We just moved to beautiful Bend, Oregon in May 2017. I’ve been visiting Central Oregon since I was little and have always enjoyed the scenic landscape, rugged mountains, and the smell of fresh mountain air with pine. Exploring different areas has been really fun so far. One of the first places we wanted to explore was Sparks Lake. It thawed faster than I expected with the hot weather in June, so we took out our new Intec Inflatable Kayak purchased on Amazon to give it a try. This was our first attempt at using an inflatable kayak on a lake, but we both have had prior experience using hard kayaks. We also brought our fiberglass/epoxy stand-up paddle board which does really well in lakes. It glides pretty fast with minimal effort and is great working your core, hips, and lats.
To learn proper SUP paddling technique, check out this clip!
Sparks Lake is located 25 miles West of Bend off of the Cascade Lakes Highway and offers stunning views of Mt. Bachelor, Broken Top, South Sister, and the surrounding high desert landscape. The lake’s name is fitting for how the water sparkles in the sunlight. Turn left off of Cascade Lakes Highway and drive for a few miles on a gravel road to park and gain access to the popular boat ramp. There is also a restroom accessible near the parking and hiking trailhead.
We had already given our Intec Inflatable Kayak two test-runs on the Deschutes River in town and found it semi-difficult to paddle with two adults and one child. Since we had the SUP with us, we were going to divide up the weight and see how it went. I rode with our daughter in the kayak and we took off! The water was calm to start but once we reached the center of the lake we hit a slight headwind. Renee took off carrying a lighter load and I had to continue paddling hard to keep up. My daughter even pitched-in to help paddle which was awesome! We practiced synchronizing our paddle strokes until she quickly became tired.
Sparks Lake is longer than we expected lengthening South once you get out in the middle of the water. We traveled about halfway down then turned around to come back and discovered a channel to the East-end of the lake. The formation of the rock and slight current pulled us in and we drifted through with amazement and big smiles. We pulled off to the side to walk around and soak in the unique scenery. With the Cascade Mountain range in view over the rocks and crystal blue/green water, we were so excited to be experiencing the outdoors together. I couldn’t believe the scenery. It was as stunning as Maui and could have been mistaken without the mountains in the background. We were getting tired and hungry after camping the night before, so we returned to the car knowing we’d be back soon enough.
On our second trip out a week later we took more time to explore further South. We saw several camp sites, islands, and coves that would be fun to pack gear out to and spend a night in the serene landscape. We also spent more time in the channel swimming and jumping off of rocks into the water. We saw a black snack with a yellow stripe swim right past me before I was going to jump back into the water! He came up on the rocks and took a break sunbathing before finding a crack to slither into.
Overall, we are a huge fan of Sparks Lake. It offers awesome scenery with clear water to swim and paddle in. It also has unique camp spots offering solitude away from campgrounds and the highway. It was also useful trying out the kayak on a lake being able to feel the difference between it and the paddleboard. The kayak was great for storing our mini-dry bag, sandals, toys, water bottle, and snacks, but was significantly slower than the stand-up paddleboard. Over time, we may need to get a hard kayak for the lake, or an inflatable stand-up paddleboard that fills to a higher pressure. With the SUP, we could also get bungee cords to anchor our supplies down. The kayak will be tested soon on the Deschutes rapids and may prove to be a playful raft for the kids to use for floating.