When the folks from Tumalo Creek Kayak and Canoe invited me on a half-day kayak tour of the upper Deschutes, I collapsed in tears, beat my fists on the ground, and screamed, “why does my job suck so much?!”
If you believe that, I’ve got some oceanfront property to sell you in Downtown Bend.
It definitely doesn’t suck to go kayaking for work, and it sucks even less to do it with a fabulous, reputable tour company like Tumalo Creek. Locally owned and operated, Tumalo Creek offers classes, tours, rentals, and retail gear in their shop just downstream from the Old Mill District.
We met at the retail shop just before 1 p.m. and guides shuttled our group and gear to the put-in point just 20 minutes from town. Our destination? Slough Camp on the Upper Deschutes River.
I’ve lived in Bend nearly 15 years, and while I’m by no means a kayak expert, I know how to wield a paddle (and I don’t mean that in a creepy 50 Shades of Grey way). The seven other members of our tour party were a family group ranging from high school to 60ish. They ran the gamut from occasional kayakers to I’m-just-trying-not-to-hit-myself-in-the-face-with-a-paddle.
It was clear from the start our guides were adept at providing instruction to participants of all ages and skill levels. Before anyone dipped a toe in the water, they made sure we were all comfortable in our boats and familiar with the basic paddle strokes.
Then we hit the river.
As everyone got used to paddling upstream, the guides bustled between group members offering tips, answering questions, and confirming everyone was having a good time.
The giddy grins on our faces probably gave away the answer to that one.
We didn’t see another living soul as we paddled up for a look at unique lava flow formations and dense forest. The trip downstream went a lot faster, and provided ample opportunities for water fights among the family group. I was too big a wuss to take part I’m too mature for such shenanigans, so I settled for paddling peacefully and admiring the scenery.
Eventually, our guide led us off into a winding channel of grassy marsh. Had it been a scene from a horror movie, a giant river monster would have been waiting to devour us at the other end of the watery maze. Instead, a peaceful lagoon waited, along with ample opportunity to snack, splash, and enjoy the views.
After awhile, we paddled back out and continued downstream toward the takeout above Benham Falls. I got a little ahead of the group at one point, so I backed myself into a small alcove to wait. I’d like to pretend what happened next was a deliberate maneuver designed to educate blog readers about the process of flipping a kayak and re-boarding, but I’m not that good at lying.
The truth is, I got cocky, and when I turned to scan the bank behind me, I flipped over like a big doofus. Luckily, I learned it really is easy to pop right out of your boat if you flip it, and it’s even easier to get back in if you have the help of a skilled guide.
Also, those little $10 waterproof pouches they sell at Tumalo Creek to protect your iPhone from water? Worth. Every. Penny.
If you’d like to get out on the water during your trip to Bend, Tumalo Creek offers a variety of kayak, canoe, and standup paddling trips to areas ranging from Elk Lake to the upper Deschutes to a full-day tour of the upper Deschutes from Wickiup to Wyeth Camp.
For those who prefer to go it on their own, they also offer gear rentals and sales. Their list of class offerings is crazy-impressive, so be sure to check that out if you’re looking to build some skills before setting out on the water.
So who’s up for a day of paddling this weekend?