As temperatures continue to soar in Bend, the Deschutes River is a popular place for residents and visitors to cool off. But as more people flock to the river to float, paddle and surf, Bend’s public agencies — Bend Park and Recreation District, the City of Bend, Bend Police and Bend Fire and Rescue — remind everyone to take the appropriate safety precautions before getting in the water.
For a successful day on the river, the agencies urge users to “Know Before You Go” with the following safety reminders:
- Alcohol is prohibited on the river and in parks. Don’t drink while recreating in or around the river. Recreating under the influence can be extremely dangerous, even deadly. If you’re caught drinking on the river, you could receive a citation and fine of up to $750.
- Floaters should be aware of the caution signs as you approach the Colorado Ave. bridge and stay left of the boom. Upriver entry to the middle channel of the Bend Whitewater Park is restricted to expert boaters only with the proper gear. It should never be used by floaters.
- Wear a life jacket. State law requires them for all boaters, paddleboarders and children 12 years old and under. Whistles are also required with boats and paddleboards.
- Consider your own and your child’s abilities before entering the river and always supervise children in and around water. There are no lifeguards at the river, so take responsibility for your safety and heed all caution signs.
- Use durable equipment intended for river recreation, not pool toys or low-quality tubes. Rental river equipment is available at local retailers and at Park & Float across from The Pavilion on Simpson Ave. and Riverbend Park via Tumalo Creek Kayak and Canoe.
- Wear comfortable, secure footwear. Flip flops can easily fall off in the river and bare feet can get injured by rocks, gravel and/or hot sidewalks.
- Be responsible. For everyone’s safety, be familiar with Oregon State Marine Board regulations on river recreation.
- Secure your gear. Help keep the river clean and free from debris.
- Be ready to get wet. Floating the fish ladder through the Bend Whitewater Park requires active participation. The river current is swift and the water is cold.
“We enjoy seeing everyone take advantage of the Deschutes River on these hot summer days, but we urge everyone to take the proper safety precautions in order to have a safe experience,” said Don Horton, executive director for Bend Park and Recreation District.
“The Bend Police asks everyone to do their part — play by the rules, recrate safely and don’t risk ruining your day by getting cited for alcohol use on the river,” Bend Police Chief Mike Krantz said. “No one wants to see another tragedy on the Deschutes this summer.”
“Bend Fire & Rescue is trained in swift water rescue but we can’t prevent accidents from occurring in the first place,” said Bend Fire Chief Todd Riley. “We want to see folks follow the rules, use sound judgement and have a safe and fun experience out there.”
For kayakers or surfers using the more advanced whitewater sections of the Bend Whitewater Park, the district implemented new safety measures earlier this summer:
- The use of leashes is prohibited in the park. To obtain compliance with the rule change, BRPD will flatten the surf wave for all surfers if a leash is observed.
- PFDs and helmets are strongly recommended as whitewater must-haves. Bend Park and Recreation has teamed up with Tumalo Creek Kayak and Canoe to offer loaner PFDs and helmets at a kiosk near the surf wave.
- Helmets and PFDs worn should be properly fitted and meet appropriate standards for class III or IV whitewater.
For more information on river recreation safety, visit bendparksandrec.org/float.