Fill your warm-weather months with adventure. Leave the chlorine-filled pools for the winter and head out to nearby sandy spots where you can claim you spot and splash in nature all day free of charge. Grab the kids, some towels and a picnic lunch, we’ve rounded up the best lakes and rivers to cool off in near Portland. Read on for more!
photo: Michael Barton via flickr
For a classic beach day without the drive to the coast, Walton Beach on Sauvie Island is the ticket. Spend a day on the river watching for eagles, counting cargo ships, and splashing the sand away. It’s a popular spot that doesn’t usually feel too crowded—there’s still plenty of room to fly a kite! Keep in mind that it’s still 9 miles once you get to the island, and roads can be busy on sunny weekends. A $10 daily parking pass is available at the Cracker Barrel Store right off the bridge to the island.
(If you’ve heard rumors of a nude beach, they’re true: Collins Beach is also at the north end of the island, but it’s much further north—there’s no risk of accidentally ending up there if you don’t want to.)
38378-38798 NW Reeder Rd.
photo: rh via yelp
Decades ago you might never have thought to swim in the Willamette, but it’s been cleaned up a LOT and is now just fine for water fun. One of the closest access points is the Sellwood Riverfront. The beach is more of a pebble-sand thing, and you might have to share it with some pooches, but for a quick afternoon dip’n’splash, it can’t be beat.
SE Spokane St at Oaks Pkwy.
Oxbow Regional Park
On the banks of the Sandy River, Oxbow has plenty of sandy areas to enjoy. Because of the wide swaths of beach and the calm, shallow river, it’s a great choice for kids who want to play and splash. Combine a trip with some of the trails through the nearby forest, or cast off your kayak for a float. No dogs allowed, day use fee is $5.
3010 SE Oxbow Pkwy.
photo: denise via yelp
George Rogers Park
This wide Lake Oswego beach on the Willamette River keeps very popular with families on the hottest days of the year. While it’s not huge, there’s plenty of space to fit in, and the nearby park with amenities like a playground, restrooms, picnic areas, and sports fields means there’s something for everyone.
611 S State St.
Lake Oswego, OR
Dabney State Park
Downriver from Oxbow, Dabney makes a fun day trip with kids. Sand dunes, clean water, and a small river offshoot that makes for fun explorations with the little ones. Because it’s such a calm spot on the river, it’s very popular to launch inner tubes from, and can get crowded on a hot summer day. But you can always escape to the rest of the park, with an old orchard, ponds, disc golf, and forest hikes waiting. $5 day use fee.
30174 E Historic Columbia River Hwy.
photo: Andrew Dawes via yelp
Henry Hagg Lake/Scoggins Valley Park
A man-made lake with lots of beaches to choose from, Henry Hagg is surprisingly big, and the water is pleasantly warm! Tucked outside of town on the west side, it’s a beautiful area. The beaches are well-used and offer grills and boat ramps, as the lake is a popular boating destination. If your first beach choice is too crowded, you can drive around the lake until you locate your perfect spot. $7 entrance fee
50250 SW Scoggins Valley Rd.
Located off Marine Drive in the north of Portland, this popular beach offers unparalleled access to the Columbia River as jets fly by overhead. The beach may fill up with families on hot days, but as it stretches 1.3 miles, there’s plenty of space to share. It makes an excellent option for an easy, nearby day at the beach. $5 day use fee.
4356 NE Marine Dr.
Their sandy spots are a bit smaller, and no kids under 5 are allowed in the waters, so these places are not quite top picks but still great for other reasons.
photo: yiling via yelp
Blue Lake Regional Park
A beautiful vibrant lake popular with the whole family! Explore the wetlands, reserve a picnic shelter, rent a paddleboat, or play on the sports fields. While the littlest can’t swim in the lake, they can enjoy the nature discovery garden or play in the gushing, dumping, spraying, splash pad. $5 day use fee.
21224 NE Blue Lake Road
Battle Ground Lake State Park
Nestled amid a Washington state forest, Battle Ground Lake is a bit colder than it’s river counterparts, but beautiful. It’s surrounded by trees, picnic spots, restrooms, a few hiking trails, and you can even fish for trout in the lake! Requires Washington Discover Pass ($11.50/day, $35/annual).
18002 N.E. 249th St.
Battle Ground, WA