#47 First Street Rapids Park – First Street

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First Street Rapids Park is a hidden jewel. Well, for most people. If you are a big fan of the Deschutes River Trail, you have probably ran into this charming property more than once. This park is hidden away downtown. It reminds me a lot of Sawyer Park, with the bridge and the river access.

The features of this park are very minimal. There is a porta-potty near the bridge. I didn’t not see any doggie rest stations. No fountains. No grass. No picnic shelter. First Street Rapids is a one hit wonder, with it’s only appeal is the river access and viewing.

20160604_111707But, what a wonder it is. The river is swift here, the park gets it’s name from the rapids that run through it. Though, on the banks of the river, there are multiple calm spots that have been build with rocks. There are even some great looking grottos, hidden away by tree cover. If you are a sun worshipper, there are big rocks to lay on.

There is no fencing protecting you (or your kids) from the river. So, keep an eye on them. If you are there to swim, please make sure everyone has a life jacket. That rapid looks tamer than it is.

20160604_112306You can access the Deschutes river trail from this park. You can head north towards Sawyer Park, or south towards Pioneer Park. Either path, I hear, is great.

First Street Rapids park is a great hideaway for warm days. The parking situation is pretty horrible, and the amenities are almost non-existent. It is a wonderful place to enjoy the natural landscape of the area.


Ratings: 
(A scale of 1 to 5 where 1 is the least desirable and 5 is the most desirable)

Size: 4
Condition: 3
Amenities: 2
Safety: 3
Fun: 5

Overall Score: 3.4

First Street Rapid’s Park is a great river play oasis for a hot day. The natural landscape could make you forget you are in downtown bend, if you ignored all the large homes. The amenities are almost non-existent. As always, be careful with your family around the river.

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#44 – Sawyer Park

#44 – Sawyer Park

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It was a warm day, and a warm day calls for cooling off in the river. With so many of the parks on the river closed due to the river construction, it is hard to find a nice spot. When we arrived at Sawyer Park at 4pm, the park was already pretty busy. Anyone would keep in mind that the parking for this park can get dicey, when busy.

When you first arrived, you find some picnic tables, a porta-potty, and plenty of grass. There is also a rock wall with plenty of rocks for climbing on, on the right.

20150719_174628We crossed the bridge and turned right. Left of the bridge is for fishing and “nature observing” only. I have walked to the left, and it is just as beautiful as the rest of the park.

The right has multiple paths that lead you to spots  that are perfect for picnicking and frolicking in the river. All the close spots were taken when we arrived. We had to walk for quite a few minutes before we finally found something. We were a little farther from the car that we would have liked, it was a great little, out of the way, spot. There were rocks that created a tiny, protected, pool.

One our way back, we stopped by one of the more popular “pools” in the park. Someone has created the perfect “kiddy” pool next to some swift rapids. It was taken by a family when we had arrived. I was happy to find it empty when we were walking back. When we got to check it out, near almost 6pm, the shade was covering the whole area. It was the perfect depth for young kids to enjoy the water in a 20150719_173134safer pool.

In general, speaking as a lifelong Bendite, you must be careful when playing in the Deschutes. If you are going to let your kids swim into the center of the river, you will need to bring life jackets. And, on behalf of all, pleasure pack out what you bring with you.

I have walked the trails around Sawyer Park in the past. It’s beautiful to walk next to the river. I thoroughly enjoy walking this section of the Deschutes River trail. For the most part, it is an easy trail. there are some uphills, but nothing that should stop anyone looking for a beautiful nature walk.

Sawyer Park is lacking in many of the amenities you come to expect from the local parks. There is only one porta-potty. There is a water fountain nearby, before you cross the bridge. There is no playground, dog facilities, or large parking area. It is truly a “one trick pony.” Though, the trick of nature is an amazing trick.


Ratings: 
(A scale of 1 to 5 where 1 is the least desirable and 5 is the most desirable)

Size: 5
Condition: 4  
Amenities: 3
Safety: 3
Fun: 4

Overall Score: 3.8

Shevlin Park is what I could call a “specialty park.” It is a river wonderland, with plenty of shoreline nooks to enjoy the river in. You also find access to the northern section of the Deschutes River Trail. You have to be careful when playing the river, even when using some of the man-made pools on the edge. Though, the river gives hours of the play, this park could be boring for anyone who doesn’t enjoy nature.

#43 Shevlin Park – Shevlin Park Road

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It is hard to experience Shevlin Park in one day. When my little family of three went on a sunny afternoon in early March, we barely skimmed the surface. I’m going to try my best to include pictures and experiences from other visits to this gem in the crown of Bend Parks and Rec.

The parking for Shevlin park is extensive, but still does not do the traffic justice on an really busy day in the summer. Very quickly you come across the main restrooms and the picnic pavilion (which can be reserved through BPRD.) From there you have a few different path options. I would suggest picking up, or downloading, a Shevlin Park Trails Map before venturing about. I don’t think you can really get lost, the trails are well groomed, but it never hurts to know where your going.

