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Tour the Deschutes River Trail in Bend, Oregon
The Deschutes River Trail in Bend, Oregon
Bend, Oregon is a haven for people who love to recreate. Through the heart of the City runs the magnificent Deschutes River, which flows from Little Lava Lake northward to its meeting with the mighty Columbia River which forms the border between Oregon and Washington State.
"Riviere des Chutes," or River of the Falls, is the name for the iconic waterway, named by French fur traders during the early 1800s.
The Bend Parks and Recreation District manages the local parks and public trails along the Deschutes River (and elsewhere) in the City of Bend. The beauty and serenity of the river draws locals and tourists to walk, push strollers, jog, bicycle (where permitted) and walk/run dogs (where permitted) along the Deschutes River Trail. Fly fishing is allowed, and many people flock to the shorelines during summer months to float the river and beat the heat! Year round, you'll find canoers, kayakers and stand-up paddleboarders working their navigation skills in the Deschutes River, as well.
Even if you don't want to walk portions of the Deschutes River Trail or visit one of the many parks along its path, you can still enjoy the scenery from the patio or windows at one of the Old Mill restaurants!
All photographs in this Hub are the property of Stephanie Hicks. Please contact me for permission to use.
Farewell Bend Park
Whether you live in Bend, Oregon or are just visiting for a few days, one of the best ways to experience the Deschutes River Trail is to pick an easy segment, park your car or bicycle, and lace up those shoes. Another popular recreational option is to float the river!
I'm suggesting a central location of the trail, near the Old Mill District and downtown Bend. Although the Deschutes River Trail runs quite a distance through town, there are actually five so-called "reaches," or segments that often take you over rocky terrain and some moderately challenging hill inclines.
Our walking tour of the Deschutes River Trail starts at Farewell Bend Park, on the east side of the Deschutes River. I estimate that the entire loop is about 3-4 miles, and should take you the better part of an afternoon to complete. The tour is stroller-friendly and bicycles and dogs are allowed, as well. Just make sure they are kept on leash and you clean up after your pet to keep the path clean!
Farewell Bend Park is off of Reed Market Road and about 1/2 mile from the Old Mill District. Large grassy fields, a fun playground, lots of benches and picnic tables and lovely landscaping greet you there. Two viewing shelters and a number of interpretive signs guide you to natural sights, give some perspective on the history of Bend, Oregon, and allow you to get up close to the Canada Goose and Mallard duck populations.
Limited street parking (free) is available next to the park. Bathrooms too!
This park includes a canoe/kayak launch and lots of natural marsh areas. River access is plentiful and the calm, slow waters encourage people to get in for a swim. Be aware that there are no lifeguards on duty. Usual park rules regarding no alcohol apply.
Farewell Bend Park is a popular location for birthday parties and other community gatherings.
Farewell Bend Park PhotosClick thumbnail to view full-size
Riverbend Community Park in Bend, Oregon
This latest park (completed in 2009) is the heart of the Bend Parks and Recreation District. Riverbend Community Park sits directly across the river - over a footbridge - from Farewell Bend Park.
Not only is the park the site of the new Parks and Recreation headquarters, but it is a convenient gathering place for many people in the City of Bend. For example, my marathon training group meets at Riverbend Community Park on Saturday mornings for our long runs. A number of athletic events and other fitness classes are also held on the huge grassy fields that stretch out from the river. The Deschutes River trail is paved throughout the Riverbend Community Park, which has picnic tables, a large bathroom facility, park benches and cool public art!
Check out the kayak "windmill" at the entrance to the parking lot (photos below). Speaking of parking lot, there are approximately 60 free parking spaces at the Riverbend Community Park.
I just love living in a relatively small town!
Riverbend Community Park PhotosClick thumbnail to view full-size
Old Mill District Loop in Bend, Oregon
From the Riverbend Community Park, you'll want to continue northward along the Deschutes River toward the Old Mill District. You can't miss the outdoor shopping center with its iconic smokestacks rising from the REI store. Be sure to cross the footbridge adorned with flags, the colors of which correspond to seasons and holidays (red, white and blue for National Holidays).
