August 20, 2010 - Bend Bulletin - Getting up to speed

Aug 31, 2010

August 20, 2010 - Bend Bulletin - Getting up to speed

Getting up to speed

A major piece of the Deschutes Paddle Trail is finalized with the implementation of 30 informational kiosks at various Cascade lakes

By Mark Morical / The Bulletin
Published: August 20. 2010 4:00AM PST

On any given hot summer day, the Deschutes River in Bend is clogged with inflatable watercraft and the sun-soaking revelers who ride them.

An unofficial count of just how many watercraft float the stretch of the Deschutes from the Old Mill District to Drake Park — mostly inner tubes and air mattresses — tallied 600 in a single hour one day last month, according to Karl Koenig, president of the Bend Paddle Trail Alliance (BPTA).

The high Cascade lakes southwest of Bend are also filled with kayakers and canoeists. And around Central Oregon, more and more vehicles every summer seem to have some sort of boat strapped to their tops. Koenig and other locals saw a need to guide these outdoor enthusiasts along their way when they formed the BPTA five years ago.

This month, a major piece of the Deschutes Paddle Trail will be completed with the installation of 30 informational kiosks at nine Cascade lakes in Central Oregon.

The signage offers information about access points, hazards, private property issues, amenities, riparian restoration and wildlife. The focal points of the BPTA — stewardship, safety and education — is reflected on the signs, which include a code of outdoor ethics and an equipment checklist.

“When we got into it, it was looking at what the coming trends were in terms of water resources,” Koenig said this week. “We decided to combine it all into the Deschutes Paddle Trail, to provide something for everybody.”

Kayakers, canoeists, anglers, or even just float-tubers on the lakes can use these signs to plan their outings. Similar kiosks along the Deschutes River are scheduled to be completed by spring of next year.

On Wednesday morning, dozens of kayakers were lined up to launch at Hosmer Lake, one of Central Oregon's most popular paddle destinations because of its narrow channels and water so clear it allows easy viewing of the salmon and trout within.

Behind the kayakers a few feet off shore, a crew was putting the finishing touches on the Deschutes Paddle Trail kiosk for Hosmer Lake. Then the workers were off to Elk Lake, where they would install four such kiosks at various access points.

“It's a big project,” said Koenig, as he watched the installation of the kiosk at Hosmer. “It's a lot of work. It's taken a little longer than we thought, but it's coming to fruition.”

The Deschutes Paddle Trail includes the navigable sections of the Deschutes River and the Little Deschutes River in Deschutes County, along with nine of the largest Cascade lakes in the county, according to www.bendpaddletrailalliance.org.

Those lakes include Sparks, Elk, Hosmer, Cultus, Lava, Little Lava, Paulina and East, as well as Crane Prairie and Wickiup reservoirs.

The river portion of the Deschutes Paddle Trail includes 95 miles of the Deschutes River, from Wickiup Reservoir in the south to Lower Bridge in the north. It also includes 26 miles of the Little Deschutes River, from La Pine to the river's junction with the Deschutes River near Sunriver.

The river kiosks will include information similar to the lake kiosks, but they will also focus on the difficulty levels of rapids, times when certain stretches can safely be paddled based on water flow, and portage locations.

Waters along the Deschutes Paddle Trail include everything from calm, easy sections (Class I) to surging whitewater and waterfalls best suited for experts only (Class V).

The lake kiosks have been a two-year project for the BPTA, requiring $36,000 worth of grants and donations to plan and construct.

“It's a very important step for the BPTA to highlight the Deschutes River and the Cascade lakes,” said BPTA board member Mark Schang of the kiosks. “Paddling in Central Oregon has become one of the more popular recreational opportunities. (The kiosks will) make it easier for locals and tourists alike. It'll be a resource and identify proper put-ins.”

The lake kiosk project is the second of four phases for the Deschutes Paddle Trail, Koenig explained. The first was the design of brochuresized maps and guides of the Deschutes River and Cascade lakes, which were finished in 2008 and are available at Central Oregon outdoor shops.

The third phase is installation of the river kiosks, and the fourth phase is the big one: the proposed conversion of the spillway under the Colorado Avenue Bridge in Bend.

“The ultimate success will be the conversion of the Colorado dam,” Koenig said. “That's the most major piece, also the most difficult, also the most expensive. That's one of the most dangerous spots.”

Boaters paddling along the Deschutes from the Old Mill to Drake Park must portage around the bridge to McKay Park.

The BPTA's idea is to reconstruct the spillway so paddlers need not portage, and also to build a whitewater play park — which would include man-made waves on which kayakers could ride and perform tricks — in the same area of the river.

“If we continue at the pace we're at,” Koenig said, “we'll be the first (whitewater play park) in Oregon.”

Mark Morical can be reached at 541-383-0318 or at mmorical@bendbulletin.com.

Published Daily in Bend Oregon by Western Communications, Inc. © 2010

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