Boaters in Bend are used to having both flat and great Class 4+ water within a 20-minute traveling radius year-round. But it is only a few select months of the year when anything in between is ready for action.
And the best stretch of Class 2+ in town: The Riverhouse Run.
This weekend (organizers hope) dozens of kayakers will take advantage of this sweet stretch of river behind the Riverhouse with one of Bend's best spectator sport opps.
The quarter-mile slalom race, called the Riverhouse Rendezvous, is basically a series of eddies, pools, ledges and waves designed to test the skills of both intermediate and pro boaters. Expect the best in the Northwest to come out for this Northwest Cup slalom paddle series and Junior Olympic qualifying race.
"The winner is the one who is fastest and cleanest; cleanest means you don't touch the gate," said Bert Hinkley, a 65-year-old former kayaking coach from New England who will design the course Thursday with the help of a team of "relatively young men in drysuits who go out and wade around out there."
Hinkley is also the reason the race is happening at all.
When he moved to Bend a few years back he was surprised to learn there was no race on Bend's best stretch of moderate water. Turns out there had been a race, but it petered out in the early 2000s due to lack of participation. Hinkley hoped he could change that.
"I said I want to take it on and do it and they all wished me luck," said Hinkley of others in the kayaking community.
Since its revival, the race has been a success—last year about 30 people raced, and hundreds watched from the footbridge near Mt. Washington Drive, the deck at the Riverhouse and the footbridge from the main Riverhouse building to the rest of the hotel across the water.
Unlike cross-country ski races or many of the trail runs in the area, spectators can watch the entire course from these excellent vantage points, making it one of the most fun places to be this Sunday.
Riverhouse Rendezvous Schedule
Thursday: Hinkley and friends design and build the course
Friday: Organizers fine-tune the placement of gates
Saturday: Registration and course opens for practice runs
Sunday: Race begins at 10 a.m.
Paddle Fest for the Rest
An ode to kayaking at the Tower
If getting into frigid water on Sunday isn't your thing, we recommend checking out the 2013 Reel Paddling Film Festival where you can soak up spray-in-your-face action from the (dry) comfort of your cushy chair in the Tower Theatre.
The festival, which tours nationally, covers "stand-up paddle surfing, hairy whitewater action, sea kayakers exploring remote coastlines, headwaters canoe expeditions, international river travel films, motivating environmental documentaries, grueling kayak fishing battles and hilarious short films capturing the lighter side of paddling life," according to a press release from Tumalo Canoe and Kayak.
"It's gonna be across-the-board," said Laurel Brauns, with Tumalo Canoe and Kayak.
Best yet is the handful of locally produced films that will kick off the night.
Dave Eveland, a local kayaker, will show at least one film he's made using a Go Pro and software on his Mac. He started kayaking just a few years ago and thought it would be sweet to catalog the rivers he's gone down with his camera.
"I thought it would be cool to make videos about the river for other newbies that are going to go down them," he said.
He'll show a film on Saturday that chronicles a recent expedition down the Class 4 Meadowcamp section of the Deschutes River. It begins just downstream of a particularly gnarly section near Lava Island.
"It's just a bunch of rapids," said Eveland.
Other Central Oregon films will feature some of the other Class 4+ water in the area, the amount of which Eveland says makes Bend a rare place in the entire country.
"This town—it's an incredible town for whitewater kayaking," he said. "I don't know if people realize it but there is extremely good Class 4 within 20 minutes of Bend all year round."
Go see the proof.
Reel Paddling Film Festival
$12 in advance, $15 at the door
7 p.m. Saturday, March 30
The Tower Theatre, 835 NW Wall St.