City Cast

Summer Guide: Willamette River Swimming Spots

Rachel Monahan
Posted on June 7   |   Updated on June 28
people on a dock floating just above the water

Duckworth Dock is now available for swimmers. (Willie Levenson)

Willie Levenson from the Human Access Project has been working to advocate for a cleaner river and more people swimming in it. The City Cast Portland podcast asked him for some guidance on where to go to swim this summer:

Duckworth Dock (Central Eastside)

“I like swimming from docks myself. So number one, Duckworth Dock. That's on the floating section of the Esplanade. That dock used to be restricted to motorized boats, so it wasn't legal to swim off it or fish off of it. So it took us six years of work with PBOT and Oregon State Marine Board to get permission to add eight swimming ladders that took less than four hours to install. So that is the grind of activism.

“This summer, we're gonna be doing a Duckworth Wednesday concert series. You'll be able to ride your bike, check out an awesome sunset, and hear disco music every Wednesday. We're looking to start July 5.”

view of river, marina, and downtown skyline from above with a lot of people in the river

The annual Big Float event is designed to invite people into the Willamette.(Willie Levenson)

George Rogers Park (Lake Oswego)

“It is an incredibly used park. I mean, you go there, and every day it's a river beach party. And there's no material difference in the water quality between that site, which is about three miles from downtown. That is a vision of what the future of Portland's gonna be.”

swimmers in green caps pose on dock next to river

The River Huggers swim team cross the river six mornings a week. (Willie Levenson)

Firehouse Dock (Central Eastside)

“That's where our River Hugger swim team swims, which is right off the Hawthorne Bridge on the north side. Human Access Project added two ladders to that dock, effectively making it a new public access point.

“Our River Hugger swim team swims across the Willamette and back every morning Monday through Saturday. If you're an intermediate level swimmer and you're into open water swimming, check out the river swim team, too.”

Other tips from Willie about getting in the water:

  • Wear water shoes.
  • Wear a life jacket. (He does too.)

Not convinced to go for a swim? Maybe you want to learn more about the progress Portland has made in cleaning the Willamette River.

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