The Travel Oregon Forever Fund supports projects that preserve Oregon’s natural landscapes and cultural heritage for visitors and locals to enjoy. Please help these efforts by contributing today!

Kayakers everywhere are barrel rolling for joy at the news that Bend Whitewater Park opened on the Deschutes River.

The long-awaited project is an effort between Bend Parks and Recreation District and The Bend Paddle Trail Alliance (BPTA), a non-profit organization that was established more than 10 years ago to steward the Deschutes Paddle Trail and promote safety and education for all visiting water enthusiasts. The project renovated a 1915 dam that was built for a lumber mill formerly on the site. The area, now known as the Old Mill District, is a popular shopping and dining spot that offers access to the Deschutes River Trail and the river itself.

The dam was impassable, and people enjoying the river had pull out above or portage around it to continue. The project creates three channels below the dam — a gentle waterway for tubers and stand-up paddle (SUP) boarders, a protected section for fish and wildlife habitat and a whitewater wave play area.

The project provides a missing piece to the Deschutes Paddle Trail, which includes 95 miles of navigable water between Wickiup Reservoir in the south and Lower Bridge in the north part of the county.

“This is the vital link in the paddle trail,” says Chelsea Schneider, project manager of Bend Parks and Recreation District. “With this link in place, you’ll be able to pass the dam. If you wanted to you could float all the way to Drake Park.”

The part that hard-core river rats are excited about is the whitewater section, which is controlled by computers to create a dynamic a wave play area — the first of its kind on the West Coast.

Funding for this project was no small feat. Although the bond measure passed in 2012, the BPTA was responsible for raising more than $1 million for the renovations. That is why the Travel Oregon Forever Fund chose to include the BPTA as one of its benefactors.

To learn more about visiting the new park, check out the Bend Whitewater Park Facebook page. If you’re ready to hit the river, rent a SUP board from Stand Up Paddle Bend. Tumalo Creek Kayak and Canoe rents SUP boards, tubes, canoes and kayaks.

about author Lizzie Keenan

Lizzie Keenan is the Marketing and Communications Manager for Sustainable Travel International. She spends her days working closely with destinations and tourism businesses around the world to help them bring their stories of sustainability to life. As a California native, Oregon is a new and exciting playground for her to explore. You can often find her running through the streets of Portland, stopping for “mandatory” breaks at her favorite food carts and coffee shops to fuel up.

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  1. kathy says…

    This kind of reminds me of what was done in Reno.. very fun for locals and visitors. Can’t wait to come for a visit.

    Written on March 4th, 2015 / Flag this Comment
  2. Michelle says…

    Make sure to check with Bend Park and Rec District for current information about the opening and operations of this facility. Right now it’s anticipated to open in LATE summer 2015, with construction and detours continuing around the site into 2016.

    Written on March 4th, 2015 / Flag this Comment
  3. katerina says…

    One of my favor road trips is the coast of Oregon
    So much fun! ! !

    Written on March 5th, 2015 / Flag this Comment
  4. lynn says…

    Sounds like a great summer family style or friends get together. How much?

    Written on March 5th, 2015 / Flag this Comment
  5. Lori says…

    AWESOME! Lived in Bend for years and floated this too many times to count. Always a crazy scary paddle hard to stay away from the spillway! My daughter moved back after graduating college, so YES our summer visit will have to be a new river float. Thanks to all who made this possible. Can’t wait to enjoy the experience!

    Written on March 5th, 2015 / Flag this Comment
  6. Jan Taylor says…

    This is an exciting project for sure! For the record, the project was designed by and is being constructed by the Bend Park and Recreation District in affiliation with BPTA. Bend Park and Recreation District tax payers are paying for about 90% of it through the district’s 2012 bond measure. For official information on opening and public access through fall of 2016, go to

    Written on March 5th, 2015 / Flag this Comment
  7. Jenny says…

    This sounds like a great place to xheck out this summer

    Written on March 6th, 2015 / Flag this Comment
  8. DENISE BERGEN says…


    Written on March 8th, 2015 / Flag this Comment
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