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As the temperature soars this summer we want to make sure you’re well prepared, and staying refreshed is certainly going to be the key! Below is a list of some of the best local spots to cool off. Granted, not all of them are actually within the state bounds of Oregon, with a few just on the northern side of the Columbia, but we know they're worth crossing over into Washington for. Some of them you may already know about, others may be new to you, and all of them are amazing!
Before heading out though, remember that these swimming holes are sacred to many and proper etiquette and ethical behavior are crucial to keeping them open to the public for years to come. Stay safe, be courteous, and have fun!
- Salmon Falls (deep and chilly waters welcome one of the state's best cliff jumping spots)
- Brice Creek (deep emerald pools shaded by tall conifers)
- Rowland Lake (big sun with the warmest waters)
- Lewis + Clark State Recreation Site (doesn’t get much closer if you’re from PDX)
- Fall Creek (intimate pools, lush forest, and good access from Eugene)
- Collins Beach (you can’t beat 3 miles of continuous beach)
- Opal Creek Trail (Opal Pool… enough said)
- Elephant Rock (rocky beach, jumping spot, one of the Chetco's finest)
- Three Pools (arguably the king of swimming holes, but heavily impacted by crowds; consider an alternative)
- Ritter Road (A small cliff and a lot of solitude on the Middle Fork of the John Day River)
- The Narrows (Clackamas River’s mini basalt gorge)
- Footbridge Day-use Area (cliff jumping, beach, fishing… need anything else?)
- Salmon Creek Falls (a long, calm stretch of the otherwise wild Salmon Creek near Oakridge)
- Alder Flats (beat the heat and the crowds)
- High Rocks (rivers don’t move much slower than here, but expect company)
- Wilson River, Keenig Creek (who knew the Wilson River was so incredible?)
- Niagara County Park (North Santiam's best swimming spot)
- North Fork Middle Fork Wilamette River (plenty of opportunities just out of Westfir)
- Cascadia State Park (South Santiam River's classic tubing and swimming spot)
- Deschutes River State Recreation Area (the warmest waters in the state make the Deschutes spectacular)
- Youngs River Falls (this riverside beach outside Astoria won't disappoint)
- Dead Indian Creek (small waterfall and pool in the Rogue River-Siskyou National Forest)
- Meadow Camp (cold water and a big plunge)
- Snyder Bridge, Idanha (deep North Santiam pools east of Detroit Lake with easy access)
- The Spit + Hood River Event Site (Hood River's sandy playground)
- Hood River Waterfront Park (Hood River's best spot for kids)
- Three Bears Recreation Site (cool pools along the Molalla River)
- Big Eddy Picnic Area (another Clackamas River classic)
- Cedar Butte Road Bridge (don't jump from the bridge over the Wilson River, but it's adjacent cliffs are perfect)
- Wildwood Falls (giant pool at the base of the 15-foot falls surrounded by basalt cliffs)
Caution! Be Safe
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 understand the risks involved with serious injury and the logistical challenges of evacuation from the water so you can make safe decisions.
Leave No Trace
The Forest Service and other local management agencies are considering closing access to many of these sensitive locations due to excessive trampling of plants, large amounts of garbage, cans and glass bottles, human waste, and toilet paper left behind. They simply do not have the staff or the funding to attend to these issues. If you want to continue enjoying these areas, pack out all garbage and toilet paper and dispose of it properly, use vault toilets and other restroom facilities when provided, and stay on established paths. Using these areas responsibly will increase the chance that people can continue to enjoy them.
The above list is a good place to start your research on Oregon's swimming holes, but the list of freshwater locales to cool off doesn't end here. Discover more great swimming holes, along with hikes, backpacking trips, and more, in the onX Backcountry GPS app.
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