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Keep Calm and Float On 

Read this before you float the Deschutes River

People float through the Whitewater Park on the Deschutes River near the Old Mill District. - BEND PARK AND RECREATION DISTRICT
  • Bend Park and Recreation District
  • People float through the Whitewater Park on the Deschutes River near the Old Mill District.

Exhausted from all that mountain biking/hiking/rock climbing you've been doing in Central Oregon? Time to kick back, climb into a rubber donut, soak in those 300(ish) days of sunshine and float 90(ish) minutes through downtown Bend. It's the perfect excuse to experience our brilliant river without the fear of getting knocked off by a rogue wave—that is, unless you venture down the wrong lane at the Whitewater Park.

So err left and cowabunga, dude!

  • Canstock photo/Wyatt Gaines

Ditch the flamingo floatie

We know it's totally you, but with sections of the Deschutes River shallower than a kiddie pool, those rocks are coming atcha—and they have no mercy, so please opt for a durable donut. State law requires lifejackets for kids under 12 or for those paddleboarding or boating (regardless of age), with Personal Flotation Devices free to rent at Riverbend Park, where you can also rent a floatie (for a fee). Local operators such as Sun Country Tours and Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe also offer rentals. So rubber up, because you don't want to be Instagrammed wading out with a flat floatie... that'd be sad. But also mildly hilarious, so tag us @SourceWeekly if it happens.

  • Pixabay

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate

It gets seriously toasty during summer months, so bring your refillable water bottle. Drinking "adult beverages," is a big no-no while on public waters and no one wants glass or plastic in the river, but, (cough), our town does seem to sell a lot of those insulated growler-style bottles, and who's to say what's in there, really...

Our bets are it's not always water. Maybe "mommy juice?"

click to enlarge PXHERE
  • PxHere

Yes, you really do need water shoes

Your soles will thank you when you're climbing out and waiting on hot pavement, so bring some strappy outdoor sandals. Ditch the flip-flops... you don't want to be that guy who pollutes the river when his shoe goes rogue.

To do or not to do? The Whitewater Park

Bend's Whitewater Park has three sections, one for floaters, one for "experts," and one for wildlife. On the left are the small yet fun rapids for floaters—though paddler beware: the drops vary depending on the time of the season. As you pass the iconic Old Mill smokestacks, keep an eye out for what other floaters are doing (staying left) and follow suit. If you have children, exit at the Colorado Avenue Bridge and walk the short path to McKay Park to re-enter the river. And if you go for it, don't cry if you get scraped up or the flamingo floatie busts. Relish in whatever the adventure brings!

  • Bend Park and Recreation District

Ride the river shuttle

Yep, we love floating so much, it's pretty much a city-wide institution and it has its own shuttle service so you can get back to your car you left at the start of the float. Running June 16 to Sept. 3, parking is available at Park and Float, Simpson Avenue and Bradbury Way, across from The Pavilion. Cascades East Transit has a Ride the River shuttle at the end of your float at Drake Park. Fee for 2017 was $3. As of press time, 2018 rates had yet to be announced. More info:

About The Author

Magdalena Bokowa

Freelancer at the Source Weekly
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