Willamette River Beaches in Portland - Come on in!
The Big Pipe project has helped to restore the Willamette River and make it safe and suitable for swimming. According to Oregon DEQ, swimming in the Willamette downtown is perfectly safe, when Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) conditions are not present. CSOs have been drastically reduced now that the Big Pipe has been completed. Come on in, the water is great!
There’s a new way to get into and enjoy the Willamette River. Via a new pathway that leads to a renewed beach beneath the Marquam Bridge on the west bank.
Nicknamed "Poet's Beach", it can be reached via a newly cut path through riprack rock. Along the path are stones engraved with children’s poems that speak for the Willamette River. Also inscribed are native Chinook words provided by the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, who have honored the river since time immemorial. The engraving work was done by Peter Attila Andrusko of Written In Stone Productions.
The “Poet’s Beach” project is a collaborative effort between the Human Access Project, Honoring Our Rivers, Willamette Partnership, and Flowing Solutions. Approval for the project was received from the US Army Corp of Engineers, Department of State Lands, and Portland Parks and Recreation. The work has been funded by Human Access Project, Oregon Wildlife, Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, Wildwood | Mahonia, and NW Natural.
KOIN Feature on Poet's Beach
Tom McCall Bowl Beach
The beach area at the grass bowl at Tom McCall Waterfront Park provides lots of river access. HAP has created an event called UnRock the Bowl in which riprap rocks are picked up and moved back up the bank where they belong. This creates a smooth beach for humans who want to get into their river. A bunch of volunteers join us every year in this "unrockin'" community effort. There's a rock for every size and every age. Join us!
Audrey McCall Beach
Located on the east side of the Willamette just south of Hawthorne Bridge is a beach named after Audrey McCall (wife of late Governor Tom McCall). Over a four year period HAP removed 19 tons of concrete, slowly but surely revealing a sandy beach.
HAP needed to get permission from eight separate agencies simply to remove concrete chunks. In the end permission was given with the stipulation that no heavy mechanized equipment was used. HAP organized volunteers (and partnered with Multnomah County inmate work crews) to remove concrete, glass and debris from the riverbank.
Audrey McCall Beach is a natural cove is an easy place to get into the river. You can also enter the water from the dock where kayakers, canoes and standup paddleboards often launch.
In 2016 Human Access Project successfully advocated for $300,000 of funding for planning around creating an official public beach at this site.
HAP Ringleader Willie gives swimming lesson at Audrey McCall Beach
Other Portland swimming areas
Sellwood Park (SE 7th and Miller St. near Sellwood Bridge)
Elk Rock Island Park (SE 19th and Sparrow St. in Milwaukie)
George Rogers Park (Lake Oswego)
Cathedral Park (N Edison St. and Pittsburg Ave. in St. John's, north of Portland)
Broughton Beach (Marine Drive on Columbia River)
Sauvie Island (north of Portland, largest island along the Columbia River)
Walton Beach (family friendly)
Collins Beach (clothing optional)
What is your favorite Willamette River beach? Send your own personal choice with description and photos and we will add it to the website. Hit us up at email@example.com