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For nine months of the year, the Deschutes River through Bend’s Old Mill District is a tranquil, picturesque waterway dotted with an occasional paddle boarder or kayaker enjoying the peace and quiet while sometimes maneuvering around a lone duck or gaggle of geese.

But between roughly Memorial Day and Labor Day, the water between Riverbend and Drake parks takes on a new role as a playground of slow-moving, multi-colored innertubes, SUPs, kayaks, and other floatation devices guided by 250,000+ people looking to cool off and partake in one of Bend’s signature summer activities.

Floating the river is on the summer calendar for just about every local and visitor alike. Trust us and learn from past failure: plan ahead, respect the wild river for what it is, and have fun as intended.

Click the tabs below for a few tips and tricks to make sure you have the best day possible on the river.

  • Use durable gear – your own or a rented tube. Contact Tumalo Creek for rental opportunities, weather permitting. Reservations for the 2022 season open June 1 with Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe. Reservations are highly recommended; same day tube rentals are walk up only and first come first serve.
  • Rental tubes are professional-grade tubes meeting today’s safety standards. Tubes feature mesh bottoms and handles.

Bend Park and Recreation District has 16 river-front 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 here.

  • 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.
  • Wear sturdy shoes! River sandals, water shoes or just plain ol’ tennis shoes you don’t mind getting wet are preferred over flip flops.
  • 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 equipment intended for river recreation, not pool toys or low-quality tubes. Durable rental equipment is available at Park & Float and local retailers.

Free Life Jackets Available

  • Kids & Adults: Free life jacket rental available from Tumalo Creek Kayak and Canoe at two locations: Park & Float and Riverbend Park.
  • Park & Float – open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily (weather permitting) from June 18 to Sept. 5, 2022.
  • Riverbend Park (kayaks, SUPs, lifejackets only) – open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily (weather permitting) from May 28 to Sept. 5.

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)

Ride the River shuttle service: 

The Ride the River shuttle starts and ends at Park & Float, beginning June 18 (weather permitting) and ending on Labor Day.  $5 round trip makes transportation easy for river users with shuttles departing every 15-20 minutes from 11 am to 7 pm. Advanced tickets available at Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe. Reservations for 2022 season open June 1 with Tumalo Creek Kayak & CanoeOn your reservation date, check-in at Park & Float for the wrist band valid the entire day.

Parking is available at Riverbend Park, Farewell Bend Park, Miller’s Landing Park and Park & Float (across from The Pavilion). It’s only a block away from McKay Park and about a one mile walk to Riverbend Park. Please respect neighborhoods, businesses and parking time limits.

We don’t recommend parking at Riverbend Park, floating to Drake Park and then walking back. It’s an option, but the walk back will be about 2 miles. A better option is parking in “the middle” across from The Pavilion and splitting the walk up to 1 mile before and 1 mile after instead.

We also don’t suggest shuttling vehicles as parking is extremely limited and may not even be available in the area by Riverbend Park and/or Drake Park. There is also a new neighborhood parking permit required. 

For all routes, follow directions at access points and in-river signs.

Float the River Route 1 MapOption 1: Short –
Riverbend to McKay Park

  • Park at Park & Float across from The Pavilion.
  • Walk to Riverbend Park, about 1 mile away.
  • Or reserve Ride the River shuttle for transportation seats. 2022 season shuttle begins June 18.
  • Access the river and float for about 45 minutes.
  • Stay left as you approach the Colorado Ave. Bridge. Exit or ride the rapids:
    – If you want to add adventure to your float, ride the rapids! We suggest getting out and scouting conditions before making your decision. After floating the Fish Ladder’s rapids, exit the river on the left.
    – If you want to keep it mellow or if you have children with your group, exit the river before the Colorado Ave. Bridge.
  • Walk back to the parking lot about 0.2 mile away.
  • Overall time: 75 – 90 minutes.

Float the River Route 2 MapOption 2:  Short –
McKay Park to Drake Park

  • Park at Park & Float across from The Pavilion.
  • Walk to McKay Park, about 0.2 mile away.
  • Access the river at the beach and float for about 45 minutes.
  • When you see the Galveston Ave. Bridge, move to the right side of the river.
  • End your float on the right side of the river at Drake Park beach area.
  • Walk back to the parking lot about 1 mile away. Ride share service is also an option.
  • Overall time: 75 – 90 minutes.

