▶️ The Great Outdoors: Drake Park river access and trails improved


Multiple projects to improve Drake Park in downtown Bend are being completed in phases this summer.

One improvement that river floaters are already using and enjoying is an ADA accessible river access point near the Galveston Avenue bridge.

“It was quite nice. They built a walkway going down into the water. You don’t have to get into the gravel or the grass or anything. Go down the walkway, find the point you want to enter the water based on the depth, get on your board and take off. It’s a clean entry,” said William Foxhoven of Bend.

Same thing upon returning.

“Just coast into that walkway and it’s a clean exit. We need about 12 of them on the river just like that.”

The walkway and gravel extend 30 feet into the river.

It means no more standing and sinking in gooey silt.

“In the past we’ve had loads of sand put in to try to make a sandy beach, but the river just carries the sand away,” said Brian Hudspeth, Bend Park and Recreation District Development Manager. “This is environmentally more friendly. ODFW likes this because the gravel is actually the same size as spawning gravel for trout. There’s not a lot of spawning trout in here but maybe someday. But the river doesn’t carry it away. People won’t carry it up into the grass. It kind of stays put. At Riverbend park it’s lasted quite a while. There’s a layer of large rock underneath to hold the beach in place.”

When canoers, kayakers, paddle boarders and inner tubers exit the river at Drake Park, they’ll find a newly built plaza with places to sit while waiting for the Ride the River shuttle to take them back to their starting place.

“It’s really nice. It’s such an easy access,” said Michelle Segel, Bend. “We sometimes have a difficult time finding a place we can get on the river that isn’t too difficult and this is just wonderful.”

Take a stroll along the riverbank in Drake Park, and you might not realize many of the old seawalls that were failing are gone….replaced with bank stabilizing rip rap and low-growing riparian plants.

But what most people will notice are the new 10-foot-wide elevated metal boardwalks along the riverbank.

When those sections of boardwalk are finished, the Deschutes River Trail will connect through Drake Park, meaning trail users won’t have to walk through the busy streets of downtown Bend.

“Now you’ll just stay right along the river. You go on nice 10-foot-wide walk right on the edge of the river and under Newport Avenue. So, you can cross Newport Avenue with no traffic involved and on up and into Pioneer Park,” Hudspeth said. “Of course, the Deschutes River Trail from there continues all the way around to Kirkaldie Court where it currently ends now. If you are a commuter coming in from Awbrey Butte or anywhere on the north side of town you can use that trail and take it all the way to Riverbend Park. Actually, it goes all the way to South Canyon Bridge.”

People will love these improvements.

“I’ve not met anybody yet who doesn’t like it, especially once we got the trail carved in down along Drake Park down by Newport Avenue Bridge. People were like ‘This thing’s going to be awesome!’ It’s hard to think of what it’s going to do for people to be able to walk along the river and not have to go up into the city and cross Newport Avenue,” Hudspeth said.

All these improvements to Drake and Pioneer parks cost over $9 million, most of it in construction costs.

When the riverbank and trail improvements in Drake Park are complete this summer, managers will move right on to other park improvement projects.

“We’ve got several parks in design right now. Some projects at Pine Nursery Phase Five. We’ve got two or three neighborhood parks. One is out to bid for construction. A couple of are in design. Then other river projects, what we call ‘MMC’ or Millers, McKay, Columbia park access points. That’s a big project one of our landscape architects is leading on right now.”

“We usually spend an hour and a half on the water. You can stand up, sit down, lay down. It’s just a great way to get exercise in a beautiful location,” Foxhoven said.

“You see a lot of geese with a lot of babies. A lot of tourists. Everything is so green. The river is calm. It’s just beautiful,” Segel said.


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