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 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.
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 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 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 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!