Option 3. Long –
Riverbend Park to Drake Park

  • Park at Park & Float across from The Pavilion.
  • Walk to Riverbend Park, about 1 mile away.
  • Or reserve Ride the River shuttle transportation seats. 2022 season shuttle begins June 18.
  • Access the river and float for about 45 minutes. Float the River Route 3 Map.Float the River Route 3 Map
  • Stay left as you approach the Colorado Ave. Bridge. Exit or Ride the Rapids:
    – If you want to add adventure to your float, ride the rapids! We suggest getting out and scouting conditions before making your decision.
    – If you want to keep it mellow or if you have children with your group, exit the river before the Colorado Ave. Bridge and walk to McKay Park to re-enter the river.
  • When you see the Galveston Ave. Bridge, move to the right side of the river.
  • End your float on the right side of the river at Drake Park beach area.
  • Walk back to the parking lot, about 1 mile away. Ride share service is also an option. Or return on Ride the River shuttle if you reserved seats in advance.
  • Overall time: 120 – 140 minutes.

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 more than 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.

The Deschutes River is dam-controlled and primarily serves water rights and irrigation needs. The Bend Whitewater Park staff keeps water depth in Mill Pond seasonally stable, and mimic natural flow changes. This work provides habitat for protected species.

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.

volunteers picking up trash next to the Deschutes River

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.

June 16, 2022 update: The surf wave is expected to reopen Saturday morning, June 18.

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

What are the features in the middle channel?

The middle channel is made up of 23 underwater, pneumatic bladders that fill and deflate with air to move in different angles to influence the shape of the river. Conditions will vary daily based on water flows and pneumatic influences.

Jason’s Wave: The first feature (furthest down-river) was designed for the beginner using a variety of watercraft.

Kricket’s Wave: The second feature was designed with kayaking in mind. As water levels vary, this feature could also be a great experience for stand-up paddleboarding.

Green Wave: This feature 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: This wave (closest to the bridge) produces the largest wave and is best for advanced kayaking.

How are the bladders and features controlled?

Filling and deflating the bladders is controlled electronically by the river recreation specialist. Each time a bladder is manipulated, all other features are impacted. Feature conditions are also influenced by the river flow which occurs naturally as well as a result of the amount of water released from Wickiup Reservoir.

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.

What was done to improve safety in the whitewater channel?

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. 

Gear Up

  • Use durable gear – your own or a rented tube. Contact Tumalo Creek for rental opportunities, weather permitting. Reservations for the 2022 season open June 1 with Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe. Reservations are highly recommended; same day tube rentals are walk up only and first come first serve.
  • Rental tubes are professional-grade tubes meeting today’s safety standards. Tubes feature mesh bottoms and handles.

Bend Park and Recreation District has 16 river-front 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 here.

  • 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.
  • Wear sturdy shoes! River sandals, water shoes or just plain ol’ tennis shoes you don’t mind getting wet are preferred over flip flops.
  • 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 equipment intended for river recreation, not pool toys or low-quality tubes. Durable rental equipment is available at Park & Float and local retailers.

Free Life Jackets Available

  • Kids & Adults: Free life jacket rental available from Tumalo Creek Kayak and Canoe at two locations: Park & Float and Riverbend Park.
  • Park & Float – open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily (weather permitting) from June 18 to Sept. 5, 2022.
  • Riverbend Park (kayaks, SUPs, lifejackets only) – open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily (weather permitting) from May 28 to Sept. 5.

Parking/Shuttle Info

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)

Ride the River shuttle service: 

The Ride the River shuttle starts and ends at Park & Float, beginning June 18 (weather permitting) and ending on Labor Day.  $5 round trip makes transportation easy for river users with shuttles departing every 15-20 minutes from 11 am to 7 pm. Advanced tickets available at Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe. Reservations for 2022 season open June 1 with Tumalo Creek Kayak & CanoeOn your reservation date, check-in at Park & Float for the wrist band valid the entire day.

Parking is available at Riverbend Park, Farewell Bend Park, Miller’s Landing Park and Park & Float (across from The Pavilion). It’s only a block away from McKay Park and about a one mile walk to Riverbend Park. Please respect neighborhoods, businesses and parking time limits.