Tumalo Creek rambled through this park, making you feel way farther from civilization than you are. Most of the trails stay close to this river and you ramble through this 44 acre oasis. This creek is the only real safety concern I have about this park. If your child cannot resist themselves around water, you may need to be extra vigilant, because water is everywhere. Some part of this creek are very swift as well, but I would certainly be careful if you are going to swim.

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One of my favorite sites in Shevlin Park is the covered bridge. Inside there are plenty of carving left behinds my couples in love.

You can find different little sites along the trail with picnic tables. The one we found came with a very calm spot in the water. On a busy day, it may be hard to find a secluded spot. On a “off season” kind of day it can feel like wilderness.

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On the other side of the road you can find Aspen Hall, a popular wedding. (I might be biased, it was our wedding venue.) Next to Aspen Hall you find the small pond which is open for under age fishing enthusiasts so they can learn their trade.

If you follow the trails past Aspen Hall you can come across a gravel river bank that seems like it was build for picnicking and swimming on a summer day. I’m not sure if it gets busy here or not, but I would be prepared to pack in everything you would need for a great afternoon.

In general, it is hard to do Shevlin Park justice. I imagine for some children, this park is incredibly boring. If your family enjoys walking/hiking and fishing than this gem will blow you away. If it’s not your families thing, then it will seem somewhat boring.


 

 

Ratings: 
(A scale of 1 to 5 where 1 is the least desirable and 5 is the most desirable)

Size: 5+
Condition: 5
Amenities: 4
Safety: 4.5
Fun: 3

Overall Score: 4.5

Shevlin Park is what I could call a “specialty park.” For walking/hiking and natural exploring, it does not get any better than Shevlin Park in the BPRD portfolio. The trails are well groomed, the views are amazing, and the park has everything you need. If your family needs more stimulus, and cannot entertain itself on nature alone, this park is an absolute dud. Shevlin Park is something you will either absolutely love or absolutely hate. It’s hard to rate that on a scale. Watch your children around the creek.


 

#30 Columbia Park – Columbia Street

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I grew up at Columbia Park as a kid. My Grandmother’s house was across the pedestrian bridge, on the river. You can see her old back yard from the bridge. When we arrived as I very excited to see the SS Columbia and other changes that have been made. I was also saddened by some things that are gone that made my childhood amazing.

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Columbia Park is dominated by the SS Columbia, a pirate ship play ground structure. The ship comes with three different slides, multiple ways to get in and our, and a “plank”. It seems like every kid enjoys this pirate ship, and has been the first thing I’ve been asked about since I started this tour. Every one wants to know if I’ve been to see the pirate ship yet. I will say, this is my favorite play structure by far!

The play ground also had one regular swing and one infant swing. Normally this would bother me, but I have a feeling no one come to the park to swing.

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This park also boats are large slide. This seems to be a huge hit with older kids. I would suggest staying close by. This slide also seems to be a flash point for kid fights. The slide is so long, some kids don’t realize that there are little kids at the bottom and they kinda get ran over.

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Although the Bend Park and Rec Website does not mention river access, there does seem to be this small but well manicured “ramp” into the river. I would not think this would be a popular place to come in our out of the river. This area is not fenced. The majority of the river bank of this park is not fenced, except a rail fence which really wouldn’t keep any kid away. There is also a park of this fence that is supposed to be a chain link fence, but it has fell down. If you child is overly attracted to water, or wanders, I would keep a very close eye on them, especially on the lower level of the park.

There was also a gardner snack near the pedestrian bridge. This could either make the park cooler or scarier, depending on your opinions of snakes. Because of it’s proximity to the river, I’m sure this park gets plenty of wildlife from the Deschutes.

20140803_123708Back on the upper level, there is a grassy knoll that has a horeshoe pit and more seating. The park as a lot of grassy area in general, and would make a great place for a game of flag football.

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There is a small covered picnic shelter that could support 15+ people comfortably. I would imagine it is a mecca for birthday weekends and probably always has a birthday party going on.

The rest of the park has adequate seating, though we did not use much of it. This park as a lot of reason to stay on your feet and near your child. It could make for a nice picnic park.

In general, I’m not surprised they blocked the path to the big rocks by the river. You can still see it by the pedestrian bridge. I spent a lot of my childhood on top of the rocks, trying to figure out my troubles. I almost went splunking up there, but I decided I should was until there are less impressionable mimics around. It could be dangerous up there for those who aren’t sure footed.

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The Pedestrian Bridge is not part of the park, but it would be a good reminder to not let your children jump off it. They will see a few adults do it if you go on a hot day, so it will be rather tempting. The Deschutes River is not as deep as many adults like to think it is. Growing up next to the bridge, I saw many people hit their heads, break their backs, so on and so on. There is a secret to jumping off this bridge, but I won’t share it. It’s a “locals only” thing that I really can’t share. The moral of the story, is don’t jump off the bridge.


