There’s a law in Bend that says no one shall visit our fair city in the summer months without floating the Deschutes River at least once.
Okay, we may have made that up. But law or no law you don’t want to miss the opportunity to enjoy one of the most scenic, unique, and enjoyable experiences you can have in Bend.
For those unfamiliar with the area, it can seem a little daunting. You see all the smiling, happy people floating past as you stroll through the Old Mill District for dinner or shopping, but um . . . well, how do they get there? And what are the rules?
Especially if you are looking to use the Ride the River Shuttle, the best place to start is to park at the Park & Float off Simpson Avenue. From there, the shuttle will take you to Riverbend Park, which offers a safe, sandy shore for you to launch your air mattress, float tube, or raft.
On your float, when you reach the Colorado Avenue Bridge, hop out and walk through the handy tunnel that takes you to another put-in spot to start the second phase of your journey. You can also stay in the river and continue through the state-of-the-art Bend Whitewater Park. The park offers a mildly-wild passageway (amusingly referred to as “da chute” by a few locals) for floaters, plus a whitewater channel for experienced paddlers and a nature habitat channel designed to preserve Bend’s aquatic wildlife.
Once you reach Bend’s scenic Drake Park, hoof it back to your car or catch the Ride the River shuttle. Be sure to check the website for schedule and pricing.
Don’t have an inner tube or a PFD (personal flotation device)? No problem. Drive to the Park & Float off Simpson Avenue and look for the Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe kiosk. At this location, they rent river tubes, which includes an optional PFD. You can also participate in the Green Tube Initiative and become a Citizen Steward. If you’re more interested in renting a standup paddleboard (SUP) or kayak you can visit their location in Riverbend Park or head to the Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe main Bend store location off Industrial Way, which rents SUPs, kayaks, canoes, and more.
There are a few rules you need to know before you hop in the water. Under Oregon law, all boats must carry a Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device (PFD) for every person on board or being towed. Children under 12 must wear PFDs at all times on a moving boat, including inflatable rafts and kayaks. That doesn’t include individual air mattresses, inner tubes, and floating toys. However, if any of these are tied together, they count as ’boats’ and the PFD law applies.
Here are a few more things to keep in mind:
Have some sort of water shoes that stay on your feet. Chacos, Tevas, or Keens are a good idea. Flip flops are risky, as they can slip off easily. Either way, you’ll need something on your feet when you hop out of the water and have to trek across a hot, rocky surface to your car or shuttle.
Buy a waterproof pouch to wear around your neck for any essentials like car keys or phone. Consider having your sunglasses on a strap as well, in case you fall in.
Please, please don’t litter. If you bring beverages or snacks, do not dump bottles and wrappers in our river.
Have fun! This is pretty much a given, though.
For more information on floating the river, including safety tips and a handy map, check out this page from Bend Metro Parks & Rec.