Where to Paddle Board in Bend, Oregon
Bend, Oregon is one of the all-time great outdoor-lover destinations. And in fact, that ample abundance of outdoor adventure is one of the main reasons I moved here! Kayaking & paddle-boarding are two of the most popular summertime activities in Bend, due to the fact that the city lies directly on the Deschutes River ~ & is also close to numerous lakes up the Cascade Lakes Highway. In this article, I’m detailing my top picks for “Where to Paddle Board & Kayak in Bend.” I’ll start with the most popular spots in town, then work my way out to more remote & typically less crowded, beautiful places to paddle.
Map of Great Paddle-Boarding Spots by Bend
Check out the map below for a quick overview of great places to paddle-board & kayak near Bend. And if you want to take photos while you’re paddling, I recommend bringing a waterproof Go Pro ~ or grab a waterproof case for your phone with a lanyard that goes around your neck. I’ve been able to get a TON of great photos (& funny videos) on the river this way!
Old Mill District
Dillon Falls to Benham Falls
Best Paddle-Board & Kayak Spots by Bend
1) The Old Mill District in Bend, on the Deschutes River: This is by far the most popular place to paddle-board in Bend, & it will also give you the best people-watching. You can put your board in the water in several spots: at Riverbend Park (with all the river floaters), Farewell Bend Park (across the river from Riverbend), or if you’re renting paddle-boards at popular Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe ~ you can put your board in on their private dock…then paddle to the left, up-river, towards Riverbend Park. The good news is: you can simply float on the way back!
GWTW Tip: This section of the river gets SUPER BUSY on hot summer weekends ~ if you’re looking for more peace & quiet, or are new to paddle-boarding, you may want to rent a board on a weekday or check out one of the lakes up Cascade Lakes Highway for a more peaceful experience.
2) Lakes on the Cascade Lakes Highway (Century Drive): If you don’t mind a 25-minute drive up the mountain towards Mt. Bachelor, & you have either racks or an inflatable paddle-board ~ the scenery up here is INCREDIBLE for paddle-boarding, & you’ll have a more peaceful experience than at the Old Mill….even on weekends. The most popular lake to paddle-board is Elk Lake, but it can get really crowded here on weekends, so come early! This is the largest lake near Bend, & one of the only that allows motorized vehicles; plus there’s a restaurant & cabins along the lake, & often live music on weekends!
Two more popular lakes to paddle on are Sparks Lake & Devil’s Lake: both are gorgeous, & you can park very close to both lakes. Sparks Lake is larger, & you can almost always find your own little private beach ~ but you’ll need to drive on a dirt road for a half-mile or longer. (Note: Sparks Lake can get really low late in the summer; be careful that your paddle board doesn’t get “stuck” in the muck here). Devil’s Lake is one of my favorite Cascade Lakes for its gorgeous, milky turquoise-green color; park in the parking lot here or along the side of the highway, & walk just a few steps to put your board in the lake.
Two more close options to Bend: Todd Lake is the closest lake to Bend on the Cascade Lakes Highway; the only bummer here is that you’ll need to carry your paddle-board about an 1/8 mile to reach the lake from the dirt lot. But that means you won’t see too many other SUP’ers on the lake. Hosmer is just past Elk Lake, & a little bit hidden: this is by far my favorite place to paddle-board by Bend. You can’t really see any of this lake’s beauty from the parking lot ~ which means you have to either kayak or paddle out to see how gorgeous this lake really is. You’ll tend to find more locals here than tourists.
Further afield: if you keep going past Elk Lake & Hosmer, you’ll eventually reach Lava Lake & Little Lava Lake (on the left-side of highway), & even further, Cultus Lake Resort (on the right side); you can paddle-board at both places.
3) Along the Deschutes River, off of Conklin Road: This is more of a “Local’s Spot,” so I don’t want to give too much away here; also, access to the Deschutes here is only off of bumpy dirt roads, FYI. On this stretch of the river, you have major rapids & falls like Big Eddy & Benham; but between these wet & wild sections are peaceful spots, perfect for paddle-boarding. My friend & I recently parked at Dillon Falls, inflated our paddle-boards right next to the river, & paddled to the right, towards Benham Falls. Once you can see the falls, you’ll obviously want to turn around & head back.
GWTW Tip: If you’re unfamiliar with this stretch of the Deschutes, I’d suggest paddling with a guide or a local, so you don’t mistakenly go the wrong way & end up in dangerous rapids!
4) In Sunriver, on the Deschutes River: The Deschutes River winds its way all throughout family-friendly Sunriver Resort, & there are dozens of places where you can put your paddle-board in & have a peaceful ride up or down the river. You can also rent paddle boards or kayaks at the Sunriver Marina; this section of the Deschutes is remarkably calm, & is a perfect place for beginners to learn.
Where to Stay in Bend
The best hotel for accessing all these beautiful paddleboard spots is Tetherow Lodge Hotel. It’s located right off Century Drive, close to Conklin Road, & about a 5-minute drive to the Old Mill District. All the lakes on the Cascade Lakes Highway are also close to this luxurious, pet-friendly hotel with its massive mountain views. Another good option for families & big groups is to rent a house in Sunriver, an epic family-friendly destination with its own amazing paddle & kayaking options.
Where to Paddle Board & Kayak in Bend
If you’re bringing an inflatable kayak or inflatable paddle board to any of these beautiful spots, make sure to bring a quick-fill electric air pump that can be charged by your car! This makes the job of inflating anything soooo much easier, & I love the fact that this particular pump has three different attachments: I haven’t found anything so far that it can’t inflate!
Which means: more time on the river…
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