By Scott Hammers

The Bulletin

Problems at the Bend Whitewater Park are in part due to too much water flowing through the passageway channel, the Bend Park & Recreation District Board learned Tuesday.

Tuesday was the first meeting of the board since the channel was shut down earlier this month because of safety concerns. A warm first weekend of the month drew hundreds to the river, and the district was flooded with complaints of popped tubes, injuries and other mishaps in the channel designed for casual river floaters.

In a presentation to the board Tuesday, district construction manager Brian Hudspeth said tests performed last week with engineers from the companies that designed the whitewater park found that the passageway channel performed best when 130 to 160 cubic feet per second of water were allowed to flow though. During the first weekend of the month, flows were likely around 220 to 230 cfs, Hudspeth said.

The Deschutes River is currently flowing through Bend at around 1,100 to 1,200 cfs, he said. The whitewater park uses a series of pipes and inflatable bladders to divide that water among the passageway channel, a whitewater channel for more advanced paddlers and surfers, and a wildlife habitat zone.

Hudspeth said the water was redistributed so less ran through the passageway channel during last week’s testing; the flow was slower and the pools between each of 11 small drops were calmer. Still, the fix is likely more complicated than simply turning down the water, he said. At the lower flows, floaters are likely to scrape across the rocks on either side of the center of the channel.

Maintaining an acceptable flow volume in the passageway channel probably will require regular adjustments of the bladders upstream. District Executive Director Don Horton said the river is subject to periodic surges, where the water level in the pond upstream of the whitewater park can rise or fall by 3 inches over a short period of time.

River Restoration and Otak, the design firms that visited Bend last week, are due to deliver a report of their recommendations to repair the channel in two to three weeks, Hudspeth said. The district is also considering bringing in an uninvolved third party to inspect the park and make recommendations, he said.

Horton said once the report from River Restoration and Otak is delivered, the district will begin internal discussions of possibly reopening the passageway channel. Horton has previously said the district was inclined to keep the channel closed through the remainder of the summer.

Members of the Bend Paddle Trail Alliance, which has pledged more than $1 million to the whitewater park project, asked Tuesday to be involved in any changes to the passageway channel.

Dustin Urban, a professional kayaker and alliance member who said he’s paddled at 20 to 30 man-made whitewater parks during his career, said the district should consider having an experienced paddler at the table during any discussions of changes, and possibly on site during construction.

— Reporter: 541-383-0387,