Rush came to Tumalo Creek last year to show his latest film and put on a show at Silver Moon. We’ll miss him this year, but this gives a taste of what he is working on. Kind of a cool biographical perspective with shots of him as a kid growing up at Otter Bar Kayak School.
By Laurel Brauns
There are few places in the country that can boast such a tight-knit and bountiful paddling community as the one that is bursting at the seams in Bend, Oregon. Drive through Bend on a summer evening, and most folks will have a boat of some sort tied to their roof–or hanging from their trailer–waiting for the sun to rise so they can get out on the rivers or lakes of the Cascades.
Thrill seekers will run Meadow Camp (a Class IV whitewater paddle) at least two or three times a week, plunging through the glacial run-off of the Deschutes River as it descends through the Cascade Mountains.
Those that are out there for scenery and exercise pride them selves on daily treks up to the Cascade Lakes – an incomparable series of alpine lakes that could keep a flatwater paddler happy for a lifetime.
Both of these communities mix in harmony and revelry during the summer at the monthly Pickin’ & Paddlin’ Music Series and Demo Day, hosted by Bend’s largest paddle shop, Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe. Located on the banks of the Deschutes River, this store (and Pickin’ & Paddlin’), have become a gathering place for both flatwater and whitewater enthusiasts alike.
Take a kayak, canoe or stand-up paddleboard out for a test paddle on the Deschutes River through the Old Mill District, and you’ll be in good company on a hot summer afternoon—thousands of tubers and boaters navigate this stretch of river everyday in the height of summer. (The is the “Paddlin’” half of Pickin’ & Paddlin.’)
After the boats get put away, the kegs get tapped, and micro-brews are poured from some of the best breweries in the United States… that happen to be just across the river from the shop.
So let the Pickin’ begin! As the sun begins to descend behind the Cascade Mountains in the distance, some of Central Oregon’s best bluegrass bands take the stage, entertaining the jubilant crowd long into the night.
But beneath the music, revelry and partying, there is a dark undercurrent, a solemness that cuts through the crowd when Tumalo Creek’s owner and manager Geoff Frank steps up to the microphone half-way through the night. Frank recounts the story of the time he pulled a 70-year-old women from out of the rock pilings of the Colorado Dam, a mill-era spill way just yards downstream from the party. Her grandchildren and husband had gone through the spillway, but she was pinned underwater on one of the I-Beams and was unconscious from a head injury when Frank first found her limp arm under the rapids. After what seemed like minutes of struggling to pull her out by her arm, the woman came to, and with the help of a friend, Frank was able to bear hug her out of the water.
While that story and many others had happy endings (dozens of tubers have swum through the spillway), the very next day after he rescued the 70-year-old women, Frank’s phone rang. The staff at the shop was calling to tell him the news of someone who had not been so lucky. A young Japanese woman was not able to read the signs directing her to exit the river. Her foot became entrapped and she drowned in the strong currents.
Frank then tells the crowd that Pickin’ & Paddlin is a fundraiser for the Bend Paddle Trail Alliance, the organization that is working towards creating a whitewater play park in place of the dangerous dam that was built in 1915. The dam was originally built to store logs for the Shevlin-Hixon and Brooks-Scanlon mills; today it is a dangerous hazard that has caused injury and death to a number of unsuspecting floaters on the Deschutes River.
The BPTA is working closely with Bend Parks and Rec and the Old Mill District to make the whitewater recreation area a reality—to be enjoyed by tubers, whitewater kayakers and stand up paddleboarders alike. Successful parks in other communities such as Missoula, Montana and Cascade, Idaho have brought millions of visitor dollars into their economies.
As engineering studies and designers work towards creating a plan for the park, the Pickin’ & Paddlin’ series has provided a tremendous show of community support for the project, something that will help win grants in the future. Just last summer, the organization brought in $10,000 in donations through the event and got hundreds of new paddlers out on the water as part of the boat demo portion of the evening.
The series has become a phenomenon with a life of it’s own—a party that everyone in town is invited to. For many, it’s one of the highlights of the summer.
