Being wet on a hot summer day is our favorite part of the season. The Green Issue going blue got us thinking about our favorite places to cool down. Bring on the heat!
Don't discount McKay Park because it seems obvious. It's convenient, it's accessible, and the sandy riverbank is perfect for basking in the sun after your dip in the river. Privacy and serenity may not be among the park's virtues, as it is a main thoroughfare for tubers avoiding the spillway and a primo spot for families looking for a quick dip in the slow-moving section. But the park is about to receive an upgrade. The 2012 Park & Recreation bond should mean that in 2014 the park will host a new footbridge, a remodeled spillway and a whitewater play park. 166 SW Shevlin Hixon Dr.
On the McKenzie River Highway, Tamolitch Pool (aka Blue Pool) is a dry waterfall; high cliffs surround a deep, crystal-clear pond. The bright blue water looks straight out of a colorized sci-fi movie. This is surely the place you would find a mermaid, or perhaps Bigfoot, emerging from the woods for a cold drink of water. If you can, muster courage and jump from the rocks above the pool—roughly a 70-foot freefall. The water is plenty deep, but be forewarned: The pool is majestic, but chilly.
Getting there: Take McKenzie Hwy 126 toward Eugene. Turn at Trailbridge Campground, cross a bridge and turn right onto a gravel road. Look for the trail crossing signs. Hike two miles to the pool.
Slide Rock at Lake Creek Falls
Near Triangle Lake, about 50 miles outside of Eugene, this spot is paradise for summer undertakings like cliff jumping, sunning and light-beer drinking. The huge, flat rocks that stretch along the river's edge are great spots for sunbathing. Opposite the rocks, you can jump from 25 or 35 feet into the deep pool below. And just downstream is a set of natural waterslides. The slippery flat river bottom is covered in a few feet of fast-moving water that propels you downriver as fast as any theme park ride. It's great fun, but if you go without a tube, don't expect to come out unscathed; this isn't Disneyland.
Getting there: From Eugene, take Highway 99 north for approximately 10 miles to Highway 36. Go west on Highway 36 about two miles past Triangle Lake County Park to the Lake Creek Falls trail parking area. Park on the road and follow the stairs about a ¼ mile down to the slide!
This bridge crosses one of Bend's busiest stretches of river and is the perfect spot for an exhilarating leap into the Deschutes. In the summer, the river underneath the bridge is chock-a-block with floaters headed toward Mirror Pond. Along the bridge there are Xs carved into the wooden railing that denote safe spots to jump. Find a gap in the floating brigade and pencil dive into the cool waters below. Jump at your own risk, as this is most definitely not legal and the cops are known to write tickets when jumpers get to shore.
Farewell Bend Park Footbridge
Another terrific spot for jumping is the footbridge that connects River Bend and Farewell Bend Parks. It is a long way down, but YOLO, right? Along the River Trail on the north bank just upstream from the bridge there are also some dirt outcroppings that serve as great mini-beaches for a quick dip or a sunny fishing spot. Be careful, the current here can be deceptive and drownings have occurred in this area.
Steelhead Falls is probably the best-known cliff jumping spot in the area. Just outside of Terrebonne, the falls are a 20-foot drop with a calm pool at the bottom. The large rock ledges below the falls serve as perfect platforms for relaxing in the sun or launching into the water.
Getting there: This is a tricky one to find unless you're familiar with the labyrinth that is Crooked River Ranch. From Terrebonne, turn west on Northwest Lower Bridge Way, turn right on Northwest 43rd Street, drive about two miles to Chinook Drive, turn left onto Badger Road then right on Sage Hen Road. Take a left on Ermine Road and another left on Quail Road. Turn right on River Road to the Steelhead Falls Trailhead. Piece of cake!
Meadow Camp is the local's choice for kayaking, climbing, mountain biking and swimming. When water levels are high, the spot offers great cliff jumping. But please, jumping here can be a dangerous adventure if you choose the wrong rock, or the wrong time of year. Go jumping with someone who knows the river and this spot for your first time; extreme caution isn't enough.
Getting there: Take Cascade Lakes Highway/Century Drive past Inn of the 7th Mountain. Turn left onto FS road 41 just before Widgi Creek Golf Course. Hike about a ½ mile down the river trail for swimming and jumping.
Tips of the Trade
According to the Glen Canyon Natural History Association (and physics) if you're jumping from a 10-foot-high cliff, you'll hit the water at about 17 MPH. Even cars get damaged when they hit at that speed. Double the cliff size and you'll be going about 25 mph when you hit the water. Ouch. Don't be an idiot. Follow these tips and some common sense:
If you're trying a new jump, always make a friend go first.
Know the difference between a pencil dive and a swan dive; and do the former.
Don't chicken out. Hesitation is devastation.
Wear clean underwear. Just in case you find yourself in the back of an ambulance with a bunch of hot paramedics.
Owner of Sun Country Raft Tours and longtime Bend resident Dennis Oliphant, can often be found paddling the popular stretch of the Deschutes River in the Old Mill District alongside a mob of other standup paddleboard enthusiasts. But that's not the only SUP spot in town. Oliphant suggests the stretch of flat water between Slough Camp and Dillon Falls on the Upper Deschutes River.
"Launching at Slough Camp allows you to first paddle upstream a couple of hundred yards to the base of Benham Falls where you get great views of whitewater, old-growth trees and the Lava Butte Lava flow," points out Oliphant. "You can enjoy solitude and wildlife paddling downstream to the Dillon Falls boat launch."
To avoid paddling back upstream, leave a car or bike at a predesignated takeout spot near Dillon Falls to shuttle back.