SUP Adventures in Central Oregon

A few years ago, while on a group camping trip at Crane Prairie Resort and RV Park, my family and I tried paddle boarding for the first time. Our friends were having fun paddling around the reservoir, so we jumped at the chance when they offered to lend us their equipment.

With my then nine-year-old eagerly straddling the front of the board, I stood behind her and asked a few questions before pushing off from shore. Right away, I noticed how easy it was to balance. I dipped my paddle into the clear water and we drifted along at a leisurely pace. Five minutes into our journey, my daughter looked back and gave me a thumbs-up, her sun kissed cheeks pushed back into a huge grin. Her feet dangled in the warm water as she pointed to fish swimming beneath her wriggling toes.

I was equally excited. We had made it into the middle of the reservoir with hardly any effort and surrounding us was one of the best views of the Cascades that we’d seen in awhile. As we eased further out, enjoying the summer breeze and quietness of the lake, I knew we had found our new favorite activity. Paddle boarding was fun, easy and oh-so-relaxing.

stand up paddling

Stand up paddle (or SUP) has become a popular summer pastime in Central Oregon. Because the difficulty factor is not very great and because there are so many lakes and parts of the Deschutes River to enjoy, it’s an easily accessible warm weather activity. Outside Magazine even recently named Bend as the number one spot in the world for an SUP vacation.

Since that first day out at Crane Prairie, my family now has a short list of favorite spots to bring our boards. Thanks to the folks at Stand on Liquid, we purchased both a 12-foot board for my husband and me, and a smaller sturdier child-sized board for our three kids.

SUP at Sparks Lake - Central Oregon

One of our top picks for paddle boarding is Sparks Lake. Located just off the Cascade Lakes Highway, this stunning body of water sits in full view of Mount Bachelor, the Three Sisters and Broken Top. The water is warm, shallow and clear. It’s a great place for beginner paddle boarders and not-so-seasoned kayakers who just want to float along and take in the beautiful surroundings.

We like to gather here in the morning, armed with a couple of camp chairs and sack lunches, and hang out for the first half of the day. While there isn’t an official beach spot to use at Sparks, there are little inlets and sometimes open campsites that are nice for settling in for the day. Dogs are welcome too because the area is perfect for throwing sticks and lounging in the sun. Parking can be tricky at peak times of the afternoon. Just have patience and plan ahead so you can find a day use spot that’s right for you.

stand up paddling

Another family favorite for SUP is Suttle Lake. Nestled in the heart of the Deschutes National Forest, just outside Sisters, is scenic Suttle Lake. We like to spend a few days camping at the Blue Bay campground, which has gorgeous views and is on the slow end of the lake. While the opposite side of the lake is more for speed enthusiasts with water skiing and power boats, we choose our end for hours of paddle boarding, fishing, and relaxing at the water’s edge. If you don’t own paddleboards it’s no problem. Head to the marina, located on the west side of the lake, for rental equipment. There’s also a beachhead near the lodge, which offers a place to bring a picnic and take in the lakeside activities.

Elk Lake sailboats in Central Oregon

This summer, we plan to take our boards to Elk Lake Resort, also located just off the Cascades Lakes Highway, because of its family friendly marina and lodge. Elk Lake is known for its pristine waters and warm temperatures, which are the right ingredients for a summer afternoon of paddle boarding with the family.

Where will you SUP this season?

Nicole Meier
Nicole Meier
Nicole Meier is a writer, travel blogger and social media consultant. The Source Weekly named her travel blog, Have Tote Will Travel, ( among the best local blogs of Central Oregon in 2013. When she’s not running her three kids from pillar to post, Nicole and her husband can be found skate skiing, paddle boarding or camping in Central Oregon’s playground.
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