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Bend Whitewater Park

166 SW Shevlin Hixon Dr, Bend, OR 97702

The park is made up of three distinctly different channels:

  • The Fish Ladder – The Fish Ladder is the perfect option for those who want to add a little rapids adventure to their float. For those who want to keep it mellow or who have children as part of the group, exit the river and walk to McKay Park to re-enter the river. Learn more about the Floating the Fish Ladder.
  • Whitewater Channel – Are you a whitewater kayaker, surfer or paddleboarder? The Whitewater Channel is your destination. This center channel of the park has four wave features for emerging to expert whitewater enthusiasts. Learn more about the Whitewater Channel.
  • Habitat Channel – The third channel of the park exists to protect and enhance river health and provide habitat to important local and migratory wildlife. There is no public access (by people or pets) to this ecologically sensitive area. Learn more about River Stewardship.

 

Bend Whitewater Park channels with labels - Fish Ladder, Whitewater Channel and Habitat Channel

Park History

Bend Whitewater Park is owned and operated by the Bend Park and Recreation District (BPRD). This river recreation park was conceived of through a partnership between Bend Park and Recreation District and the Bend Paddle Trail Alliance in 2007.

Prior to the redevelopment of the riverbed in 2014-15, floaters and paddlers had to exit the river before the Colorado Avenue dam to avoid entanglement in dangerous dam under-structure. It was impassible to migrating fish.

Tenacious dedication, community support through a 2012 bond measure, general fund tax revenues, grants and private contributions resulted in this project.

Prepare before you whitewater kayak or surf to lower the related risks of Class III-IV whitewater

For safety, please abide by the following:

  • Wear a life jacket! State law requires them for all boaters, paddleboarders and children 12 years old and under. Whistles are also required with boats and paddleboards.
  • Consider your own and your child’s abilities before entering the river and always supervise children in and around water. There are no lifeguards at the river, so please take responsibility for your safety.
  • Use durable equipment intended for river recreation, not pool toys or low-quality tubes. Rental river equipment is available at local retailers.
  • Wear comfortable, secure footwear and expect to walk a mile or more. Flip flops can easily fall off in the river and bare feet can get injured by rocks, gravel and/or hot sidewalks.
  • Be responsible. For everyone’s safety, be familiar with Oregon State Marine Board regulations on river recreation and don’t drink while recreating in or around the river.
  • Alcohol is not allowed in the parks, parking lots or on the river.

For Surfers:

  • To reduce the risk of entrapment, leashes are prohibited at the Bend Whitewater Park. 
  • Surf with a buddy and put safety first. Watch out for each other.
  • Wear a helmet and PFD
    • A helmet can help protect you from impact on rocks and equipment; a PFD provides buoyancy.
  • Fall flat and swim on the surface
    • Bottom impact can break bones or knock you out
  • Never put your feet down when moving downriver in the current
    • Foot entrapments can break bones or cause pinning and drowning. Swim to calm water.

For Kayakers:

  • Wear a life jacket/PFD, whistle and helmet.
    • The PDF and whistle are required by law; the helmet protects you from rocks and equipment.
  • Know your limits – only paddle within your skill and physical abilities.
  • Have a buddy and put safety first. Always have someone to assist, rescue and/or call 911
  • Gear up: Only use a whitewater-specific boat and gear
  • Dress for immersion: Wear proper apparel that can reduce your risk of hypothermia.

The following activities are prohibited at Bend Whitewater Park:

  • Leashes of any kind are prohibited from the Bend Whitewater Park.
  • Don’t tether to the bridge or island and don’t use of bungee cords, ropes or other like devices. Ropes tied to fixed objects present a significant entanglement and drowning risk.
  • No jumping off the bridge.
  • No access to the park from the emergency ladder on the footbridge.
  • No alcohol, tobacco and marijuana use.
  • No motorized craft.
  • No swimming, diving or jumping within the Bend Whitewater Park; swimming is allowed from McKay Park beach.
  • No activity that obstructs the safe flow of river users.
  • No entering the protected natural area, riparian area or the river-right (east) island.

Unsafe or illegal behavior may result in exclusion and/or citation. Learn more about Bend Park and Recreation Rules and Guidelines.

 

How to get to the Bend Whitewater Park

Location – 166 SW Shevlin Hixon Rd (Directions)
The Bend Whitewater Park is located in the heart of Bend in the Deschutes River north of the Colorado Avenue Bridge. Viewing is available on the pedestrian bridge and on the east side of the river and at McKay Park.