Next time you’re in Bend, Oregon, come down to Pickin’ and Paddlin’ the last Wednesday of every month in the summer. After taking out a few boats for a test paddle, pick up one of the Bend Paddle Trail Alliance pint glasses, fill ‘er up with a cold one, and kick off your shoes. You’ll have an unforgettable evening supporting a great cause.
Most of Tumalo Creek’s customers know a love John as a knowledgeable and avid boater who knows every product in the store. He’ll always will go out of his way to make you happy and share everything he knows to help you make the right decision. He’s great at what he does, and we’re lucky to have him!
John is also an amazing whitewater canoer and just finished his first run down the Middle Fork in Idaho. At 2.85 ft., John said the water levels on the river were very friendly for canoeing, while still offering plenty of challenging rapids. His favorite spots were Hell’s Half-mile and The Chutes because they offered continuous Class III.
John also loved the effect that the granite rocks had on the water, creating big fluffy rapids that were easily punchable, as opposed to the unpredictable water produced by lava rock here in Central Oregon.
Permits to run the Middle Fork of the Salmon in the summer are issued by the Middle Fork Ranger District via lottery. Apply before January 31st.
Another one of the most interesting and useful presentations I attended at Outdoor Retailer last week was a seminar about America’s waterways and the many health, social and economic benefits they bring to urban areas. The panel was put together and presented by David Weinstein, who directs government affairs for the Outdoor Industry Association. David made a very eloquent introduction to the seminar describing the ways in which rivers are at the heart of most major cities and communities across the country. Recreation groups like American Whitewater and American Rivers have worked to increase access to rivers and enhance conservation, while local governments and the outdoor industry have worked together to transform polluted urban waterways into vibrant water-front parks.
The panel was a great overview of successful urban renewal projects centered around waterways, and also provided some great information about President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors report and the Recreational Blueway Trails initiative. Check out the video on Blueways below made by American Rivers and presented by Jamie Mierau:
I also learned quite a bit from Gordon Robertson’s (Director, Park Planning) presentation on Confluence Park in Denver. The park was created in an industrial wasteland where Cherry Creek and the South Platte River join together in Denver’s lower downtown. The area has been transformed from a place no one wanted to live to an up-scale neighborhood of townhouses, apartments and loft developments. The park has a kayak run and a skate park as well as many bike trails.
The other panelist was Guy Jones from River Runner Outdoor Center, Columbia, SC who spoke about how his efforts to protect a stretch of river in his hometown eventually lead to a career as a kayak and canoe shop owner and tour and rental operator.
As I heard all these speakers from diverse backgrounds tell us about their projects, I was again reminded how lucky we are here in Bend, OR to have so many miles of river parks and river access. Practically all of downtown and most of the Old Mill is one long riverfront park and trail system. But these presentations also reminded me of how far we have to go and how important it is to “dream big” and to continue to support the vision of the Bend Paddle Trail Alliance, that along with Bend Parks and Rec and the Old Mill District, is working to transform the Colorado Dam into a whitewater recreation park. Hopefully one day the Colorado Dam improvement project will stand along side these other urban parks as a successful example of the way restored waterways contribute to healthy communities and economies.
One of the most fascinating and relevant presentations I attended at Outdoor Retailer was Kate William’s talk on the partnerships between retailers and paddle trails. Kate represents the Northern Forest Canoe Trail, a 740 mile stretch that links the waterways of New York, Vermont, Quebec, New Hampshire and Maine. NFCT has created maps, books and online resources to enrich the paddling experience with history of early Native Americans and European settlers in this area. Kate showed many examples of the ways in which the paddle trail helped to revitalize communities and businesses through partnerships.
Here in Bend, the relationship between Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe and the Bend Paddle Trail Alliance is extremely solid and supportive and, as Kate went through her list of recommendations on how to strengthen this connection, I was psyched to note all the things we are already doing right! She also offered up many ideas of things that we could think about implimenting in the future.
Kate’s ideas for the future:
Kate closed the presentation by directing us to a Trails and Economic Development Report that has just been published that quantifies the ways in which the NFCT has strengthened and revitalized trail side communities. One of the most interesting facts to come out of the study was that trails are the #1 amenity sited by homebuyers 55 and older as a reason to invest in real estate. It is pretty likely we’d come to some very similar conclusions here in Bend.
