Rolling on the McKenzie River: The river next door offers trips for beginners and experts alike | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

Rolling on the McKenzie River: The river next door offers trips for beginners and experts alike

The McKenzie River is perfect for a day trip.

The McKenzie River is running higher than usual for this time of year, making it the perfect day trip for those looking for a manageable whitewater adventure that is an easy drive from Bend. The scenery is lush and green with clear aqua blue waters, and there are a number of different runs for varying ability levels.

Over the past few weeks I ran two popular - and very different - sections of the river. The more advanced run begins at Paradise Campground and takes out at Bruckard Boat Ramp and is characterized by nearly continuous Class II and III water. Last week the water was high and pushy, and I tried my best to follow the lines of the crew ahead of me, although they were in a tandem whitewater canoe, and moving much faster through the water. It was a bit of a struggle to keep up with them and stay upright in the curling waves. This is a great run for boaters who have some whitewater experience and are looking to ease into Class III rapids. It would also be a fun trip for beginners who want to try whitewater kayaking in an inflatable kayak and are comfortable with self-rescues.

A little farther down from Bruckard, the Blue River put-in starts an easy five-mile float of sporadic Class I and II rapids. There is a fun spot of a few dozen large boulders creating a series of tight eddies and currents, which is a great place to practice your boating skills. Only a few rapids may prove to be a challenge for novice paddlers. This is the run for boaters who'd rather float along and socialize, as opposed to actively navigating through whitewater.

Otter Bar Whitewater Kayak School

A few weeks ago I spent a week in Northern California at the world famous Otter Bar Whitewater Kayak School. The school provides the opportunity to rapidly improve your paddling skills in a short amount of time while enjoying a pristine setting on the Salmon River. The lodge itself is nestled on the banks of the river and overlooks the school's two practice ponds. Dinner every night is California cuisine served family style. The owners of the lodge and the kayak instructors share every meal alongside the students, creating a warm, familial atmosphere. The lodge is only a six-hour drive from Bend, making it a great vacation opportunity for those interested in mixing whitewater kayaking with a luxurious wilderness vacation experience.

The school offers instruction for all levels of boaters. The week that I was there, the ability levels ranged from new paddlers to a group that had been out on multi-day Class IV adventures. I ended up somewhere in the middle of this mix and spent an equal amount of time working on my roll in the practice pond, as I did out on the river, working on eddy turns and running rapids.

The single most important factor that contributed to an amazing week for all involved was Otter Bar's world-class instructors, who teach whitewater kayaking all over the globe. The whole group made a great deal of progress under their direction and even the newbies were running Class II+, Class III- by the end of the week. The water was a little higher than normal, so the group had our fair share of swims, but the instructors remained light hearted, even when the rescues became routine.

I'd highly recommend this experience for paddlers looking to improve their kayaking skills while enjoying the magnificent scenery of the Klamath National Forest on the Salmon River.

For more information:

Miller's Landing Party

Join the celebration of the purchase of Miller's Landing, Bend's newest riverfront park located just downstream from the Colorado Bridge. The festivities last from 4 - 7 p.m. and are perfect for the whole family. Enjoy music by Big Pine and the Pitchtones, food from local vendors, and free kayak and SUP demos from Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe. Bend Parks and Recreation District will be leading group activities for the kids and REI Bend will have supplies on hand to build bird feeders.

Handcrafted Kayak Raffle

Win a sleek, wooden, handcrafted kayak built by Greg Bridges and his COCC Community Learning Class. This lightweight boat is made of Western red cedar, Peruvian walnut and basswood and it is fiber-glassed in epoxy for increased durability.

This 14-foot long boat is only 31 lbs. and includes a custom Redfish seat. It has great initial stability and is the perfect boat for the rivers and lakes of Central Oregon.

Ticket cost $10 and are available at Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe and Only 1,000 tickets will be sold. Proceeds go to the Bend Paddle Trail Alliance and the Bend Endurance Academy.

Kids' Yak-A-Tak Whitewater Kayak Camp

If you're looking to get your son or daughter into the sport of whitewater paddling, Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe is offering three four-day camps this summer, intended to introduce kids to the sport and help more experienced paddlers sharpen their skills.

The camp is limited to youth ages 8 - 16. The program is designed to allow them to progress through the basics of kayaking in a fun and supportive atmosphere. All kayaking gear is provided, kids bring their own lunch and return home every night. Paddling time will be split among the Cascade Lakes, the Deschutes and the McKenzie rivers.

Yak-A-Tak Kids' Kayak Camp costs $225 and runs July 18 - 21, August 1 - 4, and August 15 - 18. Info: Tumalo Creek, 541-317-9407 or

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