A Guide to Bend’s Whitewater Park

Bend is beloved for its wide range of outdoor adventure—from well-designed mountain bike trails and scenic campgrounds to kayak-friendly lakes and laid-back river floats. It’s only natural, then, that the Bend Whitewater Park adds to the fun with thrilling challenges in the heart of the Deschutes River.

The Bend Park and Recreation District opened the park in September 2015, not far from downtown Bend and the Old Mill District, and the converted spillway has since become a popular attraction for surfers, paddlers, and even floaters looking to enrich their day on the Deschutes River. Even better: The park provides a habitat to protect the fish and wildlife that call the channel home.

We’ve put together a guide on the park, with information on the following:

Curious to learn more and get on the water? Keep reading for more insight on the Bend, Oregon, whitewater park.

Bend Whitewater Park Features

The Bend Whitewater Park occupies a short stretch of the Deschutes River—sitting immediately east of McKay Park and just west of downtown Bend. (You can get a top-down view from the Colorado Avenue bridge, which runs almost directly overhead.) The centerpiece of the park is a series of three separate channels, all running parallel to each other, with features designed for river recreation users of all skill levels—from families to experienced surfers. Here’s a bit of information on each:

Fish Ladder Channel: This run appeals to a variety of river users—including families, floaters, and beginner kayakers—with a series of gentle rapids in quick succession. The Fish Ladder channel gets its name from the format of the rapids—a long, gently sloped stretch of water with a series of abrupt drops.

Whitewater Channel: The center channel provides thrill-seeking paddlers with opportunities for fast-paced fun. All year long, you may see whitewater kayakers practicing their craft, surfers catching some waves, and stand-up paddleboarders working on their balance in four wave features tailored to enthusiasts of all skill levels. Those features are updated each season to provide new experiences all year long.

Habitat Channel: The easternmost of the Bend Whitewater Park’s three channels is reserved exclusively for the area’s wildlife—providing safe passage for migrating fish, wetlands for waterfowl, and protected riverbanks for the Oregon spotted frog.

Curious about the broader Deschutes River? Get the scoop on the many rivers in Central Oregon.

Bend Whitewater Park in Bend, Oregon

Photo courtesy of Luke Menasco

Water Activities at the Park

Innertubes floating on the Deschutes River.

Photo courtesy of @bentonmcleod

Interested in enjoying the Bend Whitewater Park yourself? Here’s a brief rundown of the many activities you’ll enjoy at the park:

Kayaking: Tackle either of the park’s river channels, depending on your experience levels and appetite for adventure, for some of the best whitewater kayaking in Bend, Oregon. Bring your own, or rent a whitewater-specific kayak from Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe—which includes a personal floatation device, paddle, and helmet for safety.

River surfing: Bring your surfboard and wetsuit to the park—and catch some waves on the various features. Be sure to wear a helmet and personal floatation device for safety, and check out the Bend Whitewater Park website for good-to-know information, safety resources, and current river conditions.

Stand-up paddleboarding: Choose among either channel for a fun, fast-paced adventure on your stand-up paddleboard. Newer paddlers should attempt the Fish Ladder Channel, while more experienced paddlers can tackle the fast, flowing waves in the Whitewater Channel.

Tubing: One of the most popular summer activities in Central Oregon is tubing the Deschutes River. Floats begin upstream of the whitewater park, and most tubers encounter the rapids en route to the takeout point near downtown. Floaters can either ride the waves in the Fish Ladder Channel or get out of the river, walk their tubes just downstream of the park, and reenter the water there.

Looking for other thrills on the water? Learn more about white water rafting in Central Oregon.

Plan Your Visit

Now that you know more about what you can do at the Bend Whitewater Park—one of the top attractions when visiting Bend, Oregon – here’s a few tips to have the best possible experience.

Parking: On-street parking is available near McKay Park—but may be limited to four hours. A short walk away, day-use parking is available at the Park & Float lot on SW Bradbury Way.

When to visit: The Bend Whitewater Park is open year-round—and you’ll see surfers and paddlers in almost all weather—but conditions are best between July and early September, when the Deschutes River flow slows a little and the water is at its warmest.

Apparel: Try to wear sandals or water shoes, rather than flip flops—which can easily fall off in the tumultuous rapids. Always wear a personal flotation device, and put on a helmet if tackling the Whitewater Channel; the Deschutes River is shallow along this stretch, and several rocks make it easy to bump your head. Consider a wetsuit if surfing or paddling at any time of year other than the height of summer; in summer, wear moisture-wicking apparel that dries quicker than cotton.

Gear rentals and purchases: You can rent tubes and whitewater kayaks from Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe. Gear purchases—including paddles, personal floatation devices, dry bags, and technical clothing—are also available from the local outfitter.

Safety information and river conditions: Whichever channel you’re eyeing, be sure to visit the official Bend Whitewater Park website for all you need to know about having a safe, fun day on the water—including safety information for various types of water activities, current river conditions, rules, and more.

Watching the Bend Whitewater Park in Bend, Oregon

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