With so much rain nine months out of the year, locals in the Portland metro area have plenty to complain about during the long winters, but they also enjoy three months of crystal clear blue skies along with arguably one of the best summer environments anywhere! Why? Those nine months of rain create an ecosystem where water pours in every direction... rivers, creeks, ponds, pools, waterfalls, and this makes for some of the best summer swimming and cliff jumping conditions in the country. To add onto that, the volcanic bedrock has left narrow chutes and deep pools that are perfect for taking a dive, and the banks of the Willamette and Columbia River give way with broad, sandy beaches sprinkled throughout the region. And, luckily, after decades of activism, clean-up, and sewer/stormwater system upgrades, the Willamette River is finally safe for use.
For our list, we've tried to provide a myriad of options ranging from right in the middle of downtown Portland to locations that are a good 45 minutes away that are more difficult to access.
And, no matter where you end up heading to cool off, remember to be safe and Leave No Trace.
Portland and the Willamette River:
Columbia River Gorge:
The Forest Service, the City of Portland, and other land management agencies have considered closing access to some of these sensitive locations due to excessive trampling of plants, large amounts of garbage, cans and glass bottles, and graffiti. These agencies simply do not have the staff or the funding to attend to these issues, nor should it be their responsibility. If you want to continue enjoying these areas, pack out all garbage, cans and bottles, and dispose of them properly. Respect these areas and others using them. Using these areas responsibly will increase the chance that people can continue to enjoy them in the future.
Swimming holes and cliff jumping can be extremely dangerous and unpredictable outdoor activities that pose significant risks regarding personal safety. Changing water levels, unseen rocks, and river bottoms that have shifted with currents and seasonal weather can turn a well-known jumping area into a serious hazard. Prior to engaging in these activities, extensively scout the current conditions, and make sure you understand the risks involved with serious injury and the logistical challenges of evacuation from the water so you can make safe decisions.