To build visibility and awareness of the Willamette River's revival, HAP formed a swim team in 2012 – the River Huggers. In short, it’s a public advocacy swim group. All intermediate level swimmers are welcome and you should be able to swim a mile in a pool in 45 minutes without stopping.

The River Hugger Swim Team swims June 15 until September 30. 

For the 2021 season swims will start with swims Monday-Friday 7:00 for the month of June.  Starting in July a second am at 7:45am and a Saturday swim at 9am.  The morning swims cross the Willamette River and back; advanced swimmers are welcome to take a second lap.  The Saturday swim will alternate between swimming to the Morrision Bridge and back and the OMSI sub and back.

Covid protocols - being outside masks will not be required.  We will start the season by limiting groups to 25 but will adjust up or down and other procedures based on the most up to date CDC and State of Oregon guidelines.

The Huggers meet at the Station 21 Fire House on the Eastside Esplanade, near Hawthorne Bridge on time for a mandatory safety talk before swimming. It takes 25-30 minutes to swim across to the west side and back, 1/4 mile each direction.


River Huggers is not a competitive swim group, it’s a fun, intermediate level swim. 

We swim together as a pod to draw attention and create public awareness that it is safe to swim in the Willamette River. Safety paddlers accompany the group. Each swim is non refundable and costs $5. Whistles, swim buoys, goggles and bright caps are safety requirements. Ear plugs are not permitted to facilitate better hearing of any warnings from other swimmers or safety paddlers.

All first time participants must complete a chaperoned Angel Swim on their first swim with the team. The fee for first time River Huggers is $15, which includes the Angel Swimmer support, a River Hugger cap, and the use of a swim safety buoy if you don’t have one.  The first time swimmers will be given a loaner pink cap to distinguish first time swimmers for safety.  After your first swim please exchange the pink "Newbie" cap for the team green Hugger cap.


All swimmers are required to sign a WAIVER and watch the SAFETY VIDEO.

Some people feel more comfortable in a wet suit, but many swimmers wear just a swimsuit. Fins can be helpful and are encouraged if you’re concerned about being too slow for the group. Swim buoy bags can tote your belongings and they make you more visible. Plus, they serve as a personal float if you need to rest for a few moments. We have these for sale on our website when you register to swim.




Follow us on Facebook at Human Access Project River Huggers swim team.  We usually post our pre-swim picture for each day.  This year especially there may be last minute changes due to weather, water conditions or state COVID-19 regulations and the River Hugger Facebook Page will be kept updated. 


In July of 2018, a Mayoral proclamation was issued approving the “HAP River Huggers Swim Team as the City of Portland’s ambassadors for open water swimming safety and Official Open Water Swim Team.” In addition, July 11th was named River Hugger Swim Team Day in recognition of the work of the Human Access Project.