Given Portland's rainy reputation, you might assume that swimming is to Oregon as skiing is to, say…Florida. And for much of the year, you wouldn’t be far off. Though wet weather is rather common here, when the sun does shine, Oregon is home to some of the most picturesque spots in the country. And what better way to enjoy a scene than to immerse yourself in it… literally. Oregon is home to some breath-taking swimming spots. To help you pick one, we’ve gathered the 7 where you can make the most of your sunny day, and still be back in Portland in time for dinner.
Punch Bowl Falls
It’s tantalizing to hike the Columbia Gorge all those months and never jump in. Finally, summer comes and makes Punch Bowl swimmable. This is literally a bowl, carved by a 36-foot waterfall, and is reached after hiking two miles through Eagle Creek Trail, one of the most beautiful hikes in the Columbia Gorge.
Oxbow Regional Park
Just 45 minutes outside Portland, Oxbow’s swimming takes place in the Sandy River Gorge. Long sandy beaches here, with slowly flowing water lined with tall-standing Doug Fir trees. There’s also 15 miles of trails through ancient forest, if you want to work up a sweat before jumping in.
Caveat: this is in Washington, not Oregon, but it being within a 90-minute drive (and picture-perfect gorgeous) was reason enough to include it here. However, we post this out of fear of upsetting all who covet the still-intact (though fading) privacy of this spot. This deep and spacious area of the river makes for perfect swimming, though you’ll want to bring a chair for the rocky beach. It may be tricky to find - once you drive through Camas, WA, take Washougal River Rd. and pull over at Mile Marker 7 (you should see cars here already). Descend the trail and voila!
We’d be remiss to write an article on Oregon’s swimming spots and leave out Collins Beach, the mile-long, partly clothing-optional (gasp!) stretch of beach on Sauvie Island. It’s a beautiful drive over, and the beach has plenty of sandy space to put up chairs or toss the frisbee. Be prepared that part of the beach is clothing-optional - it’s secluded enough, and also very easy-going if you choose to hang there.
Peg Leg Falls
Peg Leg is a pristine area for a more private swimming experience. It’s not easy to get to, which may deter visitors, but that’s no problem for you - drive just past Bagby Hot Springs campground, staying on the same road, and park at the ‘Road Closed’ sign; from there, a trail will lead you to the falls. Once you’re done, head to the hot springs for a glorious soak in hot natural spring water.
Opal Creek Wilderness
Opal Creek Wilderness is a visual gem. The deep, emerald waters and exposed basalt make this an ideal—though potentially crowded—spot for swimming. Please note, though, that water levels do change, and you’ll want to heavily scout the area before jumping from high places.
*Featured Image Source: Redfishingboat (Mick O) via Flickr under Creative Commons
All that swimming got you thirsty? The city's plentiful craft breweries should help you out.