Bend, Oregon’s Deschutes River Trail/ First Street Rapids, an urban trail oasis.

Posted by on Nov 28th, 2009 and filed under Bend Hiking, Bend Parks, Downtown Bend, Running, Trail Running. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

Because Bend, Oregon was recently awarded the title of “Best Trail Running Town” in the USA, our trails have received a fair amount of recognition.  As Bend is largely surrounded by BLM and National Forest land, we Bendites are blessed with hundreds of miles of trails for the purpose of Trail Running, Mt. Biking, etc.  This is now surprise.  What may be a surprise to outsiders is the fact that we have some wonderful trails within the city limits.  We give the in town section of the Deschutes River Trail  because it can be easily accessed at the First Street Rapids trail head which is very conveniently located in downtown Bend, on…you guessed it, First Street.  These rapids are a favorite play area for urban kayakers, but they are just the beginning of the fun along the Deschutes River Trail.

First Street Rapids trail head sign, which is also the beginning of the in town section of Bend's Deschutes River Trail

First Street Rapids trail head sign, which is also the beginning of the in town section of Bend's Deschutes River Trail

For the purposes of this trail review, we chose an out and back route along the River Trail, starting at the First Street Rapids.  From the small parking area, follow the very obvious trail downstream along the placidly flowing Deschutes River.  The trail ambles through a wide shallow canyon with occasional cliffs above for about a mile before the first real hill.

Trail runner running along the Deschutes River Trail in Bend, Oregon.

Trail runner running along the Deschutes River Trail in Bend, Oregon.

This first peaceful first mile of the River Trail is a good place to spot wildlife.  There is typically a pair of swans that return here every year along with countless other waterfowl, otters, osprey, and even mule deer.

Swans in the Deschutes River in Bend, Oregon

Swans in the Deschutes River in Bend, Oregon

This is probably a good place to give a big shout out to the Bend Oregon Parks and recreation Department who do a great job of maintaining this section of the River Trail.  They re-surface the trail in this area recently and they honestly did a great job.  The trail is firm but forgiving and friendly to runners and bikers alike.   in addition to the excellent trail surface, thay have also installed some simple but attractive plant identification sign such as the one pictured below which is dedicated to a friend of Bend Wild who we’ll refer to as Squishy Wild.   Despite being a golfer and hunter, we still love Squishy!  Don’t worry, he only hunts cougars.

Trail side plant ID sign seen along the downtown section of the Deschutes River Trail in Bend, Oregon

Trail side plant ID sign seen along the downtown section of the Deschutes River Trail in Bend, Oregon

At about the one mile marker, the trail bends to the left and up a disappointingly steep hill towards Mt. Washington Drive. on teh flanks of Awbrey Butte.

Stay to the left at this section of the River Trail to avoid the golf course.

Stay to the left at this section of the River Trail to avoid the golf course.

Follow the well marked signs up the steep but short hill and then run down hill while paralleling Mt. Washington Drive.  At the signage cross Mt. Washington Drive and follow the trail through River’s Edge Golf Course.

Steep section of trail before Mt. Washington Drive

Steep section of trail before Mt. Washington Drive

About a half mile further and you will reach Sawyer Park on the right side of the Trail where you will see a large attractive grassy lawn  where woodland fairies dance at night.

Grassy field in Sawyer Park along the Deschutes River Trail

Grassy field in Sawyer Park along the Deschutes River Trail

Beyond Sawyer Park, the trail climbs mildly to a beautiful section of trail that hangs high above the Deschutes River.

Hill just beyond Sawyer Park along the river trail

Hill just beyond Sawyer Park along the river trail

At about 1.5 miles from the trail head you will encounter one of Bend, Oregon’s natural wonders, the mystical and magical Candy Cane Formation seen in the photo below

Mystical/Magical Candy Cane formation view from the Deschutes River Trail in Bend, Oregon

Mystical/Magical Candy Cane formation view from the Deschutes River Trail in Bend, Oregon

Soon after paying homage to the Candy cane Gods, you will cross Archie Briggs Road, seen below.

