Kayakers everywhere were barrel-rolling for joy when the Bend Whitewater Park opened on the Deschutes River.
The long-awaited project was an effort between Bend Parks and Recreation District and The Bend Paddle Trail Alliance (BPTA), a non-profit organization 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.
Previously the dam was impassable, and people enjoying the river had pull out above or portage around it to continue. The project created 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 provided 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 hardcore 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 Parks and Recreation. If you’re ready to hit the river, rent a SUP board from Stand Up Paddle Bend and tube, canoes and kayaks from Tumalo Creek Kayak and Canoe.