Parking notice: A 4-hour parking limit is in effect for on-street parking near McKay Park and Bend Whitewater Park. The parking limit applies to Shevlin Hixon Drive, Bradbury Way and neighboring streets to enable access for residents and patrons of area businesses as well as park users at McKay Park and Bend Whitewater Park.

Ample parking during daytime hours is available a block away at the Park & Float, 1000 SW Bradbury Way. Overnight parking is not permitted on park district property.

Parking for Floaters:

Park & Float will open June 18, 2022 and operate until Labor Day, Sept. 5. Park & Float, Simpson Ave. and Bradbury Way, across from The Pavilion at 1000 SW Bradbury Way, has free parking, rental services, access to the river shuttle and more. It’s a convenient one-stop location for a day of river fun.
Parking Options:

Park & Float location at Simpson Ave. and Bradbury Way, across from The Pavilion at 1000 SW Bradbury Way. One block south of the whitewater park. (Directions)
Riverbend Park, 799 SW Columbia St. (westside) (Directions)
McKay Park, 166 SW Shevlin Hixon Dr. (westside) (Directions)
Miller’s Landing Park, 80 NW Riverside Blvd. (eastside) (Directions)

Special Safety Notice For Surfers:

  • To reduce the risk of entrapment, leashes are prohibited at the Bend Whitewater Park. 
  • Surf with a buddy and put safety first. Watch out for each other.
  • Wear a helmet and PFD
    • A helmet can help protect you from impact on rocks and equipment; a PFD provides buoyancy.
  • Fall flat and swim on the surface
    • Bottom impact can break bones or knock you out
  • Never put your feet down when moving downriver in the current
    • Foot entrapments can break bones or cause pinning and drowning. Swim to calm water.

Know Before You Go

  • Access to The Whitewater Channel is from downriver of the park at either McKay Park beach or Miller’s Landing Park. Do not access the channel from upriver.
  • The river-left (west) island is for line-up. There is no public access to the river-right island.
  • Positivity and respect are priorities here.
  • We encourage inclusion and educational opportunities at the park.
  • To help with user experience, up to 10 surfers on the island at one time.
  • Once you surf an hour session, please give someone else a chance.
  • Do your part to keep BWP special for locals and visitors.
  • 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 Facebook.com/BendWhitewaterPark

Prohibited

  • Don’t tether to the bridge or island and don’t use of bungee cords, ropes or other like devices. Ropes tied to fixed objects present a significant entanglement and drowning risk.
  • No jumping off the bridge.
  • No access to the park from the emergency ladder on the footbridge.
  • No alcohol, tobacco and marijuana use.
  • No motorized craft.
  • No swimming, diving or jumping within the Bend Whitewater Park; swimming is allowed from McKay Park beach.
  • No activity that obstructs the safe flow of river users.
  • No entering the protected natural area, riparian area or the river-right (east) island.

Unsafe or illegal behavior may result in exclusion and/or citation.

WARNING:  The Deschutes River is wild and may present hazards not easily recognized. Always exercise caution when recreating in the river. Recreate at your own risk. No lifeguard on duty.

June 15, 2022 update: The surf wave is expected to reopen the morning of June 18th.

Float the River Map

How to get to the Bend Whitewater Park

Location – 166 SW Shevlin Hixon Rd (Directions)
The Bend Whitewater Park is located in the heart of Bend in the Deschutes River north of the Colorado Avenue Bridge. Viewing is available on the pedestrian bridge and on the east side of the river and at McKay Park.

Parking notice: A 4-hour parking limit is in effect for on-street parking near McKay Park and Bend Whitewater Park. The parking limit applies to Shevlin Hixon Drive, Bradbury Way and neighboring streets to enable access for residents and patrons of area businesses as well as park users at McKay Park and Bend Whitewater Park.

Ample parking during daytime hours is available a block away at the Park & Float, 1000 SW Bradbury Way. Overnight parking is not permitted on park district property.

Parking for Floaters:

Park & Float will open June 18, 2022 and operate until Labor Day, Sept. 5. Park & Float, Simpson Ave. and Bradbury Way, across from The Pavilion at 1000 SW Bradbury Way, has free parking, rental services, access to the river shuttle and more. It's a convenient one-stop location for a day of river fun.

