Stand-up Paddleboarding in Central Oregon

Two people hang out on a stand up paddle board in central oregon.
Stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) has exploded in popularity throughout Central Oregon in recent years, thanks in part to the many waterways dotting our gorgeous region—and those picture-perfect summers that afford ample opportunities to hit the water. Not just that, but the laid-back sport offers an excellent way to strengthen your core and practice a little mindfulness while you’re at it.

So if you’re interested in stand-up paddleboarding in Central Oregon, here’s a rundown of some of the region’s best lakes and rivers, what makes each so special, and what to know for the safest possible experience.

Stand-up Paddleboarding Near Bend and Sunriver

You can certainly paddle the Deschutes River in Bend (with rentals via Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe), but if you’re looking to get outside the city, these lakes and rivers offer magical SUP experiences.

Todd Lake: Heading out of Bend along the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway, the first lake you come to is Todd Lake—which just so happens to be one of the best bodies of water in the region for peaceful paddling. The cozy lake is closed to motorized watercraft and affords views of Broken Top peeking over the treeline; keep in mind that you’ll need to carry your SUP along a short, quarter-mile (one-way) walk between Todd Lake’s parking area and the shoreline.

Devils Lake: The compact Devils Lake sits where the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway turns south, and is a popular place to try stand-up paddleboarding in summer. Its striking blue hue, along with a prohibition on motorized boats, makes the lake a fun outing just 40 minutes from Bend. (Insider’s tip: Devils Lake is also a fun stop if you’d like to try kayaking and canoeing in Central Oregon.)

Little Lava Lake: Roughly an hour west of Bend via the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway sits the absurdly teal Little Lava Lake—most famous for being the headwaters of the mighty Deschutes River. Views from the shallow, peaceful lake (enveloped on all sides by lava flows and forests of pine) include Mount Bachelor and South Sister. Just next door is the larger, similarly popular Lava Lake.

Sunriver: The Deschutes River twists and turns through the community of Sunriver, and the river’s easy-going pace makes it the perfect place to get on the water. The Marina at Sunriver Resort rents SUP boards as part of a longer, six-mile float to Benham Butte; each rental includes a life jacket, paddle, and transportation, and the float or paddle generally takes about two hours.

If a trip along the Deschutes piques your curiosity, learn more about the rivers in Central Oregon. And if you’re staying in the area, we’ve put together a page on Sunriver Resort.

Two people walk out to SUP on a lake.

Stand-up Paddleboarding Near Sisters

The Old West-themed community of Sisters sits at the foot of the Cascade Range, offering easy access to some of the region’s most popular lakes and waterways. If you want to enjoy the Cascades from the top of your SUP, here are a few fun places to start.

Clear Lake: A little over 30 minutes west of Sisters, Clear Lake Resort sits on the shore of its namesake lake—offering easy access to the electric teal waters that sit surrounded by an unusual mix of lush forest and rocky lava flows. The resort rents rowboats and kayaks, but you can bring your own SUP for a $5 launch fee. Keep an eye out for a sunken forest below the lake’s glistening surface.

Suttle Lake: The deep, clear Suttle Lake sits just 15 minutes west of Sisters—and is surrounded on all sides by a forest of fir and vine maple (the latter of which turns brilliant shades of red, yellow, and orange in mid-September and October). Bring your own watercraft or rent a SUP from Suttle Lodge, which sits at the eastern edge of the lake. Motorboats are permitted on Suttle Lake but tend to stick closer to its western shore—creating an idyllic experience for new and experienced paddlers alike.

Stand-up Paddleboarding Near Prineville

Sitting at the eastern edge of Central Oregon, Prineville is firmly within the region’s high desert—but sits close to a few reservoirs that afford excellent SUP opportunities. So if you’re excited to trade sweeping mountain views for a more rugged kind of beauty, here’s where to get on the water around Prineville. Just keep in mind that rentals are few and far between out this way, so you’ll want your own board before heading out.

Ochoco Reservoir: Fed by Mill Creek and Ochoco Creek, the scenic Ochoco Reservoir offers some of the region’s best early-season paddling—when temperatures are just creeping up and the lake’s water level is at its fullest. Keep an eye out for shorebirds flocking to the mudflats near Ochoco Reservoir’s northeastern shore. The day-use area and campground at Ochoco Reservoir sits just 10 minutes east of Prineville.

Prineville Reservoir State Park: Roughly 20 minutes south of Prineville, the heart of Prineville Reservoir State Park is the 15-mile-long, 3,000-acre Prineville Reservoir (one of the biggest lakes in Central Oregon). Surrounded by a rocky canyon and lush forests, the massive lake is popular with motorboaters—but offers plenty of room to explore and enjoy a quiet afternoon on your SUP, away from the hubbub.

Curious about how else to enjoy the outdoors around Prineville? Learn more about outdoor activities in Central Oregon.

What to Know About Stand-up Paddleboarding in Central Oregon

You’ll want to keep a few tips in mind before getting on the water and enjoying popular summer activities in Central Oregon.

People prepare to SUP.
Planning your paddle: Most of the destinations mentioned here are well-known among Central Oregon paddlers, and surrounding parking areas can fill to capacity on sunny summer weekends. Try to arrive at your day’s destination by 9 a.m. if paddling on the weekend—or, better yet, try to plan a weekday outing for quieter waters and a more solitary experience.

Life jackets: Personal floatation devices (PFDs or lifejackets) are not legally required for adults in Oregon—but we’d strongly recommend that paddlers wear them on the water. Children 12 and younger, meanwhile, must always wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved PFD while their craft is underway.

Fees: Recreation sites throughout the Deschutes National Forest and along the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway may require a $5 day-use fee (payable as a one-day or annual Northwest Forest Pass, or via America the Beautiful Pass), and some sites may require a Central Cascades Wilderness Permit between mid-June and mid-October; be sure to research your desired destination before heading out.

Waterway Access Permit: If your stand-up paddleboard is 10 feet or longer, you must purchase and carry an Oregon State Marine Board Waterway Access Permit ($7 for a seven-day pass, $17 for an annual pass, $30 for a two-year pass). Permit fees help support efforts to stop aquatic invasive species from gaining a foothold in our ecosystems—and programs to expand paddling access throughout Oregon.

Appropriate clothing: Central Oregon’s waterways sit in the high desert and throughout the Cascade Range, leading to chilly water—even on warm summer days. It’s important to wear clothing to protect against those cold temperatures and layers that make it possible to adjust to weather changes (such as cloud cover, wind, and so forth). It can’t hurt to wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses to protect against sunburns, either.

Explore Nature’s Beauty

From the sagebrush-covered plains of the high desert to the towering pines and majestic mountain peaks, discover the diverse landscape Central Oregon has to offer.