Central Oregon turns into a different environment in the summer. The sunshine reveals beautiful works of nature that are typically hidden beneath the winter snow. Pathways and activities that were impossible to weather in the cold are now on every Bendite's to-do-list thanks to the warm, pleasant air. Take the Cascade Lakes, for example—these gorgeous bodies of water practically beg to be explored on a sunny day, but the lakes can also be experienced by moonlight.
As the sun goes down, the lakes are showcased like never before, with fascinating wildlife that only comes out under the cover of darkness, and shimmering water reflecting a vast, starry sky. A full moon is the highlight on special nights, creating a unique experience for the eyes and ears. Perfect for nocturnal explorers, professionally guided paddle groups head out into the middle of the Cascade Lakes in the late evening.
"People assume that when the sun goes down that's when the outdoor play ends, but there's really so much time left to be outside," says Courtney Braun, a naturalist guide for Wanderlust Tours. "You can go to some of the most popular outdoor places in Bend and it will be packed during the day. We go out to the same spots four or five hours later, and it's just you. It's quiet, it's peaceful, it's a completely different experience," says Braun.
Braun is one of six naturalists who lead moonlight canoe tours for Wanderlust. Each guide can expertly navigate the waters, even in the dark of night. They are also treasure troves of information with regard to the lake environment, as well as star formations and celestial bodies one may see during the night. Rowers should also expect the company of local, unique wildlife.
"Typically we start paddling as the sun is going down, so you can see what the lake looks like and what you're going to explore," Braun says. "At night, though, the bats are one of biggest pieces of wildlife. They dive in front of your boat, and grab mosquitoes out of the air, so you don't have to worry about them," Braun says. "On shore, you can hear tree frogs and geese and more. You see a lot less, but the sounds of the lake really come to life."
The starlight tours will begin once the Cascade Lakes Highway is open in May, and are weather permitting, but typically run through October. The May and June departure time is 8 p.m. Moonlight tours will begin in June. In addition to an expert tour guide, all of the necessary equipment and gear is provided and children eight and older are welcome.
Going canoeing late at night, with a guide who can navigate and share information about the stars and animals, makes visiting even familiar locations a completely new experience.
Moonlight and Starlight Canoe Tours
$85 per person.