That big orb in the sky is heating up, and more sunshine means it’s time to find a place to splash around and cool off. Central Oregon’s high-desert lakes and rivers and crisp mountain air are ideal family-friendly escapes for boating, paddling or just hopping in for a swim. Here are several spots to explore during the warmer months.
Boating in Prineville
About an hour east of Bend, Prineville Reservoir State Park is an oasis in the desert, a 15-mile-long lake filled with water flowing from the Ochoco Mountain Range. If you’ve been meaning to teach the kids a motorized water sport, such as water skiing or wakeboarding, this is a great place to do it, with plenty of visibility and room to roam. Paddleboarding and kayaking are also popular; check out the rentals and beginning stand-up paddleboard classes offered by Ochoco SUP in Prineville and other local shops.
Paddling the Deschutes
Want to paddle the Deschutes River but don’t have equipment? No worries — Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe and other outfitters in and around Bend offer gear rentals for adventure-seekers here. While the part of the Deschutes in the middle of Bend tends to get extremely crowded in the summer, a quieter spot to paddle is at LaPine State Park, situated in a tranquil bend of the river, about 30 miles south of the city. Grab your favorite floaty tube, sunscreen, hat, life jacket and make a day of it. Make sure to take Bend’s Visit Like a Local pledge.
Splashing around in Redmond
This free, easy-access splash feature at Centennial Park in Redmond is a hit with kids in the warmer months. Jumping in and out of the rhythmic jets makes for easy and quick entertainment without the hassle of gear or crowded parking lots, and lets the kids get the wiggles out (don’t forget a towel and change of clothes). Pro tip: Down the street is the beloved community Fireman’s Pond, which is stocked with fish by the Redmond Fire Department. Kids 14 and under may fish for free.
Trout fishing at East Lake
Bring a small boat, paddleboard, kayak or canoe to East Lake, a hot spot for trout fishing in Oregon. Fifty miles south of Bend, it’s one of the twin lakes (along with the more crowded Paulina Lake) in the caldera of Newberry National Volcanic Monument — the state’s largest ice-age volcano. Fed by snowmelt and underground springs, the crystal-clear lake and its sandy shores and wooded shoreline are perfect for picnics. Remember to be mindful of the ecology and wildlife, and pack out everything you bring in.
Floating around in Sisters
Rent a boat, stand-up paddleboard, canoe or kayak at Suttle Lodge (available late May) and enjoy easy access to Suttle Lake from the dock, which is also a glorious place to enjoy an ice cream or the fish n’ chips sandwich at the lodge’s restaurant. Get your feet moving after a lazy morning along the flat, wooded 3.6-mile trail around the perimeter of the lake. The loop trail is also great for singletrack bike riders of all skill levels, so remember to share the trail with all users. Stay at one of the lodge’s family rooms, cabins or vacation homes, or book a tent at one of three seasonal campgrounds on the lake: Link Creek, Blue Bay or South Shore and spend several days splashing around.
Honorable mentions go to kayak touring at Lake Billy Chinook while camping at The Cove Palisades Park in Madras; whitewater rafting in Maupin; and playing in the splash-tastic waterfalls of the Paulina Plunge near La Pine.