The best way to triumph over a scorching July day can be floating the Deschutes River in Bend. It’s free. It’s fun. And enough floaters can line up to transform the river below the Bill Healy Memorial Bridge into a gridlocked, gaudy parade.
But it’s not protected by lifeguards. Few people wear life vests. It’s a river. Cold and unpredictable. The current in the middle can redirect a swimmer. Logs and other debris shift along the bottom.
On July 5, Rodolfo Calvario waded into the river. He was planning to swim to the other side. It’s only 40 feet. He didn’t make it. People went in looking for him. He was pulled from the river after spending 10 minutes on the bottom. He died on July 9 at St. Charles Bend, according to his family.
The Bend Park & Recreation District met earlier this month just after Calvario was pulled from the river. Board members asked staff what more could be done about river safety.
The district did spend millions to transform the area under the Colorado Avenue bridge into something less risky. The district continues to spend about $30,000 a year to communicate the river’s dangers.
There are also good signs. But why not in Spanish? The district has a plan to improve its diversity, equity and inclusion. It has updated many of its resources with Spanish translations. Signs in Spanish along the river would be another action. The district’s board meets Tuesday. It could start that in motion then.
A better solution is that everyone on the river should wear a life jacket. The district’s vendor, Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe, has loaned them out to people for free. Look out on people floating, though, and few people wear them. If they did, people might still drown, but it would be far less likely.
One thing to remember if you see somebody in trouble in the water is the advice from the Red Cross. People will jump in to help. But that can be very dangerous for an untrained rescuer. The Red Cross says: Reach, throw, don’t go. Rescuers can end up pulled under as the person in trouble thrashes in the water. Reach for them. Throw something out to them. Row out to them. Jumping in is very dangerous.
So please, if you float the river, wear a life jacket. The river will be just as much fun.