Secret Swimming Spots and Beaches along the Columbia River
Dreaming of blue skies, summer heat, and cool pools to swim in? Check out our favorite swimming spots and beaches along the lower Columbia River. Most of the places are conveniently accessible from Portland and Vancouver.
Before hitting the river, make sure the water is safe to swim! Use Columbia Riverkeeper’s Swim Guide mobile app to get directions, alerts, and up-to-the-minute water quality updates on Columbia River recreation sites. Download the Swim Guide app for iPhone/iPad & Android here. We monitor E. coli (bacteria) levels at some—but not all—Columbia River beaches in the Portland and Hood River areas.
How safe is the Columbia River for recreational use?
State and federal agencies collect very little site-specific data to help you decide how safe a particular part of the Columbia is for swimming. Riverkeeper is a strong proponent of playing in the river! We all have the right to swim, fish, kayak, windsurf, kiteboard, and boat on the Columbia. Unfortunately, in some stretches of the river, toxic pollution and unsafe bacteria levels make doing so unsafe. Much of the Columbia River is safe for swimming, but use caution.
- Rinse off after swimming, and avoid entering the river with open cuts or wounds.
- Avoid industrial areas and discharge pipes.
- Check Swim Guide before swimming for current E. coli levels at popular recreation sites.
- Beware of fast currents and steep drop-offs. Know your limits, and swim close to shore. Look for signs before you jump in: not all Columbia River beaches are safe for swimming.
Best Beaches for Kids
- Willow Grove in Longview, WA, has a sandy beach, paved walking paths, picnic areas, restrooms, playgroups, and even a life jacket loaner program, making it our top pick for the littles.
- Hood River Waterfront Park in Hood River, OR, is a family-oriented park and beach along the Columbia River. Aside from having a large, sandy beach and calm water, the park also features a modern playground with a miniature rock-climbing wall for the little ones.
- Marine Drive Beach aka Broughton Beach is a 1.3-mile-long beach located near Portland and Vancouver. The best time to go is in the late afternoon to catch a beautiful sunset and views of Mt. Hood. It's a great place to watch the airplanes landing at PDX—perfect for little kids. This is one of the more spacious beaches on our list and an ideal spot to spread out the shovels and buckets for optimum sandcastle construction.
Best Beach to Learn to Wind-surf
- Beginner surfers flock to the Inner Hook in Hood River, OR, for its calm protected waters.
Best Beach for Experienced Wind-surfers
- The Spring Creek Hatchery in Underwood, WA, is a popular windsurfing spot along the Columbia. It experiences strong westerly winds and is well exposed, two good reasons for advanced and pro windsurfers to gather here. If you don't have experience windsurfing, consider going just to watch the action.
Best beach for Rock-Climbers
- For rock-climbing in the morning and swimming in the afternoon, Lewis and Clark State Recreation Site is your place. Located within the park, Broughton's Bluff is one of Portland area's best outdoor crags. The Bluff offers quality routes rated from 5.6 top ropes to 5.12 leads. After sending a route, cool off with a dip in the Sandy River near the confluence of the Columbia. Lewis and Clark State Recreation Site also has a modest picnic area and boat ramp.
Best Clothing-optional Beach
- If you like enjoying the river au natural, Collins Beach on Sauvie Island is our top pick for you! However, if you'd prefer to keep your clothes on you can still enjoy this spacious 1.6-mile-long sandy beach. Only one section of the beach is clothing optional and it is easy to avoid.
- Rooster Rock State Park in Corbett, OR has many claims to fame. It's a challenging windsurfing and kitesurfing spot, it's a perfect place for a swim to escape the summer heat and the eastern portion of the 3-mile-long beach is clothing-optional. Not to worry, there's plenty of room for everyone!
Best Beach to Escape the Crowds
- Surprisingly, Kelley Point Park is located within Portland city limits. However, it's an underutilized, forgotten park and beach and perfect for escaping the crowds. The beach is located at the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia rivers. Although swimming is discouraged due to dangerous rip currents, the river provides great entertainment with the opportunity to watch tugboats and barges chugging along. There are plenty of paved and unpaved walking trails, grassy lawns and picnic spots to take advantage of.
Best Beaches for Camping
- Looking for an adventure? This camping experience is like no other. Drive to St. Helens Marina and have a free shuttle boat take you to Sand Island Marine Park Campground, your own local island adventure. A vehicle will transport the gear to your campsite and you are free to wander and explore the trails and beaches with views of the Columbia River, Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Hood. Consider stopping over on Sand Island when you paddle the Lower Columbia River Water Trail.
Best Beach for a Cookout
- Vancouver, WA, Frenchman's Bar is the spot we want to fire up the charcoal. With a long sandy beach, picnic tables and shelters, playground equipment, and nine grills available just 10 minutes from
- Enjoy a picnic on a hot summer's day below the apple trees at this small day use area in Stevenson, WA. St. Cloud offers fire pits, picnic tables and bird watching for entertainment.
- Cottonwood Beach at Captain William Clark Park in Washougal, WA, is an ideal beach for a picnic or a BBQ. Cottonwood Beach boasts a sandy beach that is safe for kids to swim. Launch a kayak or canoe from the shore and explore Reed Island State Park, a Great Blue Heron nesting site. To top it all off, Cottonwood Beach offers a picturesque view of Mt. Hood overlooking the Columbia River.
Secret Swimming Hole
- The trail to Mosier Falls in Mosier, OR begins at a historic cemetery, but don't take that as a bad omen because the swimming hole between the two falls is one of the best. Work up a sweat by hiking up to Mosier Plateau for a spectacular view of the Columbia River Gorge and finish with a cliff jump into the Mosier Falls swimming hole.
Columbia Riverkeeper monitors water quality at popular Columbia River recreation sites. Check current conditions on Swim Guide, a user-friendly app.