Jen has taught for Tumalo Creek for the past two summers. The story below was written by Laurel and originally appeared in Central Oregon Magazine.
Jen Kjellesvik has spent much of the last two decades on the water. She has worked as a whitewater raft guide since 1997 in Alaska and Colorado, and eventually here in Bend for Sun Country Tours. She is an avid kayaker and has also paddled with the Central Oregon Outrigger Team on and off since 2003.
Four years ago, she observed the sport of stand up paddleboarding and noticed the paddles were very similar to the ones she used on the outrigger. She immediately took to the sport and soon became a certified SUP instructor. Today she has a number of regional victories under her belt including winning two race series’ here in Central Oregon: Queen of the Lake at Elk Lake and the Naish Race Series at Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe. She is also into the second year of running her business, Adventure Fitness, where she provides personal training and an array of classes and other opportunities for getting in shape using a stand up paddleboard. She has plans in the near future to become certified specifically in SUP Fitness.
Kjellesvik has a contagiously uplifting energy when she talks about stand up paddleboarding and her love of the outdoors.
“I will be a stand up paddleboarder for life,” Kjellesvik says. “It encompasses many of the sports I’ve done in the past into one: snowboarding, rafting, outrigger paddling. It’s my passion and I feel like it’s my mission to spread this enjoyment to other people.”
This summer, Adventure Fitness will grow into a mobile classroom and adventure provider. Kjellesvik hopes the business will be a platform for offering everything from instruction in race technique and training to corporate adventures.
When Kjellesvik is not teaching or enjoying time with her family, she is training for SUP racing, something she is destined to continue to excel in. She won many races last summer in spite of enduring the flu-like symptoms of a Hobo spider bite for most of the season, as well as a rib injury. She is sponsored by YOLO Boards (Florida), and Kialoa Paddles, based right here in Bend.
With her health intact, she is confident that she’ll have a great season this year. This summer she will head to Colorado for two big whitewater SUP races, one at Glenwood Springs and the other at the Teva Mountain Games in Vail.
“Whitewater SUP racing is all about reading the currents,” Kjellesvik said. Racers all start at the same time, so knowing how to maneuver a board in whitewater conditions is another important skill in this type of race, she explained.
She also has a number of “downwinder” races on the books, including one this summer on the Columbia River Gorge. In this type of competition, paddlers make their way downwind using the waves to their advantage.
Kjellesvik was headed to Maui two weeks after our interview to specifically study how to read waves in downwind races, and to network and study with other SUP professionals.
Finally, Kjellesvik plans to harness some of her passion for stand up paddleboarding into activism for causes that she and her family strongly believe in. She and her son Haakon plan to organize a Paddle for the Environment day to help raise awareness about cleaning up rivers and oceans. She also plans to organize a free SUP adventure day for kids who might not have the resources to enjoy the sport on their own.
“The river and the outdoors is a cure all,” Kjellesvik said. “It’s a place of happiness and peace and a little haven. I want to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to enjoy what’s right here in Bend.”
Kinker is a Bend legend: he one of the most well respected kayakers and rafters in the boating community and is also an incredible visual artist. You may have seen his work in the Tower Theatre, murals that line the walls and bathrooms of the balcony, paying homage to the theatre’s Art Deco roots. Or you may be familiar with the backdrop at Silver Moon Brewing, a mural that perfectly blends breathtaking scenery with a little psychedelia.
Kinker has recently signed on to the PLACE:TWELVE program set up by Bend’s Arts, Beautification and Culture Commission. Artists create a piece of art inspired by a historical photograph that is indicative of Bend’s past, but that also that inspires the future. The art he creates will hang for three months on the walls of Bend’s City Hall, from May 6 – July 28, 2011.
Kinker chose the classic Mill-era photo of the “pond monkey,” (pictured above) for his piece. In this photograph the short, very Irish-looking Dan McClealen stands on huge logs floating down the river, keeping the logs from clogging up the supply to the mill. In this photo, he is right upstream from Tumalo Creek. The pond monkey was known as one of the most agile workers of the mill, but many of them still could not swim.