Trail runner bravely and victoriously crossing Archie Briggs Road along the Deschutes River Trail

Trail runner bravely and victoriously crossing Archie Briggs Road along the Deschutes River Trail

Beyond Archie Briggs, it is but a pleasant jaunt through scenic high desert scenery before you arrive at North Cliff Drive pictured below.  Keep going through the gates in the photo below as some of the best views in Bend await you beyond the gates.

North Cliff drive located about 2.5 miles from the First Street rapids and the unofficial start of this section of the Deschutes River Trail

North Cliff drive located about 2.5 miles from the First Street rapids and the unofficial start of this section of the Deschutes River Trail

The scene below depicts the section of River from North Cliff Drive to Putnam Road.  Enjoy the scenery as it only gets better.

The river trail high above the Deschutes River Canyon on the flanks of Bend's Awbrey Butte

The river trail high above the Deschutes River Canyon on the flanks of Bend's Awbrey Butte

At the second magical, mystical candy cane formation(about 2.5 miles from the start of this run) peer off to the right(west) for this stellar view of Middle and North Sister high above the Deschutes River.

Middle and North Sisters high above the Deschutes River Canyon as seen from the River Trail

Middle and North Sisters high above the Deschutes River Canyon as seen from the River Trail

Below is the view of the river itself from near this same location.

The Deschutes River as seen from high above on the Deschutes River Trail on the Northwest side of Awbrey Butte

The Deschutes River as seen from high above on the Deschutes River Trail on the Northwest side of Awbrey Butte

There are very few locations in Central Oregon that have views of the Deschutes River and and the Three Sisters Mountains from the same location.  It really is pretty awesome and makes the run worthwhile by itself.

On this particular day, we opted for an out and back run stopping at the second of the two magical candy canes.  If you continue o from this point, the running is sublime until the end of the River Trail at Putnam Road.  If you follow Putnam Road until you reach Mt. Washington, you can make an approximately 9.5 mile loop around Awbrey Butte.  While this isn’t the most rugged run in Central Oregon, it’s proximity to Downtown( thereby eliminating a car drive to the trail head, a much loved option for the Bendwild staffers) it’s beautiful views, and it’s serene riparian terrain, make this one of the the trails which has made Bend, Oregon arguably the best Trail running cities in North America.

Happy Trails!

Bend Wild

3 Responses for “Bend, Oregon’s Deschutes River Trail/ First Street Rapids, an urban trail oasis.”

  1. Jack Nicklaw says:

    Great article! Thanks for taking the time (and the pictures) to put it together.

    I imagine you’ve gotten feedback regarding typos in the article. Compared to a lot of stuff on the web, this article is good, but it would be an A+ with a few flicks of the wrist. (It’s the content that really matters–and that already gets an A+.)

    Anyway, I hope that any feedback you may have gotten was constructive in nature–and I hope mine comes across that way. (I admire those who’ve gone the distance to put together a pictorial like this–let alone an entire site! And it breaks my heart to bump into typos along the way.)

    If you’re interested in some free editing, please let me know. I occasionally find myself with a little bit of disposable time, and proofreading is one of my passions. Your sentence structure rocks, BTW. The only thing interrupting the flow of reading is a comma here, a dash or hyphen there, and teh occasional misspelled word. 😉

    Keep rockin’ this web site–and thanks again for the great work!

    Jack

  2. admin says:

    Jack,
    Thanks for the feedback and the suggestions. I’ll review the article a bit more thoroughly. Do you have a history in the editing world? While we are far from professional, we do try and any positive feedback is appreciated.
    Best,
    BW

  3. […] outsiders realize is that urban Bend has several captivating trails within the city limits. The Deschutes River Trail, which has both urban and rural sections, is one of the easiest to access. To find this trail just […]

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