Floating the New and Improved Riverbend Park | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

Floating the New and Improved Riverbend Park

After two years in Bend, I float the most popular part of the Deschutes

Despite living in Bend for more than two years, I haven't done something most tourists here accomplish in a couple days: float Riverbend Park. The closest I've gotten is floating past the Old Mill and down the rapids. Two weeks ago my editor tasked me with doing some outdoor summer activity, so I decided to brush the cobwebs off my paddle board and drive just downstream of the Old Mill.

click to enlarge Floating the New and Improved Riverbend Park
Jack Harvel
It’s a popular place to float, but you can still get some peace and quiet at Riverbend Park.

What can I say about floating Riverbend Park that you don't already know? It's a little slice of nature sandwiched into residential and commercial areas, but if you haven't been to the park in the last two months there are a couple of changes. Bend Park and Recreation District built three new access points on the river where people degraded the streambanks getting in and out of the river, fenced off some areas for habitat restoration, terraced entry points to make it easier to access the river and put up signs about this history and habitat.

"This project serves as a model for how we can balance recreation access where some of our rivers are seeing overuse and as a result the health of our rivers are being impacted by that use. We don't want to prevent people from getting out and enjoying our rivers that we all love, but we can get better at managing and creating access that can help keep our rivers healthy," Kris Knight, executive director of Upper Deschutes Watershed Council, said in a press release. "We are grateful to those that constructed this project and to our funders that allowed this project to become a reality."

Did the habitat restoration work? I think I saw a mink, so my answer is probably. Other than that, I saw some duck, geese and probably floated above some Oregon spotted frogs — there's a quarter-acre area in the project that's sequestered just for them.

click to enlarge Floating the New and Improved Riverbend Park (2)
Courtesy of Bend Parks and Recreation District
One goal of the Riverbend Park South Access and Restoration Project is to make it easier to access the park, like with these terraced rocks into the water.

It's a popular park, which is why it had a restoration project, so expect to share the river with the families, groups of 20-somethings and kayakers with their dogs. But it's a beautiful bit of nature and you can get away from crowds just a little bit upstream on a good day. At certain points the only company I had on the river was a single other paddle boarder. That was nice and would've been even nicer if my company wasn't playing dubstep, a genre I thought we banished in 2014, out of their Bluetooth speaker.

Landlubbers may see more of the work done for the project than I did from the water. They'll see the areas siphoned off for habitat restoration and the informational signs about the river's historical uses and ecosystem. The trail got upgraded with gravel surface material from the Bill Healy Bridge to the Farewell Bend Bridge. But if you're wandering there, please stay on the trail. The project also restored some of the habitat on the banks of the river and the plants are young and vulnerable.

"We look forward to trail users getting to see the results up close as the busy season begin, and we ask for help to stay out of the habitat restoration areas," Jason Powell, BPRD's construction manager, said in a press release.

About The Author

Jack Harvel

Jack is originally from Kansas City, Missouri and has been making his way west since graduating from the University of Missouri, working a year and a half in Northeast Colorado before moving to Bend in the Spring of 2021. When not reporting he’s either playing folk songs (poorly) or grand strategy video games,...
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