Reopened trail section offers Deschutes River access, habitat protection

May 11, 2023
Reopened trail section offers Deschutes River access, habitat protection

By Julie Brown

If I have a choice, I will always choose a loop for my running route, rather than an out and back. Don’t get me wrong — out and back routes are necessary, especially when you’re exploring a new location or have a time crunch to consider, but I always look forward to new scenery, and loops keep me from cutting a run short.

My favorite loop trail was closed for several months and just reopened — the South Canyon Reach of the Deschutes River Trail. The first time I ran it was during a half-marathon in 2016 on my first weekend as a full-time resident of Central Oregon. While training for the race, I focused on mileage and pace and paid very little attention to surfacing or the amazing beauty that awaited me at the beginning of the racecourse. The memory of that day and many other runs on this 3.5-mile loop on both sides of the river to the south canyon footbridge make me smile, and now I have new sights to enjoy.Improved river access, habitat protectionThe partial trail closure from October to April was necessary for a recently completed river project by Upper Deschutes Watershed Council and Bend Park and Recreation District. Located on the west side of the river just south of Riverbend Park, there are three new access points for the river and 2,000 feet of split-rail fence to protect the riverbank habitat area that has been overused in recent years. The results are a perfect balance of restoration, protection and access enhancement.

When building access to a river, it can risk looking artificial, but that was not at all the result of this project. These new launching spots and hanging-out areas have boulder terracing and stone entry steps in three locations between the Bill Healy Memorial Bridge and the Farewell Bend pedestrian bridge. The design (aided by help from Oregon Adaptive Sports and Central Oregon Coalition on Access) allows for all users, especially those with mobility limitations, to more easily access the river. Other help made the project happen too — including grants from the Bend Sustainability Fund and Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board. It’s a cool collaboration that will be a blueprint for future projects down river at McKay, Miller’s Landing and Columbia parks.

The split-rail fencing will age with time and fade perfectly into the natural area. When you’re up close, you can also see a secondary grid fence installed as a complement. This will keep dogs out while still allowing access for wildlife to get under or over the fence while vegetation fills in and enjoys the break from the trampling.

The closest parking areas are at Riverbend Park and Farewell Bend Park, so pack gear accordingly. For me, this new access looks like a perfect place for a post-run dip in the river. With summer-like temperatures expected this weekend, I invite you to check it out, along with my favorite loop trail.

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