There must be hundreds of quiet places where we can swim along the lower Columbia River, both in Oregon and in Washington. But finding the right place for you can be a problem. Fortunately, our friends at Columbia Riverkeeper have done some of the homework for us. You will find below a partial listing, running more or less from west to east along the Columbia. Columbia Riverkeeper regularly monitors water quality at most of these locations. Note that when you get in the area of Hood River there can be heavy windsurfer traffic, so be wary.
Willow Grove Park, just west of Longview WA. Long sandy beach, free parking.
Kalama Beach, 246 Hendrickson Drive, Kalama, WA.
Sauvie Island, Portland OR. There are three beaches in Sauvie Island. Furthest out, Collins Beach is clothing optional; next is popular Walton Beach near the end of the road; finally, Willow Bar, off mile post #7 on Reeder Road. Parking permits are required and may be obtained at the Reeder Road Country Store.
Frenchman’s Bar State Park, a few miles west of Vancouver WA. There is a parking fee ($3 ??), rest rooms and showers. Check your tide tables because the current runs in both directions here and in all the beaches below Bonneville Dam. Because I like the challenge of swimming in currents, Frenchman’s Bar is one of my favorite places to swim. Nearby is Bluerock Landing on the channel that flushes out of Vancouver Lake. Currents can be strong and there are steep drop-offs.
Kelley Point Park, Portland, OR. Located on a peninsula that divides the Columbia and Willamette Rivers. It can get a lot of city visitors on hot days. Swimming in the river you will have the company of ocean-going traffic for the ports on both sides of the river. For that reason, the city does not recommend swimming here, but many do.
Broughton Beach, Portland, OR. This is another of my go-to beaches, especially on an early morning weekday in the spring or fall when the crowds are almost non-existent, except for early dog walkers. There are breakwaters on both ends of the beach reducing the current. It is a tidal beach, located on Marina Boulevard, between PDX airport and the river, about three miles east of the Marina Boulevard exit from Hwy 5. There is a parking fee (daily or seasonal), porta potties and not much else. Good restaurants very close.
Winter Park, Vancouver, WA. This small beach is located about four miles east of the first exit from I-5 in Vancouver. It is almost directly across from Broughton Beach. There is a parking fee and restrooms.
Blue Lake, Or. Technically, this is not on the Columbia River, but very close. There is a parking fee, and you can use the same season pass for Broughton Beach, which is several miles to the west of Blue Lake.
Chinook Landing State Park, OR. Continuing east from Blue Lake Chinook Landing has a beach area, a boat launch, picnic areas, toilets located on 67 acres of parkland. The parking fee is $5.
Sandy River and Lewis and Clark State Park. There is a popular swimming hole in the Sandy River, just upstream from where it joins the Columbia, not far east of the Troutdale Airport. Restrooms are available at the State Park.
Rooster Rock, Corbett, OR. If you are bringing kiddies or have sensibilities about it, beware: There are separate beaches for ‘clothing optional’ and clothing required areas. Bathrooms and shelters in the park. $5 parking fee ($20 annual.)
Bob’s Beach, Stevenson, WA. Free parking, toilets, changing rooms.
Blackberry Beach, Cascade Locks, OR. Hidden logs and rocky entry.
From this point eastward on much of the Columbia River you may encounter windsurfers careering too fast to avoid contact with swimmers. Not a highly recommended outcome.
Viento State Park, OR.
The Hatchery, WA. $10 parking fee.
Mouth of the White Salmon, WA.
Hood River Waterfront Park, Hood River, OR. Restrooms, drinking fountain, close to downtown Hood River.
Hood River Delta, OR. Here you will find cool water flowing down from Mount Hood.
H.R. Koberg Beach. Just east of Hood River. Nice beach.
Pocket Beach, Mosier, OR. There is a waterfall, and you can leap down into the water if you so choose.
Doug’s Beach, WA. Windsurfing, park along Highway 14.
The Dalles Riverfront Park, The Dalles, OR. This area near the bend of the river is well developed, including food concessions.
Celilo Park, OR. At site of the former Celilo Falls, now submerged by the dam. Windsurfers, toilets.
Note: At various times of the year, when the salmon are running, you may encounter fishermen, both on the shore and fishing from boats. Respectfully give them space. In some places you may find that nets have been strung to ensnare fish.
Quote from Columbia Riverkeeper: Clean water is a right and all people deserve the opportunity to swim and fish without fear of getting sick.
Columbia River Swim Guide: https://www.columbiariverkeeper.org/columbia/swimguide