Every day a small crowd gathers, drawn away from their to-dos to stand and watch mesmerized. Perhaps you too have found yourself migrating towards the construction now underway on the Colorado Dam or found yourself clicking on the “Live Dam Cam” to observe the progress virtually.

The Colorado Dam Safe Passage is reconstructing the Colorado Dam to create three river channels – one for safe passage for floaters and fish passage, one for active recreation such as whitewater kayakers and one for wildlife habitat. The project also includes construction of a new bicycle and pedestrian bridge and new park amenities at McKay Park on the river’s west side.

We recently had the opportunity to catch up with the Bend Parks & Recreation Project Manager, Chelsea Schneider for an update on Colorado Dam and Bend Whitewater Park for a brief update on the changes and tips on how to plan your Summer floats.

OMD: We’ve heard that the whitewater channel features state of the art technology for customizing flow. What can we expect from this feature?

CS: The whitewater channel features a computer-controlled, adjustable, pneumatic bladder system in  each of the four different waves. Kayakers, surfers and whitewater paddleboarders will be able to enjoy wave conditions that can be programmed according to river flow and for the needs of different users. There will be a river recreation specialist or “wave shaper” who will tune the waves regularly and post the wave settings online via the District’s website and social media.


OMD: How is the riparian habitat being restored in this process?

McKay Park’s frontage will be re-vegetated to enhance the edge of the safe passage channel and provide shading and drainage buffering to the river.  The habitat channel is being re-graded and re-vegetated to provide islands, pools and riffles to support juvenile fish, amphibians and bird species.


OMD: What changes may we expect to McKay Park?

McKay Park, located adjacent to the Bend Whitewater Park project, will be upgraded to support activities associated with the project including new accessible trails, a larger beach, permanent restrooms and changing rooms and an observation deck. It’s important for river users to know that McKay Park is closed this summer  so to plan their picnicking or other activities for another riverfront park such as Riverbend, Miller’s Landing or Drake Park.


OMD: What do we need to know in advance of floating the Deschutes River?

Floating the Deschutes River still requires portage around the Colorado Ave. dam during construction. As in previous years, floaters must take out upriver from the dam and walk around to a new pathway downriver to put back into the river. This will remain the case until the new Bend Whitewater Park is open. Construction is in progress and for safety reasons the area remains closed to the public.


OMD: When is the estimated date of completion?

The Bend Whitewater Park is estimated to be completed by fall 2015. Redevelopment of McKay Park is slated for completion in 2016. As summer moves forward, people should check www.bendparksandrec.org for updates.

Many thanks to Project Manager, Chelsea Schneider and the team at Bend Parks & Recreation. What are you most looking forward to as this project comes to completion? Please share with us in the comments or on social media using the hashtag #OldMillDistrict.