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Planning and Sustainability

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Swimming Beach Study analyzes five potential sites for river access in the Central City

Results indicate the Hawthorne Bowl is most suitable for swimmers of all ages and abilities

At the center of the city, the Willamette River is the heart of Portland. And as improvements to the City’s wastewater and stormwater systems have made the Willamette much cleaner, people want better access to the shore and into the river. Groups of fitness swimmers can be spotted crossing the river on summer mornings, but easy access into the water is limited — especially for the casual swimmer or children.

To determine the feasibility of creating a family-friendly beach that’s safe for all skill levels in the Central City, the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability and Portland Parks and Recreation led development of the Draft Central City Potential Swimming Beaches Study. A consultant team (including an avid Willamette River swimmer) assessed the suitability of five sites for future beaches. Four are on the west bank and one is on the east bank of the river:

  1. The Zidell property in South Waterfront
  2. “Poetry at the Beach” beneath the Marquam Bridge
  3. Hawthorne Bowl in Governor Tom McCall Waterfront Park
  4. Eastbank Crescent south of the Hawthorne Bridge
  5. McCormick Pier north of the Steel Bridge

Based on characteristics of successful river beaches in other Pacific Northwest cities, evaluation criteria were identified focusing on public safety (gentle slopes into the river and ease of access) as well as desirable beach attributes, such as good sun exposure.

After scoring each site against the criteria, the evaluation team identified the Hawthorne Bowl as the site with the most favorable conditions for a new public beach. 

Read the August 16, 2016, story about the study in the Portland Tribune

The final study will be sent to the Portland City Council for their consideration in early October along with design ideas for the Eastbank Crescent, one of the sites assessed in the study. The study will guide city decisions about funding and developing beach access in the Central City.

For more information, visit the project website or call Lori Grant at 503-823-7849. 

City seeking input on ideas to revitalize the Eastbank Crescent and provide a public beach along the Willamette

Design ideas for the Eastbank Crescent and the Central City Potential Swimming Beach Study shared at open house on June 29 at the PCC CLIMB Center

The Willamette River has often been referred to as Portland’s front yard. Actually, it’s more like our own lake, swimming pool or beach, with potential to attract and accommodate even more sunbathers, swimmers, boaters, kayakers and water lovers of all kinds.

The City of Portland is studying how to create a vibrant public space along the Willamette, with improved fish and wildlife habitat. Planners are looking at the Eastbank Crescent, the riverfront site between the Hawthorne and Marquam Bridges just north of OMSI. The area includes the Holman Dock, a launch for multiple rowing and paddling clubs and popular with sunbathers in summer months. The dock is in disrepair and needs to be replaced, providing an opportunity to synchronize planning, clean up and repair efforts.

River attracts multiple users

The river is shallow here, drawing swimmers in addition to boaters. The shallow water, rare for the Central City, also presents an opportunity to improve habitat for multiple species of fish. The heavily used Greenway Trail traverses the site, with several confusing crossings and conflict points between cyclists, pedestrians and boaters carrying sculls.

To ensure public access to the river, a new dock, habitat restoration and trail improvements are coordinated and create a cohesive, well-functioning public space, the City is developing the Eastbank Crescent Riverfront Plan.

Swimming Study

Portland’s improved wastewater and stormwater runoff system has made the Willamette River much cleaner and safer for swimming. Consequently, more residents want access into and on the river. So the City is looking at five shallow-water sites along the river in the Central City, including the Eastbank Crescent, to determine if there is a suitable location for a family-friendly public beach.

Design ideas for the Eastbank Crescent and the Central City Swimming Beach Study will be presented for comment and feedback at a public open house on Wednesday, June 29 from 4 to 6 p.m. at the PCC CLIMB Center. Please note that parking lot fees will be waived. Visit Tri-Met’s Trip Planner at to plan your route

For more information visit the project website or contact Lori Grant at