Skip to Content

Crews busy turning Deschutes River into three channels


“It’s pretty surreal,” Kevin Holcomb, a 36-year resident of Bend, said Thursday of the Colorado Dam Safe Passage Project. “I remember when Bend was just a little podunk town, and now they’re building stuff like this.”

The section of the Deschutes River by the Old Mill undergoing the biggest change ever draws quite the weekly crowd, checking on the progress of the project.

“It’s like you’re right in the project, ’cause you can walk so close to it,” said Mike Carlin, another long-time resident.

It’s not your everyday construction site.

“It’s like a grownup sandbox,” said Brian Hudspeth, construction manager for Bend Parks and Recreation.

Onlookers are reminded of playing in the water, diverting it with pebbles, creating their own miniature dams. This one however, uses 6-by-4-foot boulders. Along with the help of sandbags, the river is completely diverted, so the surface can be restructured into three channels.

The first, and the reason for the entire project, is a safe passage for river floaters, reducing the deadly danger.

The middle channel is a whitewater playground for boaters, surfers and kayakers. The third channel is a habitat for wildlife.

All that will be left of the original dam is the metal beam, and it will covered by rock. Memories of the Class 6 rapid it created will be all that’s left.

Floaters had to exit the river and walk around to the other side to continue their lazy float. Sometimes, however, that didn’t happen. The dam has been the scene of at least one death and several more close calls and rescues.

Soon, floaters will gradually drop 12 feet without taking out their craft. Hudspeth says it’s more of a meandering route.

“A little drop and a little drop and a little drop, all the way down,” Hudspeth said.

In the middle of the river, bigger drops are being created. The loss of a dangerous whitewater rapid is being replaced with five man-made features that are 150 feet long and 60 feet wide. It’ll be one of the largest natural parks of its kind in the U.S.

“Each one uses a different block or structure that creates a different wave,” Hudspeth said.

An engineering company out of Colorado has worked on projects like this befor, e but none this size. Similar parks use 10 to 11 bladders to create the features. This one uses 25.

Whitewater lovers anxiously await the final product.

“It kind of always sounded like it was off in the future,” said Kyle Anderson, an experienced kayaker.

The project has a solid end date, because irrigation season starts April, 15th. Sand won’t be able to hold the river back then.

“We will be on time,” Hudspeth said.

Floaters and boaters will be able to take advantage of their hard work by September.

“Now that it’s actually happening, everyone is just super ecstatic,” Anderson said.

The workers will leave, the water will flow, but the crowds will stay.

“We’re going to get out and have fun watching the guys in the kayaks,” Holcomb said.

Most of the $9.68 million cost is being paid for from a portion of voter-approved park bonds. Another $1.1 million is coming from partners, primarily the Bend Paddle Trail Alliance.

Learn more at:

Article Topic Follows: News

Jump to comments ↓

KTVZ News Team


KTVZ NewsChannel 21 is committed to providing a forum for civil and constructive conversation.

Please keep your comments respectful and relevant. You can review our Community Guidelines by clicking here

If you would like to share a story idea, please submit it here.

Skip to content