If you don’t look, you might miss it. But for those who catch a glimpse of Central Oregon’s Crooked River Gorge as they drive over, it’s a sight not soon forgotten.
Dropping up to 500 feet, the basalt-lined canyon was carved out by volcanic eruptions and rivers more than a million years ago, a chasm that appears out of nowhere on the relatively flat road leading from Portland, Oregon, to the state’s outdoor Mecca, Bend.
The expanse has inspired its share of knee-shaking, height-induced panic attacks, but for one Oregon daredevil and his crew of adrenaline junkies it has inspired something entirely different: a business opportunity.
In late July, Bend resident James Scott debuted Central Oregon Bungee Adventures (COBA), a commercial bungee jump operation based on the Crooked River Gorge — and the highest of its kind in North America.
“It’s the perfect spot for an extreme sport like bungee jumping,” explains the 42-year-old. “We have world-class mountain biking and rock climbing, a river and a great ski mountain, plus a lot of professional outdoors athletes living this every day. We want to make Bend the adventure capital of North America.”
Though several companies have proposed bungee jumping at the location in the past, COBA is the first to operate commercially in the gorge. While the bridge that COBA operates off of is closed to vehicle traffic, it is also a historical monument, which means that bungees cannot be physically attached to the bridge’s frame.
However, where other operations saw a roadblock, Scott saw an opportunity. Using the skills he acquired as a power lineman working on high-voltage wire rigging, he modified an old Mitsubishi Fuso 4×4 truck, building a customized jumping rig complete with an “overbuilt” C-channel structured steel-enforced jumping pad on the bed, tested to 7,500 pounds.
Since it wasn’t technically attached to the bridge and could be driven on and off site every day, the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department granted COBA the first-ever two-year pilot permit for bungee in the gorge.
While Scott admits he isn’t totally comfortable making the claim that his operation is the highest commercial bungee jumping available in North America, his jump off the 295-foot Crooked River High Bridge allows for a 250-foot free fall. According to Bungee.com, the previous highest jumping operation in North America was located in Amboy, Washington, and measured 200 feet.
And though bungee jumping at Colorado’s Royal Gorge Bridge is often considered the highest bungee location in the world, it’s open for invited guests only one week a year, making it virtually off limits to the general paying public.
In contrast, COBA lets adrenaline seekers jump for $100. For those looking to duplicate the thrill, second jumps and beyond cost just $50 a pop for the rest of the jumping season. Because of Central Oregon’s relatively even-keeled climate, COBA will operate through October with plans to start up again the following May.
Scott even says that winter jumps during the holidays could be an option if enough people are interested.
So far, Scott says, his clientele has ranged anywhere from a 14-year-old girl to professional adrenaline athletes like Zach Carbo (video above) to a 71-year-old retired military veteran.
“What I do love about bungee jumping is that you get to share the thrill of adventure sports with people who might not have the time to invest in doing 200 BASE jumps or spend the time to get into wingsuit flying,” says Scott. “We're capable of giving people that rush without the stressful time commitment.”
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