Top Five Swimming Spots Near Portland

When I woke up this morning I couldn't help but notice the Portland weather forecast predicting heat temperatures in the upper nineties later this week. Like many residents in Portland, I don't even own an air conditioner so it got me thinking about my favorite places to get away from the heat and to instead take a cool refreshing dip into the waters of Oregon. Thankfully we have plenty of options for that! It was honestly pretty tough to narrow this list to only five, but in an effort to keep this post from getting overly long I narrowed it down to the ones I seem to visit most regularly. 

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Collins Beach

Collins Beach Portland

Collins Beach is by far the closest entry on this list to Portland proper. Located only about thirty minutes north of the St. Johns neighborhood, Collins Beach is a long stretch of sand along one edge of Sauvie Island. It doesn't take a whole lot of effort to get to this location as the roads are in great condition and there is little to no hiking required to get to the beach. That can be a wonderful thing when you are feeling spontaneous and don't want to pack a lot of gear for an all day adventure. That also means the beach can get quite crowded when the weather is particularly warm. Depending on your mood that can be a good or a bad thing. Several sections of the beach are even clothing optional.

Buck Lake

Buck Lake Oregon

Of all the entries on this list, Buck Lake is easily my favorite. Located about seventy miles from downtown Portland in the Mt. Hood National Forest, buck lake is a pristine body of water that appears to glow an emerald blue. Reaching the lake from the parking lot requires only a half mile hike through some lovely forest terrain. Once you reach the lake there are plenty of spots to make camp and enjoy an afternoon by the water in relative seclusion. Buck Lake itself is relatively large but its depth is surprisingly shallow, meaning on warm summer days the temperature of the water is quite comfortable for extended swimming. I recommend bringing an inner-tube for some relaxing floating on the calm waters.    

Lower Lewis Falls

Lower Lewis Falls Oregon

Lower Lewis Falls is a sight to behold and really should be experienced by every Portland resident at least once in their lives. Located in Washington State along the Lewis River, these waterfalls appear to be plucked out of an epic fantasy film. Due to the large amount of shade and tree cover, not to mention the ever present mist of clear clean mountain water falling over the forty-three foot falls, one does not even need to go swimming to feel the cooling effects of this Pacific Northwest marvel. Of course, for those who don't mind water a bit on the cool side, taking a dip at the base of the falls is always an option too.

Three Pools

Three Pools Oregon

Three Pools on the North Fork of the Santiam River is among the best swimming and cliff-jumping locations in Oregon. The unique combination of basalt outcroppings and emerald pools have helped to establish Three Pools as a favorite summer getaway. You will almost certainly see some crowds here on a sunny day, but the area is large enough to provide a little space for anyone who looks. Due to the crowds and the loud shouts of cliff divers, I consider Three Pools to be more of an adventure as opposed to a relaxing getaway. 

Pegleg Falls

Pegleg Falls Oregon

Pegleg Falls is a 21 foot tall, 50-60 foot wide rolling block-type waterfall along the Hot Springs Fork of the Collowash River deep in the Mount Hood National Forest. If you've ever been to Bagby Hot Springs, chances are you were right next to Pegleg Falls and you didn't even know it. A fish ladder has been carved into the bedrock to the river-left of the falls, which allows a substantial portion of the river to bypass the waterfall. The de-watering isn't noticeable early in the year but during the summer months the falls become substantially reduced in stature as a result of the diversion. This also makes the falls a perfect spot to let the cool waters of the Northwest shower over you while you escape the heat! 

Andrew Kaiser

My name is Andrew Kaiser, welcome to my site! I have a passion for making images wherever and whenever I can. I seek to capture humanity and the world around me with a focus on the figure. Film, digital, pinhole, and instant photography are all fair game for me.


I grew up in the California Bay Area and started taking photography seriously in High School. I was one of the lucky few who had a chance to go to a high school with a working darkroom and a teacher who understood that making images was an art form – care and patience was a necessity in the image making process from start to finish.


Later in life I attended the University of California in Santa Cruz where I received a Bachelors Degree in the History of Art and Visual Culture. After having my fill of the California sunshine I packed up my life and moved to the Pacific Northwest. I quickly found the overcast skies, lush forests, cooler temperatures, and creative communities to be a perfect match for my work.


Over the years I have exhibited my photographs in several galleries and art shows including the Seattle Erotic Arts Festival and Cascade AIDS Project. I’ve published a few books and taught workshops up and down the west coast of the United States. Through this site I’m hoping to share my work and perhaps inspire others along the way.