How to stay safe floating the Deschutes River this summer

June 13, 2019
How to stay safe floating the Deschutes River this summer

 By Brenna Visser

With another busy summer approaching, Bend Park & Recreation District is asking people to stay safe on the Deschutes River.

Last year, the park district counted more than 250,000 people who floated, paddleboarded, kayaked or otherwise played on the river — an 18% increase from 2017 estimates, Communications Director Julie Brown said.

The park district is urging everyone to stay safe as more and more people are on the river. With temperatures climbing high earlier this month, Brown said park staff has seen an increase in the number of people attempting to jump off bridges into the river, which is illegal.

“It’s an activity that continues to grow and be a priority for our park stewards,” Brown said.

The park district is also asking people to enter the river only through main access points to help curb erosion on the riverbank. People who enjoy floating down the river are encouraged to use the river shuttle, which starts operating Saturday, to get to and from major access points.

The route begins at the Park & Float lot at Simpson Avenue and Bradbury Way next to The Pavilion. The bus drops riders off at Riverbend Park and picks them up at the end of their journey at Drake Park.

Tube rentals will also move from Riverbend Park to the Park & Float lot starting Saturday.

Before you go, here are tips on how to stay safe on the river:

• Midway down the floating corridor, you will need to make a decision: exit the river or ride the rapids. The fish ladder is the perfect option for those who want to add a little rapids adventure to their float. Migrating fish go up the ladder, but floaters can ride through the several small rapids just past the Colorado Avenue Bridge. For those who want to keep it mellow or who have small children as part of the group, exit the river before the bridge and walk to McKay Park to reenter the river.

• Wear a life jacket. State law requires them for all boaters, paddleboarders and children 12 and younger. Whistles are required with boats and paddleboards. Need a life jacket? They are available free to borrow at Riverbend Park and at the Park & Float lot.

• Consider your own and your child’s abilities before entering the river and always supervise children in and around water. There are no lifeguards at the river, so take responsibility for your safety.

• Use equipment intended for river recreation, not pool toys or low-quality tubes. Kayaks and paddleboards are available at Riverbend Park, and tubes are available to rent at Park & Float and local retailers.

• Alcohol is not allowed in the parks, parking lots or on the river.

• Wear suitable shoes. The beach surface at Riverbend Park is small gravel instead of sand, so river shoes that attach to feet are strongly recommended.

— Reporter: 541-633-2160,

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