Sunday July 17, 2011 was looking like a day I would just rather forget. The inaugural launch of THE BIG FLOAT, of which I am the organizer, was only two weeks away and we were having record rainfall in the middle of July. Things were looking BLEAK, I think all of Portland was unsure if summer was ever going to start.
If you were in Portland that day I think Sunday July 17th was demoralizing for a lot of people. Outside of my weather related anxiety from THE BIG FLOAT, I had also reserved a KILLER picnic spot two months in advance at Barton Park on the Clackamas River for what I was hoping would be a nice hot summer day to float, swim and BBQ with my friends.
For times like this you really have to go high level with your thinking.
The KILLER picnic spot, I paid $60 for? Sunk cost.
Would anyone join me for a road trip for sun? Hope so, not sure.
All I knew was that I was not going to let this rainy day defeat my day epic swimming plans, and I needed drastic action. Summertime is serious business to me and I do not accept defeat easily. So I cross referenced Google maps to Accuweather to find the warmest spot I could drive to and swim that was over 85 degrees. I just might have driven to Boise if I had to. Luckilly for me I found a winner on paper: Arlington, Oregon 130 miles east of Portland on I-84 on the Columbia River a two hour drive from Portland.
Sight unseen we loaded up our cars and headed east to Arilington, Oregon and Earl Snell Memorial Park. We were rewarded with a nice hot partly cloudy 86 degree day and a very charming little town to boot with a very well appointed city park.
Dock located on the east side of the park. The South side of the park has a very nice beach. Dogs are not permitted on the South side but are permitted on the east side, there is a very nice grassy area there.
Here Popina owner Pamela and homegirl Peggy are setting up for a Picnic on the east side, dog friendly side of the park.
I got in a little hoops game with some local kids. It was fun to get a little sweat in, plus my team won (and I was wearing flip flops - not too bad for an aging 40+ slacker dude). After our run we all took a dip off the dock about 50 yards from the hoops court, then fired up the BBQ just on the other side of the hoops court. We were only able to find one public BBQ, might not be a bad idea to bring your own littler grill as a back up. The salmon we made was perhaps the tastiest I have ever eaten (just cooked it in tin foil).
Here is our crew who collectively said “NO I will not allow a record rain to ruin my summer vibe!” Nice job ladies, all sporting Popina, at the time of this writing a few of these ladies are single, inquire within for more details. The beautiful woman in the center wearing the hat, my lover Pamela is taken, sorry fellas.
In closing, Earl Snell Memorial Park in Arlington Oregon is well worth the drive if the weather is not what you want in Portland. I would suggest this swimming spot for June and September when the temperatures are likely a little lower in Portland and you want your hot fix to start your summer earlier or extend your summer later. I will be back, hope to see you there.
Dougan Falls Swimming Hole is located in Washougal, Washington, Google reports the trip takes 1 hour and six minutes from Popina Swimwear Portland. Interestingly, the mileage is only about 35 miles, but the drive did take just about that amount of time.
I have lived in Portland twelve years now and I guess I don’t get out as much as I thought because I really had no idea where Washougal was before Pam, Cassis (our dog) and I went to visit Dougan. Turns out Washougal is just past Camas accessed via Highway 14 which hugs the Columbia in Washington State. Google recommends two routes one through Washougal (via Washougal River Road), and one route which stays on Highway 14 longer then heads north. We did a loop taking highway 14 there and taking Washougal River Road home. Next time we plan to take Washougal River Road, we must have passed 4-5 turnouts on the way back to Washougal after visiting Dougan where people were swimming. As Pam pointed out Washougal River Road just might be the Portland Metro’s closest equivalent to the Road to Hana in Maui, where you drive along a windy road hitting awesome swimming hole after awesome swimming hole until you hit the grand mamma of all swimming holes, Seven Sacred Pools. Anyway I digress.
Approaching Dougan Falls
Dougan Falls has a lot going for it very scenic, not too far a drive from Popina in Northeast Portland. Dougan Falls has a waterfall feature which earns this swimming hole points on the style scale. The falls are over 100 feet wide, crashing sideways into a deep narrow hole. There are opportunities to swim in the main pool shown above, below the bridge shown below, or you can even swim right beside the waterfalls where they crash into a narrow pool which is pretty exhilarating, the sound of the waterfalls is engulfing. If you like a swimming hole where you can jump in off rocks, Dougan has some higher rocks by the waterfalls where I saw people jumping in.
