Floating the Deschutes River in Bend: Tips, Tricks and Tacos (Yes, Seriously)

Floating the Deschutes River in Bend, Oregon

The wild and scenic Deschutes River is Central Oregon’s water playground for all. From the slow meandering stretches near Sunriver to the rapids of Big Eddy, the river is perfect for kayaking, canoeing, fishing and swimming.

But no place along the river is it more popular than the stretch in Bend between the Bill Healy Bridge and iconic Mirror Pond. Come summer, the waterway is filled with river floaters and stand up paddlers enjoying the slow currents and festive vibe. And about halfway through that stretch you’ll find surfers and kayakers doing tricks at the whitewater park.

But for visitors, just how to join in all the action can be kind of confusing.

To help you navigate all the fun, the Bend Parks and Rec District has created this cool virtual tool. It’ll take you from the put in at Riverbend Park to the whitewater park. Click on the orange icons there for more info. And don’t worry if you didn’t pack an innertube in your carry-on luggage. Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe offers tube rentals at its “Park and Float” location near the Bend Parks and Rec Pavilion at Simpson and Bradbury. Shuttles run from there to Riverbend Park to put in, and then from the takeout at Drake Park back to the Park and Float. Tumalo Creek also rents paddleboards and kayaks from a kiosk at Riverbend Park.

Here’s some more useful information before you head out:

  • Choose a sturdy flotation device.
  • Floaters should park at Riverbend Park, the Park and Float at Simpson and Bradbury and or in the public lots on Columbia St. (There should be some signage to follow.) Do not park in private business parking areas or you’ll get towed.
  • Utilize the shuttle! It’s available from June 22 – Sept. 4, 2017 (tentative dates), the shuttle will pick you up at Drake Park and drop you off at Riverbend Park. The cost is $3 per person per day. More info at
  • Leave the beer at home. It’s illegal to have alcohol on the river and Bend Police are out in force.
  • Leave no trace. It’s cool if you want to carry a cooler of water or soda, but please be sure to take out all the plastic bottles or cans you are using during the float. Don’t toss an empty sunscreen bottle into the water. Don’t discard a broken flip flop on the beach.
  • State law requires that each boat or paddleboard carry one Coast Guard-approved life jacket for each person on board, and children age 12 and under are required to wear life jackets. Boaters and paddleboarders are also required to carry a whistle.
Crux Fermentation Project
Crux Fermentation Project, Bend

After an amazing day on the river, the first thing you’re probably going to want to do is grab something to eat. If you’re wanting to hit up downtown, which is a short walk from the take out at Drake Park, there are tons of options. Hit up happy hour at 900 Wall, head out back to O’Kanes at McMenamins Old St. Francis School or make the pilgrimage to Deschutes Brewery – the spot that started Central Oregon’s craft beer revolution.

If you’re getting a ride back to the Old Mill District, you’ve got options there too. We’ve found, through extensive research, that a trip to Crux Fermentation Project for a Crux Pils and three El Sancho tacos (I opt for one chicken, one pork and one beef) is the perfect end to a perfect day on the river.

Central Oregon Visitors Association
The Central Oregon Visitors Association (COVA) is the "Official" Tourism Information Resource for Central Oregon, including the communities of Bend, Sunriver, Redmond, Sisters, La Pine, Madras, Prineville, Crooked River Ranch, Terrebonne, Culver and Black Butte Ranch. Most of the stories posted online can be found in the Official Central Oregon Visitors Guide.
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