I am a Bend native. I’m told not many people have met one of us before. The boom in Bend has temporarily ended, but it’s still a hot tourist destination for the summer. Like everyone else, I’m on the watch for cheap or free summer fun and keeping with new trends in town, I decided to give something new a try: floating the river. In the 19 years I lived in Bend, I had never just floated the river. Sure, we canoed it, but people didn’t swim, or float the river on a colorful array of flotation devices looking rather like a water parade than a normal summer’s day. It simply wasn’t done due to goose poop in the water, but apparently goose poop is no longer a concern and I gave in to the rising trend over the weekend. (A word on safety, boating rules apply and life jackets are definitely a good idea for kids and dogs in the river as there are swift currents and a spillway at the end of the Old Mill District, which is well marked with signage for the exit on the left bank of the river.)

We put our air mattress into the river just above the Bill Healy Memorial Bridge at Farewell Bend Park and enjoyed a glorious hour-long float down to the river exit at the spillway. Floating is the new hip thing in Bend, and what better way to spend a hot, lazy summer afternoon than with feet dipped in the cool water, sunshine on your skin and bumping into the hundreds of other people with the same idea. Well, maybe not hundreds but enough to look like a constant flow of colorful plastic blow-up swans, seahorses, rafts and air mattress parading through the afternoon.

The little beaches along the river were covered in bikini-baring girls, tanned guys, and splashing kids along the river. Bend certainly has changed since my childhood, but still holds the essence of family outdoor fun. Giggling kids reminded me why I moved back to Bend, the natural beauty and opportunities for outdoor recreation abound. And of course, on a sunny Sunday afternoon, an afternoon float trip also has the perk of a free Summer Sunday Concert as you float past the Les Schwab Amphitheater from 2:30-4:30pm. Coming up on July 19th is a hip hop concert, urban dwellers can feel right at home with the music and enjoy stunning views of the mountains on the horizon.

After a smooth float through the Old Mill District, you can either walk back to the amphitheater for the free concert, or enjoy some food and drinks at one of the restaurants’ patios across the river. If you prefer more floating, get out of the river at the designated exit, walk further down the left side of the river and get back in on the other side of the bridge and keep floating all the way down to Drake Park. Thursdays starting at 5pm Munchin’ Music in Drake Park is a perfect stopping point for the longer float trip. Enjoy some food, booths of all sorts of arts and crafts and people watching while you take in this free concert. Summers in Bend are a great opportunity to be outside, hang out with family and friends and join the community for music in the park, or an afternoon on the river. Just make sure to pack the sunscreen and prepare to come face to face with a goose on the river.

Sarah McMurray is a wanderlust, a hopeful romantic, an artist, a writer and a passionate connoisseur of coffee and culture. She holds a BA from Seattle Pacific University and has been transitioning from higher education to the non-profit sector. Currently she resides in Bend, Oregon where she feels she is the luckiest girl in the world to call herself a native.

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  1. Robert Berry says…

    Planning a trip home and wanted to know when Munch ‘n’ Music was starting up. So I searched google. To my surprise, I find an old friend from school sharing my home town with the world. Did you know that Oregon is a vacation paradice to the Japanese.

    Written on July 14th, 2009 / Flag this Comment
  2. Holly says…

    When you go tubing, is there a shuttle that will bring you back to your vehicle?


    (I recently moved here from Texas with my husband)

    Written on July 24th, 2009 / Flag this Comment
  3. A Tom Sawyer Adventure: Swimming Holes and Rivers to Float | Travel Oregon Blog says…

    [...] In Central Oregon, one of the most popular rivers to float is the Deschutes in Bend. It’s an easy river to access with multiple “put-in” spots and never leads you far from town. It drifts through the Old Mill District all the way to Drake Park, passing by the Les Schwab Amphitheater where they host free concerts on summer Sundays. Get some pointers on floating the Deschutes from Bend native Sarah McMurray. [...]

    Written on May 27th, 2010 / Flag this Comment
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