exit the river prior to the Colorado Ave. bridge and after a short walk around the bridge to Shevlin Hixon Rd. re-enter McKay Park. The more direct portage path will create distance between river users and sewer and park construction projects, and make for more “feet friendly” surfaces.

The District worked with Empire Development to accelerate work at McKay Park to accommodate river users and improve the portage path experience.

“It’s a busy time for river recreation and we worked quickly to create a safer, more direct portage path,” said Brian Hudspeth, development manager, Bend Park and Recreation District. “Signage is directing river users and we appreciate adherence to the pathways only and away from the construction zones and riparian areas along the bank.”

The surfaces of the portage path are primarily concrete and trail surface; however, footwear that secures to feet is still recommended.

Media Contact:
Julie Brown
Communications and Community Relations Manager
Office: (541) 389-7275

Bend Park and Recreation District Press Release | June 9, 2016

Bend Park and Recreation District closes Passageway channel at whitewater park for evaluation.

Experts-only whitewater channel remains open

Bend, Ore. – June 9, 2016 — The Bend Park and Recreation District is taking action to evaluate the safety and overall experience of its new Bend Whitewater Park. As an immediate step, the Passageway channel at the park will be closed beginning today while evaluations are conducted. The passageway is likely to be closed throughout the summer season.

“Everything we do as an organization is for the enrichment of this community and we can do better here,” said Don Horton, executive director, Bend Park and Recreation District. “The Bend Whitewater Park’s Passageway channel is not meeting expectations and we’re hearing about safety concerns, so it is being closed while we re-evaluate its function. We have not yet met our high goals for this project.”

During several days of record-breaking temperatures, thousands of people experienced the Passageway channel for the first time. The early season river activity has provided opportunity for feedback from many users and observers.

“We deeply appreciate the input received in the past few days because it is helping us serve the community better,” said Horton. “Many people have been enjoying the Passageway and we appreciate the support from people who may be disappointed by this decision. It’s clear that this is not the passageway experience we set out to create, and we need to regroup and see if it can be improved.”

River users can continue to float as in past years by exiting the river prior to the Colorado Ave. bridge and re-entering the river at McKay Park. Signage is being added immediately along the river and at beach put-in locations to indicate the change for floaters.

The decision to close the Passageway channel to floaters was made in consultation with Bend Paddle Trail Alliance leaders who are supportive of the closure.

“The Bend Whitewater Park is the first in the Pacific Northwest and is unique to our geologic area. It’s quite typical in these types of projects to need to make adjustments,” said Justin Rae, president, Bend Paddle Trail Alliance. “BPTA plans to be involved as Bend Park and Recreation District enlists additional experts to evaluate options for improvements.”

The Bend Whitewater Park’s Whitewater channel will remain open for expert river users who enter from downriver at McKay Park for whitewater kayaking, surfing and paddleboarding; however, floating through the area from upstream is not permitted.

Early communications about the bond measure proposal and the project described a safe passageway and Bend Park and Recreation District is holding itself accountable on delivering quality park and recreation experiences for the community.

The current Passageway includes a series of Class I and Class II rapids to accommodate an approximate 8-ft. drop in elevation in a 300-ft. stretch of the river.  The channel also serves as a fish ladder providing passage that will continue to be part of the project.

A timeline is in process for additional evaluations by the engineering firm that designed the park, swift water rescue experts and other experts to provide insights and recommendations. As evaluations occur, BPRD will update the public on status and timeline developments.

To begin the process, today, sandbags were installed in the whitewater channel to reduce safety hazards previously identified and to improve performance of the surf wave features used by whitewater enthusiasts.

For floaters:

  • It is required to exit prior to the Colorado Ave. Bridge. To portage, follow temporary detour signs to walk on the sidewalk on the west side of Shevlin Hixon Road to reenter the river at McKay Park.
  • Wear a life jacket. They are required for all boaters, paddleboarders and children 12 years and under, and are recommended for everyone.
  • Consider your own and your children’s abilities before entering the water and always supervise children in and around the water.
  • Use equipment intended for river recreation. Rental equipment is available at Riverbend Park and local retailers. Complimentary use of life jackets for children 12 and under is available at the Riverbend Park rental trailer.

Whitewater kayakers, surfers and paddleboarders:

  • Access to the Whitewater channel is from downriver at McKay Park or Miller’s Landing Park. Do not access the channel from upriver or via the habitat channel.
  • The river-left (west) island is for line-up. There is no public access to the river-right island.
  • Life jackets and whistles are required for all boaters and paddleboarders.
  • Helmets are recommended. Board leashes, however, should not be used as they can get caught on underwater elements.
  • Always scout the conditions as river flows and wave features change frequently.
  • Consider the waves above and below and plan your exit routes for each wave.
  • Check the Bend Whitewater Park Facebook page for updates and conditions at

Media Contact:
Julie Brown
Communications and Community Relations Manager
Office: (541) 389-7275