The Six Best Swimming Spots in the Columbia River Gorge Between Portland and Hood River

The Columbia River Highway celebrates its 100th birthday this summer, a centennial that the Oregon Department of Transportation is marking with a concert in Washougal, storytime at Eagle Creek and an antique car parade in Troutdale.

But, for us, the best way to experience the Columbia River Highway this summer is to travel it on the way to take a swim. We drove along the Columbia for 64 miles, from Kelley Point Park to Viento State Park, dipping into every notable beach along the way. Here are our six favorites.

Kelley Point Park

Kelley Point Park (Henry Cromett)

Where it’s at: The northernmost point of Portland, where the Willamette and Columbia meet.

8484 N Kelley Point Park Road, 503-823-2223. 6 am-9 pm daily. Free.

If you like: Day drinking, dog parks, not leaving the city.

Pro tip: There’s cart fare and beer at the Fixin’ To in St. Johns not far away.

Named for the New Englander who tried to start a city here in 1834, the park is now a delightfully sandy spot full of day drinking and friendly dogs past NoPo’s industrial dead zone. It’s within biking distance of any house in town, and worth the ride if you’re an avid cyclist. Drivers, bring a stocked cooler and plenty of towels—the beach is wide and sandy, and the water is deep enough to jump off the watchtower into. Kelley Point reminds me of the inland California river beaches of my childhood, which is the highest compliment I can give it.

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