Best places to Stand Up Paddleboard in Bend, Oregon
Looking for something new to do while visiting our Bend hotel? Why not try stand up paddleboarding (SUP).
Riverhouse contributor and lover of SUP, Judy Shasek, walks us through her best places to SUP in and around Bend, Oregon. It is no surprise that standup paddling has joined skiing, climbing, cycling (and dogs) as a world renowned trademark for our favorite town, Bend, Oregon. In March 2014, OUTSIDE MAGAZINE named Bend as the best stand up paddleboard (SUP) getaway. That's something locals have known all along. While most put paddles and boards away for the winter months, we have dozens of mild, sunny days that invite idyllic paddles right through the heart of downtown Bend on the Deschutes River even as snow engulfs the nearby mountains. Throughout spring, summer and fall, our "heart of Bend" stretch of the Deschutes becomes a gathering place for families, a training loop for local racers and one of the best places to experience the beauty of Bend for visitors and locals alike.
Once spring arrives the SUP opportunities burst wide open. A short drive up Cascade Lakes Highway just a few miles past Mt. Bachelor spring-fed Sparks Lake beckons. The early morning glassiness is often joined by consistent light breezes by afternoon. We had the unique opportunity to bring hand-screened sarongs designed by local artist, Cristina Acosta, with us one sunny day. The light cloth captured just enough wind to power us across the lake accompanied by the lapping of water on our boards. With views of rugged volcanic rock, snow capped South Sister and the rugged forested shoreline the experience is one you will certainly enjoy trying for yourself. For the bold - why not try "boardpacking?" Simply load your backpacking gear into a dry bag, lash it to your SUP board and take off to any of dozens of beach and rocky cliff campsites around Sparks Lake. Full moon nights and blazing sunsets will be your reward.
Not far from town to the south is Fall River, a beautiful spring-fed stream flowing through rolling pine forest. Clear and cold, it springs full-blown from the ground about 2 miles northwest of Pringle Falls and winds its way northeast to join the Deschutes River. The photo below was taken by Dennis Oliphant of Sun Country Tours one crisp, sunny day last fall. While the wetlands, grasses and forest provide eye-candy views most of the year, the palette steps up to awesome as late September through October blossom.
No list of top 5 standup paddle locations would be complete without mention of nearby Elk Lake. From the moment the Cascades Lakes Highway opens through the first major snow SUP is the name of the game. Kids, dogs, campers, fishermen, and even racers from across the Pacific Northwest jump on the boards and paddle Elk Lake. Sheltered bays allow glassy areas for beginners to hone their skills. The 4-mile long shoreline provides diverse views as SUP racers dig hard and train for the Gerry Lopez SUP race series. Numerous sandy beaches beckon SUP picnics and the warm water invites swims both on purpose or - in the case of those practicing SUP yoga- surprising
Summer sun warms the crystal clear water of Hosmer Lake into the closest thing to tropical wonderful we've found in central Oregon. Hands down, it is a celebration for the sense and a perfect SUP destination for any level. Snow capped Mt Bachelor and South Sister provide breathtaking views while big Atlantic salmon and trout dart easily visible among the bulrushes. The varying depths and incredible colors of Hosmer lure you to the furthest corners of the lake. Be sure to explore the north end where the water pours into a porous lava rim - great spot for a picnic. Winter snow melt from high on the flanks of Broken Top Mountain flows toward Bend via multiple alpine streams and eventually end up in Hosmer.
The Deschutes River
For one of the most beautiful down-river runs around any size group of SUP buddies can plan a shuttle. Take highway 97 south 11 miles and turn right at the Lava Lands Visitor Center. Follow the road on your left for approximately 3 miles to the parking and picnic area and leave one vehicle there. Pile people and boards on another vehicle and head on to Sunriver. You can park in the gravel area at Harpers Bridge. The Deschutes downstream from Harper's Bridge is a gentle stretch of soft currents, pillowy eddies, verdant meadows, pine trees and rustic riverfront homes
About a mile downstream you can take a detour and enjoy the bonus of clear and cold Spring River pouring in from the west near the Sunriver Airport. Meandering into that pristine tributary is a sweet detour off the Deschutes River. Once back onto the down stream paddle/float toward your exit just above Benham Falls prepare to be in awe of ancient forests, rugged lava flows, wetlands and meadows full of birds and one of the best paddling days you can enjoy in Central Oregon.
Bend SUP enthusiast, Judy Shasek, owner of blog and social media company,WaterWords, enjoys writing about favorite SUP destinations almost as much as exploring, surfing and racing. You can follow her at http://elder-sup.com. Photos provided by Judy Shasek