Downstream from the swimming hole (under the bridge)
The one draw back is that the water is COLD. I am no lightweight when it comes to sucking it up to swim, this was easily the coldest water I swam in this summer and the temperature was 93 degrees when we went yesterday. That said, I must say kudos to Pam for taking a quick dip because that was pretty tough of her and I would have been a tad disappointed if it was only me and the dog that got in. Also bear in mind that despite the fact that it was very cold, there were a lot of other people swimming. So if you love to swim you will get over it, this spot is just too inviting.
I will go back to Dougan for sure, next time I am going to reserve it for a 100+ degree day, I am going to start my trip from Portland around 11am and I will hit at least one or two other falls on Dougan Falls Road before hitting Dougan Falls which according to the Waterfalls of the Northwest,”….is the final major waterfall along the Washougal River (not counting 8-foot tall Salmon Falls). Picnic tables and pit toilets are provided in the day use area on the far side of the bridge. If you are lucky, and come at the right time of the year, you may see kayakers running the falls.” - that would be something to see. I provided a list of close by waterfalls as well below provided by Waterfalls of the Northwest.
The highlight of the day was two Popina Swimsuit sightings. One gal was wearing a Red Frieda Halter Top and One other gal was wearing an Espresso Retro Sadie!
Finally a short video taken from under the bridge which frames in this 8 out of 10 swimming hole, one points taken off due to the cold temperature (this would hopefully be a 9 on a 100+ degree day). View all my Dougan Falls Swimming Photos.
Clackamas River Tubing is one of my favorite summer activities, so close to Portland, so relaxing, such good people watching. . Below are my tips to having a great day Inner Tubing on the Clackamas River including Directions, Shuttling, Time on the Water, and General Tips, highlighted by a great day on the water with Pam, Danny, JJ, Benjamin, Kobe and Jen.
To get to the “take out” (see shuttling below) you need to start at Carver State Park. Surprisingly it is not so straightforward to find Carver Park on Google. I was able to get pretty close by doing a Google Map Search on Carver, Oregon. Carver Park the “take out” (where you end your tubing ride), is located 19 miles (30 minutes) from the Popina Swimwear Shop in Portland.
When tubing you need a way to get back to your car after your ride. There are really three viable options for shuttling. The Take out is Carver State Park, the Put In is Barton Park which is approximately six miles from Carver.
Option 1 - Take two cars. Go with two cars, park one car at the Carver Park take out.
Danny and JJ at the Carver Parking Lot
2) Bring a Bike along. This is a great option, frankly it seems stupid to take two cars and not carpool unless you have friends who happen to live close to your tubing spot. Danny and JJ live about 10 minutes away so for this trip it made sense. Otherwise I like to meet up in Portland, carpool and bring my bike along. All you have to do is stop at Carver Park to lock up your bike before you tube then continue to Barton Park (the put in). The bike ride is pretty easy overall if you are in decent shape, total ride is approximately six miles, last time I did it it took 20-25 minutes. This option is less attractive on days that are very hot like we saw this past summer of 100+ degrees.
Kobe and Jen at the Carver Parking Lot
3) Option Three is to make a new friend after your tube ride and ask for a ride back to Barton (only the car driver needs to do this). This final method requires a little gumption and requires a high degree of judgment, but can often add a little color to a trip. So if you ever have extra space on your shuttle ride back to Barton, you may consider giving a ride to someone who asks you - good for the karma (but again use judgment).
Time on the Water
You can tube the Clackamas as quickly as 2.5 hours or you can stretch it out for 4+. If you go tubing during the week there is not a fee for parking at Barton Park, there are fees on the weekend. I recommend getting a pump to inflate your tubes. Why kill yourself, at Popina Swimwear we sell tube pumps that plug into your car for $30.
Once you have inflated your tubes basically walk South with your tube until you hit water. Sit on your tube and float.
1) Wear Sunscreen - chemical free sunscreens are available at Popina Swimwear
2) Grab an extra tube for a cooler for drinks.
3) Don’t be in a rush, take your time to take in the many fun swimming spots. Just take the cue from other tubers, if you see a group of people pulled over somewhere, it is probably a decent place to stop.
4) Consider packing a lunch or BBQ at Carver Park after the float. Very fun people watching to see people getting out of the river and Carver Park is a really beautiful shaded park.
5) Do not get separated from your tube on the river. This may seem really obvious, but if you do happen to fall off, swim after your tube.
End of the Ride
You will know you got to the end of the ride when you see the Bridge to Carver Park.
The take out
Deflating Tubes - Danny’s best side
So there you go, everything you need for a great day on the Clack. I am happy to give tubing tips at our store. You are welcome to call the shop as well for advice but please consider that we are running a swimwear shop first, we basically just sell Inner Tubes in Portland for fun. Our advice is free and we are often busy in the summer so please be considerate of our time.
Moulton Falls is a one of a kind kiss ass Swimming Hole located in Yacolt, Washington, which is less than an hours drive from Popina’s Portland Swimwear Boutique in NE Portland. The State of Washington Web Site states that it is “Located at the confluence of the Lewis River and Big Tree Creek, you can see two stunning waterfalls and an arch bridge over three stories high. Boasting volcanic rock formations from early lava flows, historic Indian meeting grounds, and over two miles of scenic hiking, it’s a must see”
Will and Cassis at Moulton Falls
I guess I will have to see the Waterfalls, Indian Meeting Grounds and hiking trails next time, this is the second time I have gone. The first time was with my niece Olivia and my trusted River Dog Cassis on one of the record heat days of mid July (105 I believe was the temperature). Yesterday I went with Popina’s very own Pamela and Cassis for a hearty day of swimwear product testing, actually we only were able to stay for a couple hours, but note to self, next summer, I will go early check out the waterfalls, hiking trails, etc. Yesterday the temperature was just a paultry mid 90’s so the water felt good, but not nearly as refreshing as on my first trip in Mid-July. If the weather was in the 80’s the water might feel cold (but there would probably also be less people). I definately recommend saving this trip for at least a 90 degree day, my sense is that we will be getting these days regularly in the years to come, so you will have your chances.
Cassis the River Dog
The Moulton Falls Swimming Hole is very easy to find, just do a Google Map search on Moulton Falls. From there once you get close you will see a ton of cars parking all around if it is a good hot day. I reccomend going during the week, I went during the week the two times I went and it was packed with people, I can not imagine how busy it would be on the weekend. Of course in the summer, most people can not break away for a swim so the two times I went Moulton Falls was crouded with teen agers, this is a rural local though so most if these children were very polite.
Moulton Falls is probably the closest I have felt like being in a great Hawaii swimming hole without being in Hawaii. The Moulton Falls Swimming Hole is in a bit of a george with walled rocks on either side, every 20 seconds or so you hear a crash from one of the kids jumping in the water from varying heights. On my first trip when it was off the charts crouded there were kids lined up on this bridge below, taking turns to jump off.
It may be a little hard to get a sense of how high this bridge is but I would definitely not jump off, it is high and interspersed with the periodic 20 second crashes of kids jumping in, every five minutes or so there is a collective gasp of some one not hitting the water quite right from the high height. Seems like most people who are regulars have a story of how someone hurt themselves jumping off the bridge.
Summer is right around the corner and if you want to make the most of it you have to grab the summer baton at full speed.Make your lists, schedule your calendar and get in what you can.To get you primed, below are my two favorite Swimming activities around Portland.
As someone who loves to swim in a city surrounded by nature, I find it frustrating that there is not a close-in swimming hole to cool off. My favorite closest spots are Portland’s public pools.There are specific times of the day to lap swim, family swim and lots of special events. Grab your Tankini, hit a lounge chair, read, cool off and take in the chaos. If you have already experienced your neighborhood public pool, maybe venture out and check out a new pool. Our favorites are Grant, Sellwood and Wilson.
River Tubing Portland
Not necessarily for all ages, so you need to be safe, but tubing the river is a great way to spend an afternoon or even a whole day. My favorite spots are not wild, crazy, rides. They are slow, mellow floats. Once you get past the initial chill of the water, on a hot day you quickly forget your initial shock and sink right into your tube. My favorite floats are a mix of a spiritual retreat and Mardi Gras party. At times, a mellow affair, where you can fully relax, take in nature and enjoy the water-level perspective provided by your tube. Other times, people-watching your fellow tubers both on the shore and on the river banks trumps the beautiful surroundings. You can typically purchase an inner tube at a tire shop for the pure old school experience which runs about $15. But I recommend purchasing a new inner tube-shaped float, which costs $48 at Popina (consider it an investment). The advantage of new tubes is that they are designed for quick inflation and deflation and do not need to be blown up at a gas station.My favorite rivers to tube are the Sandy River and the Clackamas River.It is a good idea to go with two cars so you can shuttle back and forth from the put-in.
Willamette Riverkeeper is the Advocate for the River of Portland the Willamette. Popina Swim Wear is proud to be a corporate partner of Willamette Riverkeeper and looks forward to continued work to clean up the Willamette so one day it will be a safe place for people of PDX to go swimming.
Check out the Willamette Riverkeeper web site to see the different programs they are working on including Habitat Restoration and the grand daddy of clean ups the Portland Superfund designation - how embarrassing right? Let’s clean up our River Now!
Is it so crazy to think that the people of Portland should have a river within city limits to go swimming? The Sandy River is great for tubing and swimming, so is the Clackamas River, but both of these Rivers are a 25+ minute drive from downtown Portland. Consider the great atmosphere on the River and getting out of the River after tubing or swimming at a safe spot like the Sandy or the Clack. Now imagine going for a float, maybe putting in at Sellwood or Willamette Park and getting out downtown at the Salmon Springs Fountain. Damn Straight, that would be fun.
For the last couple of years I have parparticipated in my favorite Portland event the Portland Challenge where Jay Boss Rubin leads a group of River Lovers on a swim across the Willamette. When I have told people about the event I get disproportionate share of “you are crazy”, “that is disgusting”, etc. The simple powerful act to bring attention to the idea that we should not be crazy to think that swimming in the Willamette is possible is amazing and I really hope that Jay Boss Rubin kicks this event up again next year!
At Popina you can become a member of Willamette Riverkeeper by simply adding a membership to your purchase. But do not wait, become a basic member today for $35 and help be a part of rescuing the Willamette and reclaiming it as a recreational gem for our city.
Swimming in Portland, Oregon is an important activity in the summer. Temperatures rise and people want to cool down, pretty simple. As green as a place that Portland is I find it a little lame that we can not even swim in the Willamette River, which flows right through the middle of town, without worrying about health risks. I am hopeful that with the completion of Big Pipe project that we will be able swim, float and recreate in the Willamette River in the future without worrying about e-coli. Let’s face it we all love livability in Portland, but in my mind having a river to swim in close to downtown is the measure of a towns livability in the summer time. When that day happens you can bet that Portland’s fun meter will rise 5 - 10 notches. So until that magic day I have compiled a short list (in no particular order) of suggestions for places to cool off and take a dip in PDX.
1) Sandy River - about 20 minutes from downtown Portland. Great natural area, crowded on the weekends but great for people watching.
2) Portland Public Pools - these pools are very family oriented, but even if you don’t have kids or a family it is unbelievable fun. Every day is like the pool party at Caddyshack. Kids are having a ball with floats, there are plenty of lounge chairs to take in the scene and chill. My favorites are Grant Pool, Sellwood Pool and Wilson Pool - all great outdoor pools.
3) Trillium Lake - if you really want to experience the outdoors take an hour and a half drive up to Mt. Hood and Trillium Lake. How about going for a swim and taking in a view of Mt. Hood?
Have suggestions for your favorite please let me know and contribute!
In the meantime why not help improve the Williamette River for Swimming check out Willamette River Keeper whose goal is to enable the Willamette to function more naturally, with cold, clean water, and provide healthy habitat for fish, wildlife and people!
Chemical Free Sun Tan Lotion is featured at Popina Swim Portland’s Bathing Suit Boutique. All of the sun screens we offer are personally tested by Popina’s Designer, Pamela Levenson who has sensitive skin that is prone to rash in the sun. This discomfort has given Pamela the desire to seek out great chemical free tanning products that provide protection and are skin friendly. The additional benefit of our chemical free lotions is that they are great to use for your tropical trip for snorkeling or scuba diving, our products are safe for sensitive coral ecosystems.
Our featured sun screens are all made in the USA. Absolutely Natural, Badger Balm and Mexitan. We have the widest selection of chemical free sun tan lotions in Portland, Oregon!
Summer never really feels like it has arrived until you can jump in the pool and swim. Right down the street from Popina Swim & Sport is the ultimate community pool, Grant Pool. Grant Pool is open to the public and is adjacent to Grant High School in Northeast Portland. The City of Portland offers swim lessons for children lead by pool lifeguards, many who are Grant High School students. Be sure to check the swim schedule before you go to be sure it is an appropriate time to go for what you are looking to do. Depending on the time of day there is anywhere from 1-6 lanes of lap swimming open if you are looking for a work out. The lanes can get crowded some times and I have definitely experienced some lane range, from swimmers who are either too slow or too fast for others in a shared lane, but if you time it right (a good time to go is close to the end of a lap swimming session) the lanes are less crowded, realistically best you can ever hope for is sharing a lap swimming lane with just one person. My best recommendation is to allow time to chill out in a lounge chair with a book and wait till a lane thins out a bit. It seems like an unwritten law that everyone seems to get the idea to swim at the same time you do, so let them go first!
Every day has the fun party quality of the employee pool hour from Caddyshack where kids can bring their favorite floatation device, participate in a swim lesson, go down the slide and sometimes even jump off the lifeguard chair.
Save some room for a slushy from the concession stand. The opening day for Grant Pool is June 16!
General Admission Fees
$3.25 - age 18 & up
$2.00 - age 3-17
Free - age 2 & under (with parent)
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.