Harper's Bridge

Written by www.casago.com’s Local Expert


One of the main reasons to visit Sunriver is to enjoy the outdoors, and I find the best way to do that is by taking to the water. Specifically, I enjoy the Deschutes River that flows near the town. During a recent trip, I launched at Harper's Bridge and then traveled down the river for about 10 miles. It is an exhilarating trip and one that I highly recommend for anyone that enjoys being out on the water.

The trip from Harper's Bridge (there is a launch area here) to the Benham Falls East Day Use area takes about 3 ½ hours. It's not too rough, but it will take some work to go this 10 miles. It's so worth it.

Now, if you get into the river and find yourself too tired after a bit, you can get out to the Sunriver Marina, which is located right by the airport. That's about a 1.5 mile trip.

How To Get To Harper's Bridge

Harper's Bridge is located on the Deschutes River, about 2 miles from Sunriver if you are traveling towards Mount Bachelor. This is not a big, fancy launch but a very simple, dirt road access point. It is best for those who are taking a canoe or a kayak into the water. One side of the bridge is perfect for small watercraft. The other side does have some room that's big enough for a small trailer to launch a boat into the water.

One thing to know is that the boat launch is meant for local use. There is only a small amount of parking available. If you plan to use it, get there super early in the day to be sure you get your spot for parking. You do not need any type of pass to use it.

Harper's Bridge History

There's not much to talk about when it comes to the bridge's actual history because it is simply a bridge over the river. However, it is a beautiful bridge that sees a lot of traffic on a regular basis. Most people come to the bridge because of the boat launch opportunity, but the bridge itself is considered a landmark, probably because of its beautiful design and look.

Harper's Bridge Activities

For those who are making their way here to explore the river, I highly recommend arriving early in the day and setting out for a morning run down the river. Park one car at Harper's Bridge and the other near Benham Falls. That way, you have easy access to your vehicle.

The trip along the river is a gentle one for the most part. While we often focus on the water, don't forget to look up to see the beautiful forest surrounding you here. It is mesmerizing! You'll see lots of meadows and densely forested areas. The trees seem to reach forever into the sky. You'll see people along the pathways and perhaps even a horseback rider, if you're lucky. Most people are on their bikes or walking their dogs along the path because there is a riverside trail here.

If you're visiting the area for any length of time, you'll want to take a few different routes along this river to experience more of it. The path we took is rather calm, though conditions can change. Overall, there are about 26 miles of waterways to explore on what is called the Little Deschutes River and about 95 miles on the main Deschutes River. There are some areas considered difficult that should be avoided by less experienced kayakers. You can also bring small boats and canoes out into the water, but you don't want to attempt any type of motorized boat here. There are a few points that are super dangerous, so don't plan on doing the whole way during your trip.

Tips & Info For Visiting Harper's Bridge

A word of warning. While this river seems really calm, it is actually rather fast moving, especially in the spring months when the water doesn't get about 60 degrees. Getting into the water is very cold and shouldn't be done until it is much warmer here. Also, laws in this area state that everyone, including those who are great swimmers, has to wear a life vest no matter what they are doing, even if they are just floating in a tube.

For those planning a float, there are several options. The Harper Bridge to Besson Day Use area is one of the most common. This is a short route that takes about 45 minutes to an hour and goes about 1.8 miles. You can also take the Harper Bridge to Sunriver Resort area, which is much longer at 8.6 miles. This takes up to 4 hours to complete depending on how much paddling you do and the wind itself.

Whatever you do, you have to get out there into the water. That blue, clear water is calling your name!


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