Known for its elevated lakes in the Cascade Mountain Range, there are a lot of unique spots to kayak in and around Bend, Oregon. Though it’s mostly lake options, the different spots and elevations make for unique kayaking whether you go to one or all of the spots on this list.
Ranging from a peaceful day out on the lakes of the Deschutes National Forest to white rapids in the center of town, Bend has a lot of diversity.
If you’re going for a long visit or just passing through, you can make the most of your time in Bend with these top spots for kayaking and other watersports.
1. Mirror Pond, OR
Located right in Drake Park park, where Mirror Pond is located, you can conveniently rent your Kayak from Bend Kayak School.
Perfect for families with small children or beginners, Mirror Pond is nice and calm water. But, it can get quite busy so if you lose an oar, there’s no chance of being stranded in this heavily trafficked location.
The park is in the center of town, so this doesn’t need to be a whole day outing if there was more you wanted to explore in Bend.
2. Elk Lake Resort, OR
Also a calm water option, the real sell of Elk Lake Resort is its epic views and crystal clear water. Located just 25 miles outside of Bend, Elk Lake is where you want to go for the perfect Kayak and beach day.
The resort conveniently has its own rental equipment, so you won’t need to drive back and forth offsite if you plan on staying.
3. River Bend Park, OR
This is river kayaking at its most pleasant. This is right in town and takes you right past the Old Mill historic district, so you can plan to kayak then shop. If you start at River Bend Park you’ll be following the river current down to Farewell Bend Park.
This will allow you to see the local sites and essentially travel by water. You can go shopping or eat in town before returning your Kayak.
4. Bend Whitewater Park, OR
Bend Whitewater Park is also on the Deschutes River that flows through the town. If you’re a beginner, don’t let “whitewater” scare you off. The park is made of three man-made channels in addition to the whitewater section, so you can take a more leisurely ride if desired.
There are three channels in Bend Whitewater Park. The Fish Ladder is the option for those looking to add a small rapids adventure to their day. For those who want to keep it mellow or who have children in their group, exit the river and walk to McKay Park to re-enter the river. Learn more about Floating the Fish Ladder.
The Whitewater Channel is the center channel of the park and has four wave features (electronically controlled bladders) for whitewater enthusiasts. Learn more about the Whitewater Channel.
The Habitat Channel is not for you to Kayak on. This channel of the park exists to protect and enhance the river’s health and provide habitat to important local and migratory wildlife. There is no public access to this ecologically sensitive area. Learn more about River Stewardship.
5. Hosmer Lake, OR
Our options so far have been in town, or part of a resort. Hosmer Lake is where you go when you want to get in touch with nature. It’s located within Deschutes National Forest, surrounded by mountain views and wildlife. The water is crystal-clear, and you can easily see large fish like salmon and trout swimming by as you kayak.
Some notes, this a popular fly-fishing area, so be careful not to get in the fishermen’s way. No motorized boats are allowed (which keeps your kayak trip calm), so if you were thinking of renting something other than a kayak, make sure it doesn’t have a motor.
Boating access is located at Mallard Marsh Campground off a trail between campsites 14 and 15. For more information on boating on Hosmer Lake, click here.
6. Devil’s Lake, OR
If you want to have a full and hardcore day outdoors, then Devil’s Lake is the spot for you. Devil’s Lake is located at the South Sister Trailhead, one of Bend’s most iconic (and challenging) hikes.
If you want to get all the likes on Instagram, this is also one of the most picturesque lakes you could hope for. Fed by mountain springs, the water is clear and perfect turquoise making this a stunning kayak spot.
Also, thanks to the mountain springs, the water is freezing year-round. You shouldn’t jump out of your kayak for a swim unless you’re looking for a shock to the system.
Despite being calm lake water, this isn’t the ideal trip for children or inexperienced boaters. If you fall out, the cold water could be enough to take down a weak swimmer, despite the shallow water. If you’re planning on pairing the kayaking with the South Sister Trailhead, it is only recommended for experienced hikers.
7. Big Eddy Rapids, OR
Located on the upper part of the Deschutes river, these rapids are the real deal (as in not man-made like Bend’s Whitewater Park).
The rapids on this section of the river go from class 1-3 and also have some extremely calm stretches. If you’re going to kayak here, you shouldn’t do so unless you’re highly experienced in kayaking on rapids.
If you want to ride the rapids but have kids or inexperienced boaters with you, you may want to consider ditching the kayak and book a rafting tour. This is a safer boat for kids to ride in and comes with a guide. Either way, the big eddy thriller is an extremely fun ride.
8. Cultus Lake Resort, OR
The resort itself is a great place for a family to stay. In addition to being right on the lake, it has cute rustic cabins to stay in, its own general store, and fishing and boating rental on site. The activities make Cultus Lake Resort a fun destination for whatever you want to do.
As a kayaking spot, the lake is heavily trafficked and the water is shallow. So if you’re traveling with young kids, you shouldn’t worry. There are a lot of eyes on them (and you, if you’re new), and even if someone falls out of the kayak, you can just stand up in the shallow water.
Cultus Lake works as a nice family beach day with some good kayaking and a fun place to stay. The location is closer to Sunriver than Bend, but still offers you access to other waterways on this list. You can plan to stay at the resort and visit whichever lakes and rivers look interesting to you.
9. Sparks Lake, OR
Sparks Lake is located roughly 25 miles west of Bend off the Cascade Lakes Highway. This is a popular destination, and it’s easy to see why. The ‘lake’ is actually a Wetland surrounded by meadow marsh and stream wetlands. This biodiverse area gives you seemingly endless flora and fauna to experience as you kayak along its hidden jetties and beaches.
The tall grass and seeming;y broken waterways will give you plenty to explore. The changing depths will give your arms something of a workout as you have to fight your way through shallow areas in some places.
You can view South Sister, Broken Top, and Bachelor Butte while you are paddling through the water channels. If you travel here in early summer, the area is covered with wildflowers.
You should note that the popularity of Sparks Lake means you should get there early to avoid crowds. You should also check the water levels before you go. The wetland can get low enough in the drier months that you won’t be able to take a boat out.
10. Rogue River, OR
Now, this option is the furthest from Bend, at just under three hours away. If you’re driving into or out of Bend, or are ok with spending a day on the river followed by a long drive, you should try to work a Rogue River trip in. It’s worth it.
The Rogue River is one of the original eight Wild and Scenic Rivers and is considered one of the finest river trips you can take anywhere. The Rogue starts not too far from Bend, in the Cascades, and flows all the way to the pacific. You could potentially plan a multi-day trip and boat all the way to the coast.
The canyons offer beautiful scenery and abundant wildlife. People have cited bears, herons, and bald eagles to name a few things. The rapids on this river go up to class 4, though there are milder channels to take.
You could also pick a stretch to boat on based on the kind of kayaking you want to do. It’s long, and there are a lot of put-in points. The popularity of this river means you’ll have options if you’re going to hire a guide or rent equipment.