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Portland Swimming Holes

Here in Portland, we do love our urbanFountains such as Jamison Square.  But, Kristin is looking for your suggestions on swimming holes:

I have very fond summertime memories of swimming in a lake near my childhood home in Montana, and want to give my kids the same type of experience. Do any mamas have great recommendations about swimming holes around Portland?


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i, too, have fond memories of rivers and lakes from my childhood!

about 45 minutes away from portland is Lewisville Park, on the lewis river, in battle ground washington. we love it there! during the week it is very quiet there too, for those with a flexible schedule.

battle ground lake is nice too, as is the lake in vancouver, off the I-5, and a little closer than BG, but i cannot remember the name of it! it is more out in the open/urban feeling than BG lake, which is surrounded by trees and trails.

blue lake in gresham is nice as well, and sauvie island has several swimming beaches we enjoy, but i always feel mixed about the columbia river water....and the beach is often trashed, and crowded, especially on weekends.

the sandy river in oxbow park is really beautiful, but more for wading/splashing than swimming. still lovely though!

i hope to glean new swimming hole ideas from responses to your post too!

this may or may not help, but i did see a book at powell's once called "swimming holes in oregon" or something like that.
i remember going to a swimming hole somewhere in clackamas, clackamas river? mciver park? carver park? does anyone know about those? i was with someone and we pulled off the road, no markings, so i've never been able to find it again, but it was one of the best i'd been to...though this was a loooong time ago....

Metro's Blue Lake is a close drive to Portland (and accessible by TriMet) and it also has a water play area. More info:


I almost don't want to share this location because it feels like a hidden treasure to our family, but Eagle Fern Park near Estacada is wonderful. There is plenty of shade on the banks of the creek and the water is shallow in most places so it's good for wading and catching crawfish. There are a few good swimming holes if you actually want to swim, but overall it just feels really safe and relaxing with young children.


I once farted in blue lake when I was a kid. So I wouldn't let anyone I know swim in there. There is a huge epidemic of people and children farting in the lake. All this farting is going to cause an explosive situation. It is essencially a ticking timebomb of natural fart gases waiting for a ciggarette to be tossed in the wrong place. KABOOM!!!

I like a spot in Vernonia, OR (near Banks) where they've dammed off a spot in the river for swimmers to paddle about with tubes and then an even shallower spot for the littlest ones to splash/wade in. Good shade and next to a park with a play structure and a few picnic tables. They have a life guard on duty and toilets. Right off the main road and surely some Vernonian could point you there. We take all our water toys and snacks and hang out a good while. Free.

where is a good place to catch crawdads with a trap? near portland

whereis a good place to catch crayfish with a trap near portland?

Timothy Lake is a great place to catch crawfish

timothy lake is great for camping, but the water is a sesspool. I got boils from swimming there even when I was a kid like ten years ago.

Timothy Lake is beautiful! I don't know what "Bob" the last post is talking about. We just got back from there yesterday. The water is crystal clear and fabulous. There were loads of crawdads too.

The swimming holes of oregon book is a real book. It is no longer in print and have been looking for a reasonably priced copy. I have found copies on amazon but they are going for around $50 and I can't bring myself to pay that much!

wagon wheel on the malalla right off 213, river bend park in mylo mc giver, waushougal rec. area has waterfalls you can jump off- opal creak and lake creek both have natural water-slide-it goes on and on- these are just places ive gone this summer- just a search engine away....

lol, i bought the book on amazon for 50 last year, its worth every penny they do have them for much less now, buck lake-out the 224 about an hr from ptown-1/2 mile walk to blue hued bliss and no crowds:):

hagg lake is about 45 min west of portland, out off hwy-26. real pretty, lots of different nooks you can find where there aren't people. theres also a nice trail that goes all the way around the lake. and you can rent paddle boats, there are a couple rope swings, a little island in the middle thats fun to explore, boating, they fill the lake with fish every year too. and you can find spots with grills and picnic tables too. thats the lake i remember going to as a child

i took a piss in blue lake once

Spent a great morning at the Washougal River wading and even diving off the rocks on the far bank. Lots of kids and their families beating the 90+ heat but not too crowded until 11am on a Thursday.

Thanks so much, "your mom" for your enlightening confession. Bored?

Well this has been some enlightening and entertaining reading. Hagg lake is disgusting and I wouldnt put my dog in the columbia but I have been to nearly all the other spots spoken of and they are all nice. Also, my friend suggested Dodge park, she camped there and said its a great swimmins spot. I love spruce run on the Nehalem off 26 about an hour west of pdx.

I'm missing Roslyn Lake (man made), just outside of Sandy, OR. It was owned and operated by PGE and a great place for families. They had a small resort where you could rent paddle boats, inner tubes, etc. Unfortunately they drained the thing as it was a dam that was no longer needed. It was part of the Bull Run watershed and the water was clean and cold, but because the lake was shallow, it would warm up to a tolerable temp in the summer. So . . . what does all of this mean? Well, if you haven't ever been there, sorry you missed out, but does anyone know of anything similar?

Our swim spot is a bit of a haul from Portland, but totally worth it if you can spend the day. It's called Yale Lake and it's on the Lewis River in Washington. It's a little over an hour drive north on I-5 and there is plenty of shade, sun, and clean water for swimming.

Well, I bought that out-of-print book that someone mentioned Powells had titled "Oregon Swimming Holes" for a whopping $55! That's how much I love swimming holes. The book is tattered and doesn't have very good maps but it has directions to loads of swimming holes. I happened on a great hole on the Wilson river on the way to Pacific Seafood at the coast. It was heavenly. Also, not marked on the road. Actually, it was heading E on our way back to Portland.

For science class we went and tested the Columbia River for pollution by actually taking samples by I5 bridge. It is not polluted. The Willamette on the other hand....

Great info, thanks everyone!

Vicki - would you be open to letting me buy you a coffee so I could look over your Swimming Holes book?

Burt - Blue lake is similar, in that you can rent a paddle boat, there's a snack bar, a "spray ground" for kids, lots of park area. There's a small wading area for kids, though I think they have to be at least 6. For us, who have a 3 year old, this isn't ideal, since there is no other shallow "beach" area for her, even though she has known for 2 years not to poop in the water, but the paddle boats are still fun to do, and she can go in with a life vest.

Can anyone help me find some nice swimming areas near Forest Grove, OR. We will be traveling mid july and the gentleman whos house we rented said the Wilson River has a few swimming holes nearby but to be very careful. It makes me a little nervous with 5 children all under 9. We will be willing to drive and any other helpful ideas to do while we are visiting for the week would be great.

Can someone recommend a swimming hole that is dog friendly (off the leash to actually enjoy the swim) and near Portland (30 min or less)?

sandy river delta or thousand acres as some call it google it you will be amazed 140 acres of trails in between sandy and columbia rivers going togay

karyn- Henry's hagg lake is a good spot to go that is closes to forest grove!!

The best swimming hole i have seen for years is in clackamas at metzler park. Dog friendly by leash only. They have a great campgroung and play area for kids. About 45 min. from Beaverton. Aprox. 7 miles past Milo Mciver Park.

This is the post that spawned the idea that lead to the notion that became the Oregon's Swimming Holes iPhone App. It took me over a year but I have recently released Relan Colley's original field guide and it is available in the App Store. Search for "Oregon's Swimming Holes" or you can find a link to download from https://www.facebook.com/OregonsSwimmingHoles. If the UrbanMama's want to write a review I would be happy to pass on a download code.

The app looks awesome! I would most definitely write a review for the code.

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