The Sandy River is a great local swimming spot. Of course being Oregon the water never gets super warm but when the temperatures reach the mid to upper 80’s the Sandy River provides great relief and I have always found that after the tough initial plunge in I get used to the water quickly.
The Sandy River is about a 20 minute drive from Portland. The quickest way to get to the Sandy River is interstate 84, take Exit 18 to Lewis and Clark State Park/Historic Columbia River Highway. A great alternative to I-84 is Marine Drive which hugs the Columbia River, on a clear day you can get great views of Mount Hood on the way. The day of the week you visit and your river pleasure will give you direction on where to park.
Lewis and Clark State Park is your first opportunity to park and provides free parking as such this stretch of the river is always be the most crowded. Typically the only time I park at Lewis and Clark is when I am tubing, in that case, this is a great place to park as you need two cars to shuttle back and forth from your put in. More on Tubing later…
Your first right headed east you can go over a narrow bridge to Depot Park. This park is a City of Troutdale Community park with a nice beach, however this area tends to get very crowded very quickly and has limited parking. The best time to visit this park would be during the week - I would not recommend this park on weekends.
Proceeding east on the Historic Columbia River Highway (past the narrow bridge) there are many turnouts where you can have a little piece of the Sandy (more) to yourself. Be careful of where you park, last summer I noticed new “No Parking” signs. Once you find a suitable place to park, be sure that you have a decent pair of shoes to hike down to the river. Most of the access is higher on the bank and can be slippery.
For tubing, I recommend going with two cars, parking one at Lewis and Clark State Park and putting in at Dabney State Park . If you want to make a day of it, Dabney has a Frisbee golf course that I have not tried yet, but looks really fun. There is a $3 day use fee. In the past I have found it a bit of a bummer to have to pay to enter a state park that you would think our taxes would pay for. In the end I suppose it is a use tax, but at least this park is very nice. There are lots of amenities, a nice beach, trails, the Frisbee golf, and lots of great picnic areas. The other advantage of the day fee and limited parking is that the park is never too crowded, particularly when you consider a healthy number of cars in the lot are parking just to shuttle for tubing. The tube ride is approximately two hours you go over a few minor rapids but it is mostly a nice relaxing float. When you float by keep your eyes out for places you might want to come back to swim if your just looking for a place to take a dip.
Much further up the Sandy is Dodge Park. I have not tubed this stretch of the Sandy yet, but it is my personal goal to do so this summer! Hard to believe but this 14 acre park is actually owned by the City of Portland Water Bureau! Decades ago an old trolley line took hundreds of visitors from Portland to the park for quick get-aways from the city.
The major downsides to the Sandy can be littering, it is really nice to bring a trash bag along to collect a little. It can be very crowded at times, and often there can be unleashed dogs that have inconsiderate owners who don’t control their dogs properly.
The upsides are that it is a great opportunity to connect with the river and cool off, plus there is always great people watching and a fun opportunity to have some random interations with people either floating by if you are on the beach or being a floater.
On the way home I would recommend stopping by McMenamins Edgefield a great place to stop for a handmade brew you can drink outside at the Loading Dock Grill. Be sure to check out the new Ruby’s Spa where the geniuses at McMenamin’s have built a new outdoor heated soaking pool that is very nice. I would not necessarily recommend this in the summer, but maybe a fun preview of an activity for the fall or winter. While there be sure to tell them that your friends at Popina sent you. We sell some of our our one piece bathing suits at Ruby’s Spa.
This just the tip of the iceberg for recreational opportunities on the Sandy River. Go out and explore and create your own favorite place! But this will definitely get you going off on the right foot.
If you would like any personal tips on swimming at the Sandy please do not hesitate to ask me when you visit my Portland Swimwear Shop.