By BROOKE SNAVELY
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS
Floating the Deschutes might look a lot different this summer.
Fewer rental options, likely fewer visitors, and no shuttle service to get you back up the river.
Park managers are also counting on rivers users to police themselves es and maintain social distance.
“We are going to encourage distancing. We are encouraging people to think about shorter float sections, especially in light of needing to walk back to where they initially put in rather than having the shuttle available,” said Julie Brown, Bend Parks & Recreation District Community Relations Manager.
About 200,000 people float through the white water park between Memorial Day and Labor Day each summer.
The Bend Park District believes that without tube rentals conveniently available, there won’t be as many people on the river.
“We are also encouraging people to think about going earlier or later in the day to avoid crowding,” Brown said.
Social distancing guidelines put in place earlier this spring for wave surfers appear to be working and offer some hope that larger crowds can behave likewise.
“People go into the pocket and when they fall back, once they are a few feet away and heading toward the bottom of it, that means it’s your turn to go next,” said Serafina Vettorello of Bend.
Allison Hively said, “You wait maybe 15 or 30 minutes then you are out on the water and then you get a pretty quick succession of waves for one hour and that’s usually enough, you’re tired and ready to take a break.”
Howard Abshere who sells root beer floats in McKay Park says, so far, people have been pretty good about keeping their distance.
“You always get groups of floaters coming down but everybody seems to be keeping their distance. You don’t have 12 people standing in line. All the groups are keeping their distances.”
Reservations are required to rent canoes, kayaks and paddleboards from Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe Company upstream of the whitewater park.
“We haven’t had too many days so far where we weren’t able to get somebody on the water that day,” said Kelli Wittman at Tumalo Creek Kayak and Canoe Company. “It just might not be instantaneous any more. ”
The outfitter is still trying to figure out a safe way to rent tubes but until they do, they acknowledge many people will probably buy their own tubes.
“Don’t buy super cheap because those will never last,” Wittman said.
Lacking a river shuttle service this year, the Bend parks district is encouraging floaters to think about taking shorter floats, such as from Riverbend Park to take out at McKay Park and then walking the short distance back.