Summer guide: Swimming holes and beaches
We have weeks of summer heat ahead, but thankfully the Pacific Northwest offers a seemingly endless number of rivers, lakes, streams and natural pools to offer a cool reprieve when the mercury rises.
Remember - practice safe swimming if you are hitting any rivers or lakes. Conditions can vary by locations, and the water could hold unseen hazards. Wear a life jacket, and scout out the location should you choose to jump into the water.
Here’s a list of just a few swimming holes and beaches located nearby the Portland metro area:
Collins Beach/Walton Beach (Sauvie Island)
Looking for some sun, sand, and a quick cool-down in the Columbia? Head out to Sauvie Island and visit Collins Beach! You’ll find beach access on the east end of the island, take Reader Road to get there. Visitors will also need to pick up a parking pass for the visit ($10 a day; $30 annual)
Broughton Beach (Portland)
This convenient stop off of Marine Drive offers a beachfront view of the beautiful Columbia River. While it may get buy on a crowded day, Broughton has plenty of space along its sandy beach for you to find a spot. ($5 day-use fee)
Poet's beach (Portland):
This inner city beach is the newest official swimming spot along the Willamette River. Poet's Beach is staffed with lifeguards through the day, and has a swim rope to let families know what area is considered safe for swimming. The Human Access Project brought the idea to the city with the goal of getting more people to swim in the Willamette River.
Oxbow Regional Park (Gresham)
This park offers plenty of access to the Sandy River, which is great for a swim to cool off after hiking one of the many trails through the park. The park is also a popular spot for kayakers and people setting out to float the Sandy. The city has details on river trips on its website. ($5 day-use fee)
Dabney State Recreation Area (Gresham)
Located not too far downriver from Oxbow is the Dabney State Recreation Area. This park offers slower currents in the swim areas - something to consider for parents with small children. There are no pets allowed in the park. ($5 day-use fee)
Moulton Falls (SW Washington)
With swimming holes and shade along the East Fork Lewi River, Moulton Falls is a great stop for people looking to beat the heat. The park can fill up quickly on the weekends, so leave early if you want to ensure a parking spot.
Opal Creek / Three Pools (Elkhorn, east of Salem)
The North Fork Sanitiam River holds several incredible swimming opportunities to those who drive out from the Portland area. The Opal Creek Trail offers a series of waterfalls, swimming opportunities, and some incredibly beautiful scenery. The nearby Three Pools site features some rock outcroppings that allow for cliff-jumping.
Glenn Otto Community Park / Lewis & Clark State Recreation Site (Troutdale)
Located closer to the Sandy River’s confluence with the Columbia, Glenn Otto Community Park and the Lewis & Clark State Recreation Site offer great river access from sandy swimming beaches. These parks are often great pick-up spots for people floating down from Oxbow or Dabney, as they do not require a day-use fee.
Oneonta Gorge Trail (Columbia River Gorge)
If you are venturing further into the Columbia River Gorge for a hike or to visit some of the spectacular waterfalls, the Oneonta Gorge hike is a popular stop for people seeking relief from the heat. After wading through waist-deep water, the gorge trail open up in front of a magnificent waterfall – where it is possible to swim out for a refreshing splash.
Rowland Lake (Columbia River Gorge/White Salmon)
Located farther east in the Gorge off of SR-14 is Rowland Lake, a man-made lake put in during the construction of the Bonneville Dam. The lake is separate from the Columbia and has warmer, calmer waters. While it doesn't have a sandy swimming beach, it does offer cliff jumping opportunities for those looking to cool off after a hike. (Washington Discover Pass or day-use fee required)
Hagg Lake (Gaston)
A popular destination for boaters, Henry Hagg Lake also has some sandy beaches for swimming activities as well. If you are with inexperienced swimmers, be aware that there is an underwater dropoff that can be accessible to people wading into the lake. ( $7 day-use fee)