Ratings: 
(A scale of 1 to 5 where 1 is the least desirable and 5 is the most desirable)

Size: 4
Condition: 3
Amenities: 4
Safety: 3
Fun: 5

Overall Score: 4

Columbia Park makes a great effort to be a 5 star park. It has plenty of grassy area. It does have the regular amenities, including porta-potties. The SS Columbia is, at this point in the tour, our favorite playground structure. The large slide is also a favorite. Do be very careful near the river, since the fencing is not in good shape and there is river access, despite what the Bend Park and Rec website says. There is somewhat adequate seating. The 15+ person picnic shelter would be a good place for a small birthday party. This is not a park I recommend letting your kids run free, unless they are definitely old enough to make good decisions about water.


 

 

#14 Brooks Park – Drake Road

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Across the river from Drake Park, on the other end of the Newport Bridge is Brooks Park. We did not pull this park from the jar, we cheated. We were on our way to Harmon Park and I decided to stop in.

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Brooks Park is home to the Bend Heroes Memorial, which was dedicated on Veteran’s Day 2009. It is a beautiful memorial to all the local heroes who have given their lives to  protect their country, and their city. I was surprised to see that a few rows of the flowers in the front of the memorial had dried up and were starting to die. I was also struck by the large amount of bees around the flowers, which could cause concerns for families with members who are allergic.

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The grassy area takes up the rest of the park. There are two picnic benches and one regular bench. I agree with the Park and Rec website that it would make a perfect place for lunch and a view of the river, as long as it’s not too crowded. There is only street parking on one side. I was unable to get a picture but there is a great little dock for river access here. There is no fence keeping little kiddos out of the water, which may cause some parents headaches. I did see a doggie station. I did not see a water fountain, and there are definitely no bathrooms.

I also get a distinct feeling that the neighbors keep a tight watch on this park. My family was eyeballed pretty heavily, especially when I started taking pictures. I don’t hold this against the park. If you have irrational fears of being followed or watched, I would skip this park though.


Ratings: 
(A scale of 1 to 5 where 1 is the least desirable and 5 is the most desirable)

Size: 2
Condition: 4
Amenities: 2
Safety: 3
Fun: 2

Overall Score: 2.5

This is another case of having to compare this park apples to apples with others. The Bend Heroes memorial is astonishingly beautiful, and is a must see for anyone. This is not a park for family fun, however. With the exception of the river access, there is not much here to keep a family entertained. I was saddened to see that some of the flowers in the memorial were not being well taken care off, an there was a large amount of bees. This park is right next to a very busy and popular street.


 

#10 Pioneer Park – Wall Street

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Pioneer Park is a favorite among locals for it’s expansive grass areas, beautifully maintained gardens, river access, and large picnic shelter. As one of Bend’s oldest parks, it serves as one of the crown jewels of the Bend Park and Rec’s crown. There is parking inside the park itself, which can barely contain a medium size wedding. If there is not a special event going at this park, which happens more often than not on the weekends, then you can easily find a good parking spot.

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The Bend Parks and Rec site says the covered picnic area can seat up to 75 people. There was an event going when we visited, so I did not want to go up and investigate.

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There is a little trail that takes you through the amazingly landscapes garden, with individual picnic benches and regular benches scattered about. This park has always had a romantic flavor.

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There is a section of grass behind the gardens, that you don’t really see from the road or the main park. This would make a perfect patch of grass for a football game or family picnic.

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The path along the river is a section of the Deschutes River Trail connecting downstream to First Street Rapids Park. There is convenient pedestrian crossing from Pioneer Park to Pacific Community Park across Portland Ave. (Just be careful of traffic.) This park has river access, which can be nerve wracking with children who can’t be kept from water.

As always, the grounds are beautifully maintained.


Ratings: 
(A scale of 1 to 5 where 1 is the least desirable and 5 is the most desirable)

Size: 4
Condition: 5
Amenities: 4
Safety: 4
Fun: 3

Overall Score: 4

It’s hard to think of any park being good for a family, especially a family with young children, if it does not have a play structure. I can see children becoming very bored without something to do. A play structure is the only thing this park is missing. I wish there was something keeping children out of the river, but I suppose that is what adults are for. There is a doggie station, and access to the Deschutes River Trail. What makes this park the perfect “lover’s park” is the amazingly maintained rose garden. Bend Park and Rec site, here.


 

 

#9 Pacific Community Park – Pacific Park Lane

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We made a quick stop to this park. We had a beautiful engagement picture taking here once a few years ago. Although it is not a place that we really think is a good idea for our son, we know it has its charms.

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Nostalgia aside, this park is not going to get very high praise for us. Pacific Community Park is one of those “parks” that really just makes unusable space pretty, but really isn’t much of a park. There is no play structure, or amenities in general. It is a leg in the Deschutes River Trail.

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Because of it’s direct river access, this park makes us very nervous with our son. It also makes it a great place to fish.


Ratings: 
(A scale of 1 to 5 where 1 is the least desirable and 5 is the most desirable)

Size: 1
Condition: 5
Amenities: 1
Safety: 3
Fun: 2

Overall Score: 2.5

Pardon the low scores, we must be true to the vision. The Bend Parks and Rec site is really honest about what this park is good for. It’s a good place to fish, or enjoy a sack lunch. It’s not going to entertain children, unless they are maybe older. It does connect to a section of the Deschutes River Trail.