To build visibility and awareness of the Willamette River's revival, HAP has formed a swim team – 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 45 minutes without stopping.

The River Huggers swim every weekday generally from June until September. For the 2020 season swims will start with swims Monday-Friday 7:00 am and 7:45am.  The morning swims cross the Willamette River and back (sometimes twice). The evening swims (will hopefully return in 2021) go along the east bank of the river – downstream and back.

The Huggers meet at the Fire Station on the Eastside Esplanade, near Hawthorne Bridge. It takes 30-40 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. Yes, wet suits and fins are welcome.

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 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 Buddy Swim, a River Hugger cap, and the use of a swim safety buoy if you don’t have one.


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.




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 our FB site 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.