Parking Options:

Park & Float location at Simpson Ave. and Bradbury Way, across from The Pavilion at 1000 SW Bradbury Way. One block south of the whitewater park. (Directions)
Riverbend Park, 799 SW Columbia St. (westside) (Directions)
McKay Park, 166 SW Shevlin Hixon Dr. (westside) (Directions)
Miller’s Landing Park, 80 NW Riverside Blvd. (eastside) (Directions)

Jason’s Wave

Jason’s wave is the most down-river feature.  It is a beginner to intermediate wave suitable for play boats, SUPs, and boogie boards. It is best suited for people learning whitewater sports or refining their skills.

Jason Mitchell loved nature, photography, snowboarding, traveling, guiding on the river and, most of all, family and friends. Jason was playful and enjoyed sharing his love of the river. Jason Mitchell: 1974 – 2010.

Kricket’s Wave
Just up river from Jason’s wave, this feature is an intermediate wave for more advanced play boat maneuvers. It is best suited for people with some experience in whitewater conditions.

Kricket Serota was an avid outdoor and river enthusiast who loved riding horses, cross country skiing, walking with her dog, snowboarding, windsurfing and kayaking. Kricket’s passion was teaching others (especially women) to love river recreation. Kricket Serota 1966 – 2012

The Green Wave
The next upriver feature is the Green Wave. It is a green, glassy faced wave ideal for short board river surfing, SUP surfing and flat bottom kayak surfing. This wave is best suited for experienced river users.

Eddy’s Wave
Nearest the bridge is Eddy’s wave which is the largest in the series and best suited for the most experienced river users. It is an advanced, retentive wave/hole for advanced play boat maneuvers.

Eddy Miller was bigger than life. He wondered at the metaphysical and natural world and prided himself on knowledge of plants, animals and insects along the waterways. Eddy Miller: 1952-2009.

Wave Update:

Click the current values for more in-depth conditions charts.

Information is at your fingertips!

Know before you go! Before you head down to the Bend Whitewater Park, check the updates here or on Facebook. These reports help you understand river flows and what activity/level each wave is set up for.

Please note that while the pneumatic bladders in the center channel of the Bend Whitewater Park allow us to manipulate the river to create waves and rapids, we do not control the flow of the river. This means a wave feature may be different than what is expected or intended without notice. We try our best to let you know when flows fluctuate and affect waves however, the Deschutes River is a natural body of water and can change.

WARNING:  The Deschutes River is wild and may present hazards not easily recognized. Always exercise caution when recreating in the river. Recreate at your own risk. No lifeguard on duty.

Bend Park and Recreation District is committed to sustainability and river stewardship.

Vegetation and wildlife are integral parts of the Bend Whitewater Park and other parks along the Deschutes River.  Bend Park and Recreation District is committed to sustainability and river stewardship. With approximately a quarter million river users each summer, everyone has a role in maintaining the Deschutes River as a special place. To learn more about the Deschutes River Access and Habitat Restoration planning effort, visit the project webpage.

volunteers picking up trash next to the Deschutes River

When constructed and opened in 2015, the Bend Whitewater Park:

  • Removed the Colorado Street Dam and created a fish ladder to restore fish migration in this reach of the Deschutes River. The series of 12 small rapids nearest to McKay Park serves fish migration as well as river floaters. As a fish ladder, it helps fish travel upstream, a route that was previously blocked by a hazardous dam. While species of redband, brook and brown trout spawn at a specific time of the year, fish are present year round.
  • Created the Habitat Channel and maintains a year-round minimum flow level for protected species. The Habitat Channel is designed to protect wildlife and improve river health. The relatively shallow river depth supports riparian plants and wildlife. Look for osprey, willow and frogs among other native features as it continues to develop over time. To protect the sensitive nature of this area, it is not accessible to people or domesticated animals.
  • Installed several Osprey nesting posts. The presence of fish is also welcomed by happy ospreys that use the river area for foraging, roosting and raising their young on nest platforms.

River Cleanups

Help keep the Deschutes River clean and free from debris. Secure your belongings and make sure trash goes in bins.

Each summer more than 1,500 lbs. of trash are collected at one clean-up event. Please do your part to reduce what is left behind.

Want to be involved beyond your day on the river? Join the Upper Deschutes Watershed Council for Deschutes River Clean-up Day in late July. Volunteers remove weeds, debris and garbage from the river and riverbanks.

For more info: https://www.upperdeschuteswatershedcouncil.org/

 

More ways to help

  • Protect native and protected species by staying out of the Habitat Channel, which is the river right and most eastern channel in the whitewater park.
  • Protect native plant and wildlife! Put in and take out of the river at designated boat landings and portage paths.
  • Help keep our river clean. Secure your gear to avoid losing personal items and disposal of garbage in the river.