We don’t recommend parking at Riverbend Park, floating to Drake Park and then walking back. It’s an option, but the walk back will be about 2 miles. A better option is parking in “the middle” across from The Pavilion and splitting the walk up to 1 mile before and 1 mile after instead.

We also don’t suggest shuttling vehicles as parking is extremely limited and may not even be available in the area by Riverbend Park and/or Drake Park. There is also a new neighborhood parking permit required. 

How to Float

For all routes, follow directions at access points and in-river signs.

Float the River Route 1 MapOption 1: Short –
Riverbend to McKay Park

  • Park at Park & Float across from The Pavilion.
  • Walk to Riverbend Park, about 1 mile away.
  • Or reserve Ride the River shuttle for transportation seats. 2022 season shuttle begins June 18.
  • Access the river and float for about 45 minutes.
  • Stay left as you approach the Colorado Ave. Bridge. Exit or ride the rapids:
    – If you want to add adventure to your float, ride the rapids! We suggest getting out and scouting conditions before making your decision. After floating the Fish Ladder’s rapids, exit the river on the left.
    – If you want to keep it mellow or if you have children with your group, exit the river before the Colorado Ave. Bridge.
  • Walk back to the parking lot about 0.2 mile away.
  • Overall time: 75 – 90 minutes.

Float the River Route 2 MapOption 2:  Short –
McKay Park to Drake Park

  • Park at Park & Float across from The Pavilion.
  • Walk to McKay Park, about 0.2 mile away.
  • Access the river at the beach and float for about 45 minutes.
  • When you see the Galveston Ave. Bridge, move to the right side of the river.
  • End your float on the right side of the river at Drake Park beach area.
  • Walk back to the parking lot about 1 mile away. Ride share service is also an option.
  • Overall time: 75 – 90 minutes.

Option 3. Long –
Riverbend Park to Drake Park

  • Park at Park & Float across from The Pavilion.
  • Walk to Riverbend Park, about 1 mile away.
  • Or reserve Ride the River shuttle transportation seats. 2022 season shuttle begins June 18.
  • Access the river and float for about 45 minutes. Float the River Route 3 Map.Float the River Route 3 Map
  • Stay left as you approach the Colorado Ave. Bridge. Exit or Ride the Rapids:
    – If you want to add adventure to your float, ride the rapids! We suggest getting out and scouting conditions before making your decision.
    – If you want to keep it mellow or if you have children with your group, exit the river before the Colorado Ave. Bridge and walk to McKay Park to re-enter the river.
  • When you see the Galveston Ave. Bridge, move to the right side of the river.
  • End your float on the right side of the river at Drake Park beach area.
  • Walk back to the parking lot, about 1 mile away. Ride share service is also an option. Or return on Ride the River shuttle if you reserved seats in advance.
  • Overall time: 120 – 140 minutes.

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 more than 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.

The Deschutes River is dam-controlled and primarily serves water rights and irrigation needs. The Bend Whitewater Park staff keeps water depth in Mill Pond seasonally stable, and mimic natural flow changes. This work provides habitat for protected species.

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.

volunteers picking up trash next to the Deschutes River

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.

FAQ

June 16, 2022 update: The surf wave is expected to reopen Saturday morning, June 18.

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

What are the features in the middle channel?

The middle channel is made up of 23 underwater, pneumatic bladders that fill and deflate with air to move in different angles to influence the shape of the river. Conditions will vary daily based on water flows and pneumatic influences.

Jason’s Wave: The first feature (furthest down-river) was designed for the beginner using a variety of watercraft.

Kricket’s Wave: The second feature was designed with kayaking in mind. As water levels vary, this feature could also be a great experience for stand-up paddleboarding.

Green Wave: This feature 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: This wave (closest to the bridge) produces the largest wave and is best for advanced kayaking.

How are the bladders and features controlled?

Filling and deflating the bladders is controlled electronically by the river recreation specialist. Each time a bladder is manipulated, all other features are impacted. Feature conditions are also influenced by the river flow which occurs naturally as well as a result of the amount of water released from Wickiup Reservoir.

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.

What was done to improve safety in the whitewater channel?

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.