The pond monkey inspired visions for Kinker of the present day Stand Up Paddleboarder, often seen on this section of the Deschutes. Down the river of time in Bend’s future, a whitewater play park is planned where the Colorado Bridge crosses the Deschutes. This park, which has been one of the primary goals of the Bend Paddle Trail Alliance for eight years, would feature a place for tubers to float through, a few man made waves for SUPers and kayakers and a restored habitat for riparian wildlife.
Kinker’s piece will trace Bend’s story of economic success, from cattle to lumber to tourism. Bend’s economic growth in the last two decades has relied primarily on the bountiful opportunities for recreation in the outdoors. David hopes that this “past, present, and future” rendition of the Old Mill will further inspire enthusiasm and support for the Colorado Bridge transformation.
The paddling community came out in droves last night for both Green Drinks at the shop and the Rush Sturges’ premier of “Frontier” at Silver Moon. That was the best turn out for a Green Drinks I’ve ever seen. I was also psyched to see Silver Moon packed and the crowd so attentive for Rush’s film and the bands that played afterward. Bend showed its true colors last night by supporting an environmental cause, an outdoor film, and some amazing music… and I’m sure it didn’t hurt that there was free beer in the mix. Special thanks to Janette at Deschutes Brewery for getting us the keg(s!) and to Drew for picking up a second emergency keg in less than 10 minutes.
Green Drinks marked the launch of our “zero waste” events program to continue for the rest of the summer at the shop. Just days before the event, we received a shipment of 1,000 Made it the USA pint glasses which we gave out for free last night, and will charge $10 at our events. We’re going to be really strict about this – if you forgot to bring your own mug – you gotta buy a glass! All profits go to support the Bend Paddle Trail Alliance. Other environmental efforts include a “recycle your kayak” event to take place at the shop on the night of May 6th in conjunction with the Old Mill’s Trashformations art show.
Co-hosting Green Drinks with us was the Upper Deschutes Watershed Council. We try to support their efforts to keep Central Oregon’s rivers beautiful. Follow our events calendar to keep up with the latest river clean-ups in the area.
The Green Drinks crowd then headed down to Silver Moon for the second half of our double-header evening. Rush Sturges is a friend of the shop and showed his newest film “Frontier,” featuring kayaking footage from Mexico, China, Iceland, Norway, British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest. The highlight of the night, for me anyway, was hearing his band, “The Forest” play music after the film. Although the band was mostly focused on newer material written by Rush and his buddy Dave Crosse, he pulled out a few old favorites like “The River” and “Dream Result” from his album “The Road is Gold.” Bendites like to go to bed early, so the crowd began to thin a bit as Portland’s TapWater took the stage, but everyone that was left spent most of the night out on the dance floor, sweating off all those tasty micro-brews.
It is inspiring to meet someone like Rush who has reached their true potential with both athletic pursuits and artistic expression. I’m still falling off the high of exhilaration from the evening: the stunning scenes from the movie, the melodies and lyrics from his songs dancing in my head. Running by the Deschutes today, the river seemed more musical and vibrant then is has before, and maybe that is one of the magical things about really great art, it changes your perspective and heightens your experience.
I know I’m not the only one that left Silver Moon psyched to get in a boat AND play my guitar. Great night ya’all!
See more photos on Tumalo Creek’s FB page.
What an awesome weekend. We had a great turn out, an awesome party down at the shop, and a lot of fun participating and watching all the racers. You can check out a bunch of snap shots and professional photos of the event on our Facebook Page.
Burt had this to report:
“We had a great race. There were more race boats than last year, and just a few less rec boats. Could have been the weather that kept some locals away. As always, Riverhouse was accommodating . At some point I hope to use some of the money, after expenses, to make some of our own gates. It was great to see people working hard to master the moves. Slalom enables a designer to take a fairly easy section of river and make it a challenge to good boaters.”
The website http://www.nwwhitewater.org/ has the schedule for more races.
Here are the results:
Check out this awesome video recorded and posted by Joe Hite of Hellfish: