The Deschutes River was once the economic lifeblood for Central Oregon, serving as a vital tool for saw mills powering a thriving logging industry here. The industry’s role in Central Oregon faded away, but the river, of course, remained. Today, it serves as a different lifeblood – for the thousands and thousands of people who use it as a playground.
How? Let us count thy ways.
1. Float it
Floating the Deschutes River in Bend is atop the “Unofficial Rites of Summer” list. Thanks to Farewell Bend and Riverbend Parks (on opposite sides of the river) putting in to the river has become easier than ever. All you need is an innertube, an air-mattress – just about anything that floats will work for this gentle float to downtown Bend’s Drake Park. Need to rent an innertube? No problem – Sun Country Tours has a small trailer at Riverbend Park and offers 2-hour rentals for $15/adults and $10/kids 6-12. And Parks and Rec runs a river shuttle service for floaters to get from Mirror Pond back to Riverbend Park.
2. Surf It
Yep, you read that right. The Deschutes River is home to the only whitewater play area in the state of Oregon and it’s centrally located in Bend’s popular Old Mill District. The waves in the whitewater park are adjustable – controlled from an iPad at the Bend Parks & Rec office up the street – so the challenge can change from day to day. Surfers and whitewater kayakers have been flocking to the area since it opened in 2015, and there’s usually a crowd of folks watching from the new footbridge above. Couldn’t fit your surfboard in the overhead bin? River Surf Co. is located just a quarter mile from the whitewater park and has all kinds of rental gear available, including surf boards.
3. Raft It
For the most part, the Deschutes River is a gentle, serene body of water that matches perfectly the laid back lifestyle we love here in Central Oregon. But man, there are some rip-roarin rapids on the river too that cater perfectly to the adventurous side we like to bust out every now and then. And there’s no better way to experience it than Sun Country Tours’ Big Eddy Thrill Ride.
4. Fish It
The Deschutes river provides world-class fishing opportunities for rainbow trout, brown trout, brook trout and steelhead from the amateur to the experienced angler. The best fishing changes throughout the year depending on hatches, restrictions, and river flows in each section (upper, middle, lower). For the best experience contact a fishing guide service and go with an expert.
5. Kayak or SUP It
In 2014 Outside Magazine named Bend and Central Oregon the best place in the world to stand up paddleboard thanks to our numerous high alpine lakes and the gentle flow of the Deschutes River. What’s more, you can rent a board or kayak right on the banks of the river at Tumalo Creek Kayak and Canoe.
6. Admire It
You don’t have to actually be in the water or on the water to fully enjoy the beauty of the Deschutes River. Gentle nature trails like the Deschutes River Trail can take you into the backcountry for beautiful views like this one from Benham Falls. You can pretty much drive right up to the falls viewing area or you can walk or ride your bike along the trail. There’s even a bathroom.