Paths and trails within the Old Mill District are technically private property, but the owner of the property has generously opened up the pathways to the public, and connected them to publicly-owned trails. Just as you would respect trails by cleaning up trash and your dog's refuse, be sure to do the same within the Old Mill District!
Convenient markers in the Old Mill District Loop give you both directional information and total mileage. No wonder it's a popular place for walkers and joggers.
Old Mill District PhotosClick thumbnail to view full-size
Cross the flag-adorned footbridge in the Old Mill and continue past the Les Schwab Amphitheater on your right. When you get to Shevlin-Hixon road, you are about 1/4 mile from McKay Park.
You know you're getting close when you pass the historic Oregon Trunk train depot on your left. When you reach the corner, take a right and walk another 100 yards to McKay Park.
McKay Park is a popular spot with additional river access just downstream from the spillway (the spillway is dangerous and must be avoided by boaters, floaters and swimmers. Young children and their parents love this park during summer months! In fact, you'll often find office workers down at McKay over the noon hour, soaking in sun, enjoying lunch and company.
Adjacent to Colorado Avenue (which runs from Highway 97 out to Century Drive and connects with Mt. Bachelor), the park is conveniently accessible to people on foot, bicycle and in motorized vehicles. Street parking is usually available.
Enjoy the totally life-like sculpture of Canada Geese (so realistic, you might have to look twice), donated by Art In Public
Places. Then, look across the river at the top of the light fixtures where Ospreys often build their nests! Learn a bit about history, as well. The Oregon Trunk Railway Trestle once passed right over the Deschutes River along what is now Colorado Avenue (and the footbridge).
McKay Park PhotosClick thumbnail to view full-size
Follow Shevlin-Hixon Avenue towards the west and the road connects with Columbia Street about 1/3 mile away. Take a right and head about 1/4 mile north towards Columbia Park.
Columbia Park is a favorite among people playing frisbee or tag. There is a small playground in the corner of the park. Consider Columbia a brief stop on your way towards Harmon Park. As with the other parks along the Deschutes River Trail, free street parking is available.
At the end of Columbia, cross Galveston heading north and connect with Harmon Street. About 1/4 mile north of Galveston is Harmon Park - a favorite playground for kids ages 1-10 (and beyond). In fact, when our twins attended Westside Shorty's Day Care and Preschool, just a few blocks away, they frequently had field trips to the playground!
Just check out the photographs below and you'll see why Harmon Park is a great location for children! The park is named for New York philanthropist, William Harmon, who gave a donation to Bend Kiwanis to acquire the property on which the park was established. Right across the river on the west side from famous Drake Park, you'll find a playground, several ball fields, restrooms and the Hobby Hut and Boat House, which function today as an Outdoor Center, the meeting place for many of the Bend Parks and Recreation's teen outdoor programs.
Harmon Park PhotographsClick thumbnail to view full-size
Drake Park and Mirror Pond
We end our Deschutes River Trail tour at the famous Drake Park/Mirror Pond. The vast public park is a gem in the crown of parks adorning the City of Bend. At this juncture, the river slows to the extent that it hardly looks like it is flowing. Thanks to a Pacific Power dam just north of Drake Park (which generates enough hydroelectricity to light up most of downtown Bend), the river nearly becomes a lake/pond.
Year round, there are activities at Drake Park - from the Farmer's Market in the Spring, free movie screenings in the Fall, and many other community fundraisers, parades, and gatherings! One of the most famous events at Drake Park is the City of Bend's Old Fashioned July 4th Celebration.
Drake Park is a favorite among photographers (no wonder) and nature lovers enjoy the fall foliage and wildlife throughout the 1/2 mile long park. A pair of swans can often be spotted on Mirror Pond, as well as many mallard ducks and Canada Geese.
From Harmon Park, you'll cross another wooden footbridge into Drake Park. Paved pathways throughout the park provide an easy way to navigate through and enjoy the beauty. Free street parking is available, along with nice restrooms, park benches and many picnic tables. Of course, dining on the grass is also quite nice!
Drake Park PhotosClick thumbnail to view full-size
© 2010 Stephanie Hicks