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South Bend Whitewater Rafting, Kayaking & Canoeing

No physical feature better defines The Bend than the river that runs through its heart.

Locals know the St. Joseph River as an outdoor playground. It offers some of the best rafting, kayaking, canoeing, rowing and fishing in the region. Here are some of the best ways to experience the river with paddle in hand.

East Race Waterway

At one time abandoned and filled in, the East Race Waterway in downtown South Bend is now one of our top attractions. Visitors can get an adrenaline rush while splashing down its Class 2 rapids, experiencing twists, turns and drops. The East Race opens June 1 through early September. Hours are noon-5 p.m. Saturdays and noon-4 p.m. Sundays.

Canoe and Kayak Rental at St. Patrick's County Park

Canoe and kayak rental for trips in the St. Joseph River are available 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday-Sunday at St. Patrick's County Park from May 24 to Oct. 6 then Saturdays from Oct. 6-26. There are a couple trips from which you can choose: 

  • Short trip: Keller Park to St. Patrick's County Park or St. Patrick's County Park to the Niles (Mich.) dam. Both are approximately four miles. 
  • Long trip: Keller Park to the Niles Dame (approximately 10 miles). 

Prices vary depending on the length of trip and the type of vessel. Stand-up paddleboards are also available for the short trip only on Saturdays and Sundays. Rental takes place at St. Patrick's County Park and a shuttle is used for trips that launch from Keller Park.

Rental is subject to weather and river conditions. 

Paddling at Ferrettie/Baugo County Park

Head to Osceola and put in at Baugo Bay if you’re looking for another boat launch. You can then follow a creek past islands near Ferrettie/Baugo Creek County Park and into Baugo Bay, which leads to the river. You can also sign up for evening paddles through the St. Joseph County Parks on June 5, July 17 and Aug. 7.

Potato Creek State Park 

This option doesn’t require the river at all.

About 20 minutes southwest of South Bend, Potato Creek State Park is one of our most popular outdoor areas. Its centerpiece is the 327-acre Worster Lake. The park rents kayaks, canoes, rowboats and pedal boats. Your view is likely to consist of dense woods, abundant wildlife and families on the beach.