Your guide to floating the Deschutes in Sunriver
Grab your floatie, a coozie, and your favorite people, and take advantage of those final summer days to float the Deschutes River in Sunriver!
Nothing screams, “drench me in cold water,” more than being in the High Desert during another record-breaking heatwave. Luckily, it takes minimal effort or cash to spend an afternoon tubing in Sunriver.
Floating the river is one of the most accessible activities that someone can do outside. Put on a bathing suit (or a pair of shorts and a T-shirt that you don’t mind getting wet), lie across the top of a plastic inner tube, point your sandal-clad feet downstream, and let the river’s current take care of the rest. The activity’s sheer simplicity makes it the perfect way for couples, friends from work, families, bridal parties, college roommates, corporate retreat goers, golfing buddies, and just about everyone else to beat the heat.
“We get just about every group that you can imagine,” said Chris Sherman, a supervisor at the Sunriver Resort Marina. Sherman offers people everything that they’d need to spend an afternoon floating the river — including a ride to and from their put-in spot — for about $40 per person.
Floating the river is just one of the many outdoor activities that you should consider when planning your next trip to Sunriver. Another thing to think about is having a great place to stay, so check out Cascara Vacation Rentals’ website, and find the best short-term rental for your trip today.
Floating the Deschutes in Sunriver.The Sunriver Resort Community sits halfway down a 17.2-mile stretch of the Upper Deschutes River that flows from the Big River Campground to Benham Falls. There are five pseudo-public places on this section where you can put a canoe, kayak, or inner tube into the water and take it out.
- Big River Boat Launch (RM 199.2, right side of the river) — This put-in spot is on Bonanza Lane in the Deschutes National Forest near the Big River Group Campground.
- Harper’s Bridge (RM 191.7, right side of the river) — You’ll find this put-in spot on Spring River Road, just west of where it splits off from South Century Drive.
- Besson Day Use Area (RM 189.2, left side of the river) — The Besson Day Use Area is a small picnic spot off Forest Road 200 in the Deschutes National Forest.
- Sunriver Canoe Takeout (RM 183.1, right side of the river) — The Sunriver Canoe Takeout, also known as Benham Butte, is located at the end of Forest Road 600.
- Benham Falls East Day Use Area (RM 182.0, right side of the river) — Just off Forest Road 9702, this is the last place to exit the river before it hits a waterfall.
Popular trips for tubing in Sunriver include floating downstream from Big River to Harper’s Bridge (7.5 miles), from Harper’s Bridge to the Sunriver Canoe Takeout (8.6 miles), and from the Besson Day Use Area to the Benham Falls East Day Use Area (7.2 miles). Each trip takes three to five hours, depending on the river’s current and how much paddling you want to do.
Sherman said that he likes floating the Upper Deschutes River because the water is flat and steady. People won’t have to worry about navigating through a rocky stretch of the river or shimmying over the river banks so they can walk past fast-flowing rapids.
He also likes this stretch of river because it’s less crowded than a section of the Deschutes River that flows by the Old Mill District in Southwest Bend. That part of the river features a two-hour float from Riverbend Park to Drake Park.
People looking for a shorter trip in Sunriver might want to try using the Sunriver Marina’s private boat dock, which sits a mile downriver from the Besson Day Use Area. Sherman runs a shuttle service that takes people from his business to Harper’s Bridge. They can then spend two to three hours floating the river before they hop out at the marina and grab a post-float margarita and enchiladas at the Hola! Mexican/Peruvian restaurant on Deschutes Road.
Follow the river rules.Do note that Sherman said that the marina’s boat launch is private property and firmly asks that people get his permission to use it before making it part of their trip.
Four other put-in/take-out spots on the Upper Deschutes River — Big River, Besson Day Use, Sunriver Canoe Takeout, and Benham Falls — are part of the Deschutes National Forest. People who use these access points must pay a $5 recreation fee or display a Northwest Forest Pass on their window. Failure to do so could result in a steep fine. Fortunately, Cascara currently offers full reimbursement if you purchase a Northwest Forest Pass during your stay with them (call for details).
Outside of that, Sherman advised people to follow these simple rules of the river if they want to spend an afternoon tubing in Sunriver:
- Watch the weather — The Upper Deschutes River is very cold because most of its water comes from melting snow. Sherman said that this puts people at risk of developing hypothermia, and won’t taking trips out if it is less than 80 degrees outside.
- Do not tether — Sherman said that it’s tempting to tie your tubes together, especially if one of them is carrying a cooler full of beer. But the extra rope could get caught on a snag and dump you and everything else in your tube into the water.
- Bring a life jacket — State law requires every child under 12 to wear a lifejacket when floating the river. Sherman said that adults should at least keep one handy because the river runs deep, fast, and cold.
- Come prepared — Finally, Sherman reminds people to bring sunscreen because they’re at a high altitude, and there’s little shade on the water. People should also bring water, food, and a bag to collect their trash and throw it away in a trash can later.
Don’t forget that having an excellent place to stay while you’re visiting Sunriver can be just as important as making sure that your inner tube is fully inflated and that you’ve got sunscreen and a life jacket on your trip. Click here to see the properties that we have available at Cascara Vacation Rentals today. We even have air-conditioned rentals if you’re looking for another way to beat the heat now or next summer!