Suggested Flatwater Adventure: Sparks Lake
Even at the height of summer, this lake feels tranquil and pristine on a Sunday afternoon. Sparks is one of the more popular kayak and canoe destinations off the Cascade Lakes Highway partly because it is so close to town and partly because there is so much to explore on a relatively small body of water. Many claim it is the most scenic of the Cascade Lakes, and late Oregon photographer Ray Atkeson made a good living proving that with his stunning collection of postcards/posters/calendar shots of the area. From the rugged basalt shoreline to the hundreds of wildflowers, Sparks is a photographer's dream.
One of the more enjoyable aspects of kayaking is being able to go places only a very small boat can go - few people will bother to bushwhack through the woods to a hidden beach or narrow inlet - and there is a ton of magical spots like this far from the highway to explore on Sparks. It is also a great place to take the kids or friends who are new to boating, as the lake is shallow in most areas.
Plan a little time to walk along the paved path named in honor of Atkeson. It takes only a few minutes and offers another perspective of the lake and is also handicap accessible.
Because Sparks is just a half-hour from Bend, boaters can spend a short afternoon, or a whole weekend if they are lucky enough to score one of the campsites along the shore of the lake. Consult a Deschutes Paddle Trail Cascade Lakes Guide for more specific info about the size of the lake and the boat ramp. Copies are available at Visit Bend, Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe, Sun Country Tours and other visitor hubs.
Bend Paddle Trail Alliance Kiosk
Thirty informational kiosks are currently being installed on the nine largest of the Cascade Lakes including Sparks, Elk, Hosmer, Cultus, Lava, Little Lava, Paulina and East, as well as Crane Prairie and Wickiup reservoirs. The signs provide information about lake access points and paddling safety. The signs also remind visitors about outdoor ethics and the equipment they should plan to bring on their paddling adventures.
River kiosks along the Deschutes River are soon to follow with pertinent information about water flow, portage locations and the difficulty of the rapids.
The installation of the kiosks is the third phase of projects started by the Bend Paddle Trail Alliance. The first project was producing and printing map guides of the Cascade Lakes and the Deschutes River to direct paddlers on their adventures. The fourth phase is the conversion of the Colorado Dam so that floaters can coast through instead of portaging around to McKay Park. The redesign also includes whitewater features for surfers and kayakers.
Paddling the Rogue River Is a Mid-summer Dream
The Wild and Scenic section of Rogue River in Southern Oregon is world-renowned for its unparelled beauty and wildlife. Our group of five including Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe owner, Geoff Frank left from Bend at 2 a.m. last Tuesday night and made it to the Smullin Visitor Center in Galice in just enough time to secure some released permits at 7 a.m. With two kayaks, a stand-up paddleboard and a cataraft we set out on a three-day trip down the Wild & Scenic section of Rogue River, which was one of the eight original areas protected by the Federal Wild and Scenic Rivers Act in 1968.
With the cfs (cubic feet per second) at 1700, many rapids had mellowed and most days were an easy paddle, even for a beginner whitewater kayaker like myself. The highlights included watching Bo Miller and Geoff navigate most of the rapids on a stand-up paddleboard, and the black bear sightings, including one of a momma with two adorable cubs in tow.
Permits for the Rogue are released during the first six weeks of every year, but if you have a flexible schedule and are traveling with a small party, unclaimed permits are announced everyday on the BLM website and can be claimed by phone or by arriving at the Smullin Visitor Center in Galice at 3 p.m. the day before your put-in, or at 7 a.m. the day you plan to depart.