Swimming Areas


It’s a fact - the Willamette River is approved for summer swimming, except in the now very rare instances when Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) conditions are present. Oregon DEQ states that when CSO conditions are not present, the Willamette River in Portland is safe for swimming and other recreational uses.

Please be careful when swimming in the Willamette River. Swim with a friend, know the area, beware of boats and debris, and wear river shoes for safety in getting in and out. Early in the summer, water temperature can be cold.

Before you jump in

Although they may look calm, rivers are active, living bodies of water and are in constant states of change. Check out conditions before you enter the water. Swim at your own risk – lifeguards are not present. Before swimming, please remember:  

  • Water levels go up and down 
  • Currents change depending on the tide, river level and wind
  • Branches, debris, and rocks move on and under the surface 
  • Boats and jet skis can be hazardous and hard to see 
  • Water temperatures change seasonally, with colder water likely from late September to early June
  • Banks can be uneven, rocky, slippery, and have submerged dropoffs 
  • Sewage overflows are extremely rare but still possible. Environmental Services issues alerts on its homepage when they occur. 
  • Harmful Algae Blooms can occur when we have a warmer and dryer Winter or Spring – Willamette River Harmful Algae Bloom FAQ’s
  • The lower Willamette River is part of a designated Superfund clean-up site (between the Broadway Bridge and Sauvie Island). Two of its sites should not be entered for swimming: the Willamette Cove and Gasco sites. Oregon Health Authority has found that the river is safe for swimming. The principal risk of the Superfund is consumption of resident fish. 

Portland Parks & Recreation recommends that people DO NOT swim in certain areas, including Kelley Point Park; off or near docks that are designated for boating and watercraft tie-up; sensitive habitat areas (look for signs); and in some Superfund-designated areas – see Portland Park's and Recreation River Swimming Page. 

Please review our Willamette River Swimming Safety page before going out to swim.  

For information on Willamette River water quality click here.
For information on Willamette River water temperature click here.

Willamette River Tide Charts Click Here.



Cathedral Park

Located on North Edison St. and Pittsburg Ave. under east end of St. Johns Bridge.

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Kelley Point

Due to the frequency of drownings that have occurred at Kelley Point Park, Portland Parks and Rec does not recommend swimming at this location.

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Sauvie Island

Located 10 miles northwest of Portland, it’s the largest island in the Columbia River.

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Kevin Duckworth Memorial Dock

Located on the East bank of the Willamette River between Steel and Burnside bridges.

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Broughton Beach

Located at 4536 NE Marine Drive on south bank of Columbia River near PDX airport.

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Station 21 Fire House Dock

Located at 05 SE Madison, adjacent to Audrey McCall Beach.

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Sellwood Park

Located on the East bank of river at SE 7th and Miller St. just north of Sellwood Bridge.

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Elk Rock Island

Located at SE 19th and Sparrow St. in Milwaukie. Limited parking on neighborhood streets.

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Audrey McCall Beach & Dock

Located on East bank of river just south of Hawthorne Bridge.

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Poet’s Beach

West bank of river under Marquam Bridge.

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Tom McCall Bowl Beach

Located on West bank of river just south of Hawthorne Bridge near Riverplace Marina.

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walton beach

The most popular beach on Sauvie Island, Walton Beach is located at the north end of Reeder Road. The beach is sandy and serene, with lovely shallow water, gentle waves, and easy entry into the river (though it does drop off in places).

Be aware there are no lifeguards on duty. Watch children closely. Personal floatation devices are recommended. Besides swimming, it’s a great area for building sand castles, flying kites, and watching for eagles and wildlife. Columbia Riverkeeper volunteers monitor water quality at this beach from June to September.

collins beach (clothing optional)

You’ll find Collins Beach further north up Reeder Road from Walton Beach. Collins is over a mile long and begins a quarter mile after Reeder Road becomes gravel. This is a clothing-optional nude beach. You can always keep your suit on if you prefer that to your “birthday suit”. It’s not as crowded as Walton and has more trees and shady areas – to relax or picnic, and avoid “sensitive sunburns”. There are no lifeguards at any Sauvie Island swimming area, so be careful and swim with a friend. The Columbia River can be chilly even in the summer, and there can be sudden drop offs. Right across the river is the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge. Great for bird-watching while you frolic in the water and on land.

willow bar beach

The beach at Willow Park is located off milepost 7 on Reeder Road. It offers a relaxing, natural setting, and a sandy beach that is almost 2 miles long with easy access into the water.

With so much sandy beachfront and a wonderful view of the Columbia River, this is one of the best beaches in the Portland area. There’s little shade but it doesn’t get quite as crowded as other Sauvie Island beaches – partly due to the semi hidden parking lot at the end of a dirt road off Reeder Road. Columbia Riverkeeper volunteers monitor water quality at this beach from May-September.