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The City of Portland, Oregon

Planning and Sustainability

Innovation. Collaboration. Practical Solutions.

Phone: 503-823-7700

Curbside Hotline: 503-823-7202

1900 SW 4th Ave, Suite 7100, Portland, OR 97201

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

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.