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River recreation in Bend includes changes for summer 2020

June 19, 2020

Floating the Deschutes River though Bend is a popular summer tradition for many residents and visitors, and the COVID-19 pandemic will influence the experience for river users this year. The Bend Park and Recreation District announces changes related to river recreation for this summer.

“River recreation is a favorite summer recreation activity and we want people to be able to enjoy that experience, but more than ever, we urge river users to plan ahead and come prepared,” said Michelle Healy, deputy director for Bend Park and Recreation District. “Following river safety regulations and cooperating with public health guidance for distancing and gathering are key. We want people to play safely.”

Tumalo Creek Kayak and Canoe will be on site at Riverbend Park daily through Labor Day, offering life jackets to borrow, along with kayak and paddleboard rentals. Life jackets and all equipment will be sanitized between users. Inflatable tube rentals will not be offered at Riverbend Park or the parking lot next to the Pavilion on Simpson Ave.

“To discourage large crowds of people on the river, particularly in groups, we chose to not allow tube rentals this summer,” added Healy. “We continue work to educate river users about the importance of durable gear and life jackets that will continue to be available from our concessionaire partner, Tumalo Creek Kayak and Canoe, at Riverbend Park.”

River users who choose to float will need to bring their own durable tube or float and plan to walk back to a vehicle or make alternative transportation plans. The Ride the River bus shuttle service from Cascades East Transit (CET) will not be in service this summer.

“Although CET is disappointed to suspend its shuttle operations of Ride The River this summer, we encourage everyone to practice safe uses of the river and to be mindful of parking in and around the river parks. We hope to be back next summer!” said Andrea Breault, interim transportation director, CET.

Nearby river access parking is available at the parking lot on Simpson Avenue next to the Pavilion at the location of Park & Float in 2018 and 2019. Limited parking is also at Riverbend Park. River users should prepare to walk to and from river entry and exit points.

Signs are added at river access points with reminders for health and safety regulations and directions for use.

Important safety reminders:

  • Follow local health guidelines for distancing and avoid crowding on beaches and on the water.
  • Wear a life jacket. State law requires life jackets for boaters, paddleboarders and for children 12 years and younger.
  • Whistles are required with boats and paddleboards.
  • There are no lifeguards at the river. Watch children and non-swimmers closely.
  • Alcohol use is illegal on the river and in the parks.
  • Bridge jumping is dangerous and prohibited by the park district and City of Bend.

River users are also offered the following tips to help with planning for a successful experience:

  • Visit less popular parks and river access points and/or at less busy times. Morning and evening are typically less crowded.
  • Consider shorter river adventures. A shorter float means a shorter walk to and from the river. Suggestions are available here.
  • Choose shoes that are secure. Flip-flops can fall off in the river and bare feet can be injured.
  • Use equipment intended for river recreation. Avoid pool toys and low-quality tubes.
  • Secure your gear. Help keep the river clean and free from debris.
  • Be ready to get wet. Floating the fish ladder through the Bend Whitewater Park requires active participation. The river current is swift and the water is cold.

For more information on river recreation and park use including recommended float routes, visit Bend Whitewater Park webpage.