One of the most popular summer activities in Bend is floating the river. On any given day, you will see the river full of tubes, paddle boards & kayaks.
As many of you know the passageway channel recently re-opened for the second time this summer. The first time it opened, people were not prepared for the rapids in this section of the river, and there were many close calls, bad experiences and even a few injuries floating the river in Bend. The Bend Park & Recreation District quickly closed the passageway to evaluate the situation and work on making changes so it wasn’t quite as rough, a little more manageable, and most importantly…safer.
Since the passageway channel was now open again, we had to check it out! When we arrived at Riverbend Park to unload, we noticed the three large signs posted by Bend Park & Rec. The new signs are incredibly helpful listing do’s and don’ts while floating the river, and a map of the channel with helpful suggestions to navigate the passageway. Even more impressive were the two Park & Rec employees hanging out near the new signs to answer any questions or concerns to help make the float even more enjoyable for those floating the river in Bend (there were a couple at the passageway as well).
Floating was awesome as usual, and when we approached the channel we were not quite sure what to expect, especially since we had the kiddos with us. As you approach the bridge, the passageway channel in on the far left, and everything is very well marked with signs. We got out at the bridge to check it out and noticed they cut in a path along the river under the bridge (no need to walk all the way around the bridge to get in again). My daughter 6-year old daughter wanted nothing to do with the passage, so she just walked along the path and met us at the bottom. She did go down the next day and had a blast!
I went down in a double tube with my older daughter. We had tube paddles, which were a huge help so we could push off big rocks that some people were getting stuck on, and we could turn and maneuver ourselves if we needed to. I also noticed, if you try to stay to the right, you go down a little smoother and don’t get stuck on as many rocks.
My husband went down with my son in an inflatable 3-person boat. This was our first time using the boat and boy was I glad we had it! It was the perfect device for taking the kids down the passageway (if you are concerned about that). You are a little more elevated from the rapids, and there is a bottom instead of netting, so you don’t have to worry about scrapping across the rocks. My husband had paddles too so he could steer the boat (a little) over the rapids…it was definitely a bonus to have more control in this situation!
Sun Country Tours also offers single tube rentals at Riverbend Park. It looked like the single tube riders had the most fun going down the rapids quickly and easily, so if you have tubes hooked together for the float, but sure to unhook before you go under the bridge. Big multi-person tubes looked to be a lot of fun as well as they seemed to go over the waves & rocks fairly well, although a bit slow…just hang on to your stuff!
As I mentioned before, the double tube went down well too…this is my favorite with the extra compartments…
If your tube has netting on the bottom, try to sit up a little higher on the tube when you go down the rapids so you don’t hit your tailbone on the rocks, and to avoid this from happening…
Don’t forget a waterproof bag to keep things dry…seems like everything gets wet in the rapids. Oh, and hang on to your shoes. There were tons of flip-flops floating in the water.
If you make the float from Riverbend Park to Drake Park (going through the passageway channel, or going around it and getting back in), it’s roughly 1.5-2 hours. You can also let in at Farewell Bend Park, which will add a little extra time to your float.
There is a shuttle that can take you back to your car if you parked at Riverbend Park. If you’re lucky, the shuttle will be there waiting for you when you exit the river and you can get right on.
More often than not, you will need to wait for up to 30 minutes and it can get crowded. If you are local, or have the ability while visiting, park an extra car at Drake park (or on one of the nearby side streets). This will save you time…and you don’t have to deal with the busy shuttle.
Here are a few tips to make your float more enjoyable:
- Let in at Farewell Bend Park for a longer float (limited parking) OR
- Let in at Riverbend Park-busier, but more parking options (shuttle return) and tube & SUP rentals
- Get out at the bridge to scope out the rapids before you go down if you are unsure
- You can get out at the bridge and take a short walk back to Riverbend Park or continue to Drake Park
- If you float to Drake Park, park an extra car if you would like to avoid the shuttle
- If you exit at the bridge, and have kiddies with you, be sure to bring cash…the Ice Cream Man often parks at the end of the path & it’s a fun treat for the kids!
The second half of the float is my favorite, as it is less crowded and scattered with some pretty amazing homes that overlook the river.
Lastly, and probably most importantly, please help keep Bend beautiful. Take your trash with you…it is up to all of us to keep our river clean. There is a reminder of this as you float. Please respect the river!
I know this may seem like a lot of info. My hope is this information will help your family have a great time floating the river and a fun, adventurous time navigating the new passageway. Can’t wait to see you floating down the river soon.