Bend Whitewater Park Kayakers

The center channel of the Bend Whitewater Park has four wave features for emerging to expert whitewater enthusiasts.

The features are created by 26, underwater pneumatic bladders, natural and man-made riverbed conditions and dynamic river flows.

Bend Whitewater Park is a feat of innovation and engineering with complexities and seasonal variables keeping the river recreation operators – or wave shapers – busy year-round. Less than 1/10th of a degree in gate movement can mean the difference between good and world-class.

No other whitewater park compares to the versatility, complexity and overall functionality of the Bend Whitewater Park.

The operational controls begin with 26 air bladders, or ‘gates’ that have been permanently affixed to the river bed to regulate critical habitat, and to shape whitewater waves for recreation. These gates can be manipulated in real-time from anywhere in the world by touchscreen controls.

Special Safety Notice For Kayakers:

  • Wear a life jacket/PFD, whistle and helmet.
    • The PDF and whistle are required by law; the helmet protects you from rocks and equipment.
  • Know your limits – only paddle within your skill and physical abilities.
  • Have a buddy and put safety first. Always have someone to assist, rescue and/or call 911
  • Gear up: Only use a whitewater-specific boat and gear
  • Dress for immersion: Wear proper apparel that can reduce your risk of hypothermia.
  • City, State
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

The Fish Ladder, aka “The Rapids”

What type of equipment should I use in the Fish Ladder?

The Fish Ladder has both rapids and rocks so you’ll want to be prepared with the right equipment. Durable tubes, whitewater kayaks and whitewater paddleboards are suitable for the Fish Ladder. Flatwater kayaks, flatwater canoes, flatwater paddleboards and pool loungers should not be used in the Fish Ladder.

For floaters, it’s advised to use a durable tube that can handle contact with rocks as well as river turbulence. Avoid using pool toys, pool loungers and other items not specifically designed for whitewater or contact with rocks.

Will I get splashed in the Fish Ladder?

Yes, the Fish Ladder is a very different experience from the relaxing floating in the flat water section of the river. You must be an active participant and paddle through the series of rapids to have fun and successfully navigate the section. If you don’t want to get splashed or flipped, please exit the river before the Colorado Ave. bridge, walk a short distance to the McKay Park beach, and re-enter the river for more flat-water floating.

What if my tube is stalled and isn’t moving forward

The hydraulics in the Fish Ladder can lead to a tube stalling in the same place until the river user paddles out of the spot or until another river tube bumps it free. The best advice is to remain calm, paddle your arms or to hold onto a friend’s hand or handle of another tube to increase momentum. If that doesn’t work, make your way to the riverbank and exit the river.

Whitewater Channel

Are there lifeguards and/or lifeguard equipment on site?

There are not BPRD staff on site at all times. The river doesn’t have open/closed hours and there isn’t authority to do that at all or individual access points. There are not ropes or other lifeguard equipment on site. Per conversations with first responders and experienced whitewater users, ropes and other equipment in the hands of untrained individuals can create additional hazards for others when used improperly in a river.

We facilitate access to this natural amenity and are taking steps to reduce hazards, but we can’t eliminate them completely.

Why is an emergency shutoff not feasible?

It’s not possible to have an emergency shutoff because we can’t stop the river flow. There are BPRD staff who have training and access to control the gates and can redirect flows into the other channel. Because of the complexity of the system, combined with an infinite number of potential events it’s not practical to think that a “STOP” switch could be programmed within the system.  The parks wave and control structure consist of 26 pneumatic gates.  Each gate is controlled individually through Programmable Logic Control, (PLC), Interface.  The PLC’s interface is via a secured WIFI app on iPads.  The system also includes (6) Pressure transducers that record individual pool elevations within the whitewater park, as well as the up and down stream pools.

If river conditions vary daily, how can I get the latest information?

Be sure to check the Current Conditions page.

In addition, the Facebook page for Bend Whitewater Park has regular wave reports from the wave shaper. This is the best source for information about the whitewater channel for experts and should be consulted before heading to the park.

Other Questions

Can businesses offer lessons in the Bend Whitewater Park?

To conduct business at McKay Park and/or Miller’s Landing Park adjacent to the Bend Whitewater Park, there is a permit process that requires proof of insurance coverage.  This is the process for sale, rental or promotions of merchandise or service; the provision of a paid service or program, instruction or training that includes use of dry land for anything more than quick transportation in or out of the Deschutes River.

The public is always welcome in our parks; therefore, a permitted business does not have exclusive use and business activity may not adversely impact general public use. See business use of a park for more information.