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Oregon’s indie state of mind


Brian Jewell
Published November 06, 2013

Drake Park, courtesy Visit Bend

‘People Come Here to Play’
It’s all about the outdoors in Bend, an area that enjoys a wide diversity of adventure activity opportunities.

“People come here to play,” said Tawna Fenske, communications manager for Visit Bend. “That can be hiking, biking, fly-fishing, stand-up paddling and rafting. In the winter, we’re best known for snow skiing at Mount Bachelor. In summertime, our biggest tourist draw is white-water rafting.”

Most rafting excursions in Bend take place on the Deschutes River, which runs right through the middle of town. Rafting groups explore a section upriver from Bend. Closer to town, visitors can stroll along the riverbank at Drake Park downtown or go on guided fly-fishing expeditions.

A number of area outfitters offer activities that are well suited for groups. Wanderlust Tours does moonlight canoe tours, as well as group snowshoeing excursions on Mount Bachelor. Another company, Cog Wild Mountain Bike Tours, has a product that combines outdoor adventure with the area’s up-and-coming brewery culture.

“It’s called the Bike and Brew Tour,” Fenske said. “It’s a three-day tour where you explore the area on bikes and sample beer all along the way. You can do one that involves camping or one where you stay in a hotel in town.”

There are more than a dozen breweries in the area, and groups can arrange tours that go for beer tasting and visits to a winery, a distillery and a cider mill.

‘Great Hub and Spoke’
Eugene is the second-largest city in Oregon, and its position in Lane County puts it in proximity to a range of natural environments.

“Eugene is at the south end of the Willamette Valley,” said Meg Trendler, tourism sales manager for Travel Lane County. “It’s a great hub-and-spoke place to explore the valley, the cascades and the central coast.”

The McKenzie River flows through downtown Eugene, then joins the Willamette River for a series of scenic waterfalls. Outfitters can take groups for fly-fishing and white-water-rafting adventures on the glacier-fed river, providing wet suits to keep visitors warm in the icy-cold waters.

Many groups make the trip to Florence, the main city of the central coast, to explore the Oregon Dunes National Recreation area or to enjoy the local shops and seafood restaurants in the quaint downtown. Nearby Sea Lion Caves is the largest sea cave in the country and is home to hundreds of sea lions.

For a different experience, groups can take a tour to see some of the 20 covered bridges in Lane County.

“There’s a covered bridge tour in the Cottage Grove area with seven bridges that you can see,” Trendler said. “They have a step-on guide who dresses in a fabulous period costume who tells you the story of the timber industry and the gold-mining industry in the area.”

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