If You’re New Here: How to float like a local this summer
BY K.M. COLLINS
Can you believe it’s almost that time of year again—when you can slip into the Deschutes River on an inner tube and float downstream like Central Oregon royalty #livingyourbestlife?! Although a few more storm systems are blowing the last of this year’s pow up at the mountain, down in town, the weather’s been almost float-worthy.
If this is your first summer in Bend, I’m talking about the townie corridor float that traverses Riverbend Park, to the Bend Whitewater Park, into Drake Park and Mirror Pond.
As the desert heats up and you start preemptively ordering your floaties (better get on that, i.e. COVID goods delays, Suez Canal blockage, general shortage of floaties in Bend over the summer) keep these safety and stewardship tips in mind from Bend Park and Recreation District and the Upper Deschutes Watershed Council.
All floaters should consider donning a durable outfit before entering the river: long sleeves, shorts, a secure hat and close-toed shoes are ideal. No river outfit is complete without a life jacket. In the spirit of supporting on-water safety and the Oregon Marine Board (which regulates life jacket and water rules), on May 21, whether on land or not, wear your life jacket for Wear Your Life Jacket to Work/Home Day. For questions about life jacket regulations, see the Oregon State Marine Board website.
Securely fasten shoes (no flip flops) and anything else on your tube or floatie. At the annual Deschutes River cleanup hosted by UDWC, volunteers have found literally hundreds of pairs of sunglasses, flip flops and cell phones throughout the floating corridor and the Whitewater Park. This year’s cleanup is on July 31. To participate, signup on the UDWC website.
A durable floatie is also ideal. There is much cheese-grater-esque lava rock lining the banks, in the fish ladder passage and protruding from the riverbed. It isn’t uncommon to do the walk of shame all the way to Drake Park because that really cute (and really fragile) unicorn floatie popped halfway through the float. In the event this happens, don’t leave floaties on the side of the road, or worse, in the river; dispose of it properly.
Etiquette and Ethics
Kolleen Miller, education director with the UDWC urges patrons to, “Consider the health of the river, its streambank vegetation, and the fish and wildlife as you enjoy the river. Remember, the Deschutes is home for native fish, river otters, osprey and the threatened Oregon Spotted Frog. Be respectful and enjoy the river with a sense of stewardship in mind.”
This includes only entering the river at designated access points. Seasonally, sensitive vegetation has been trampled due to people (and dogs) entering and exiting the river at non-designated points. These areas can take years to recover.
Also, alcohol and bridge jumping are not allowed.
Lastly, be courteous to fellow floaters. Be mindful of the appropriateness of your behavior and conversations around families and other patrons. Always assume goodwill and work together so all river users have the best experience possible.
Amenities and Services
“A little advanced preparation is recommended for river recreation this summer,” said Julie Brown of Bend Park and Recreation District.
“It’s encouraging to have the Ride the River shuttle and tube rentals available after a hiatus last year, and reservations will be necessary to ensure space availability,” she advised. “Floating is one of the most popular activities in Bend and a little planning can be a big help.” Look for Ride the River shuttle operation details and schedule in early June.
Tube rental services will be available with advanced reservations required, mid-June to Labor Day. People can reserve now for summer 2021 with Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe.
Free life jacket rentals available from two locations with Tumalo Creek: Bend Park & Float and at Riverbend Park.
New Bend Whitewater Park Access Parameters for Surfers
• The river-left (west) island is for surf line-up. There is no public access to the river-right island. Up to 10 surfers on the island at one time.• New waiting area on river left at McKay Park as well.
• Once you surf an hour session, give someone else a chance. Positivity and respect are priorities.
• Life jackets and whistles are required for all boaters and paddle boarders. Helmets are recommended. Board leashes, however, should not be used as they can get caught on underwater elements.
• Always scout the conditions as river flows and wave features change frequently. Consider the waves above and below and plan your exit routes for each wave. See the Bend Whitewater Park Facebook page for updates.
Stay 6 feet from others on land and on water. If you can’t maintain 6-feet distance from others, wear a face covering (ages 5 and up). Don’t clog up access. Wait for others to enter/exit at river access points. Visit less-popular sections and/or at less busy times whenever possible. Lastly, bring your own water. Drinking fountains are not available.With all of that, Miller of UDWS hopes locals, visitors and all patrons will have a chance this summer to, “enjoy the beautiful river that we get to call home!”