Thousands of floaters hit the river in Bend

July 10, 2018
Thousands of floaters hit the river in Bend

BEND, Ore. - Every summer, thousands of people descend upon the Deschutes River to float their way through Bend. But just how many people are out on the water as the temperatures rise?

It turns out that the Bend Parks and Recreation District has been keeping track. Last summer between June 1 and Labor day weekend, nearly a quarter million people floated down the river.

And last summer, between June 1 and July 8, 46,428 people floated the Deschutes River up to or underneath the Colorado Bridge.

This summer, between those same dates, 39,901 floaters were counted.

Julie Brown, the communications director for Bend Parks and Rec, said as Bend’s popularity grows for new residents and tourists, the number of floaters is likely to keep on climbing.

“So far this summer, the most popular day for floating was July 5th, the day after the holiday. We had about 3,600 floaters that we counted," Brown said "That’s pretty close to the single biggest day we had last summer (4,113), so I expect we’ll probably beat that especially as we head into this string of pretty warm days we have coming up.”

Some people, however, worry that all those floaters could be causing damage to the environment.

Corey Health, a wildlife biologist for ODFW, said not only riverside vegetation, but songbirds, ducks and geese could feel the impact of floaters.

"Certainly that number of people in a riparian corridor is going to affect riparian habitat, especially at put in points or take out points, people walking up and down the river bank," Heath said. "A lot of times, people have dogs down there, too. So certainly it could potentially have an impact not only on the riparian habitat, but also on the animals that use that."

Heath advises anyone floating the river to avoid bumping into the riparian areas and to only use the designated access points. Also, he said, make sure not to bother wildlife by swimming near animals or taking photos.

Bend Parks and Rec also asks that floaters make up to pick up and pack out trash.

As for the floaters themselves, they continue to enjoy the river, despite the increasing numbers.

"I think it’s sexy that people can just come here," Anita Henderson said. "I think it's a draw. Bend is kind of still, while it's becoming more happening, it's still a little redneck, sleepy. So this is an edgy thing for us to have, to start attracting people from different areas."

Because of all the floaters, this is the first year Bend Parks and Rec has partnered with Cascades East Transit to shuttle floaters to and from the river access points.

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