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Parks & Recreation

Healthy Parks, Healthy Portland

phone: 503-823-7529

1120 SW Fifth Avenue, Portland, OR 97204

Frequently Asked Questions

New this summer on the Willamette River, Poet’s Beach, a downtown river swimming beach open July 12, 2017 through September 4, 2017.

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler has expressed his interest in reconnecting people to the Willamette River in downtown Portland. The Mayor has dedicated $158,040 to implement a temporary swimming beach pilot program for summer 2017 at Poet’s Beach.

Poet’s Beach at a Glance

  • Program duration is July 12, through September 4, 2017
  • Poet’s Beach is a sandy shore with river access, and an in-water swimming area delineated with a swim line and floats
  • Water depth is shallow in the area of Poet’s Beach
  • On-land amenities include: picnic tables; trash cans; bicycle racks; signage; life jacket borrowing station; and portable toilets
  • Specialized river rescue lifeguards will staff the site 7 days/week
  • Lifeguard hours are from 11:00 AM-7:00 PM
  • PP&R Beach hosts will be at the site 7 days/week, welcoming guests, orienting them to the site, and collecting usage data. Hours and shifts are to be determined.

How do we get there?
Poet's Beach is in South Waterfront Park, on the west side of the Willamette River and just north of the I-5 Marquam Bridge.

  • Walk, roll, or bicycle along the South Waterfront Park Trail. Bicycle racks are available at Poet’s Beach for short-term use.
  • If taking public transportation, the nearest Portland Streetcar stop is SW River Parkway and Moody Avenue. The nearest TriMet bus stops are 35 and 36
  • If driving, the nearest road intersection is SW River Parkway and Moody Avenue. Paid vehicle parking is available in the area.

Is there an admission charge to Poet’s Beach?
The City invites guests to swim and to enjoy the Beach at no cost.


Does Poet’s Beach have lifeguards on site?
River lifeguards will be on site for the duration of the pilot project, seven days a week. Lifeguard hours are from 11:00 AM-7:00 PM, subject to change.


Are there life jackets for me to use at Poet’s Beach? What about kids’ sizes?
A limited number of life jackets will be available at Poet’s Beach during lifeguard hours to borrow at no cost, on a first-come, first-served basis. Infant, child, and adult sizes will be available.


What about other City staff on site?

  • Portland Park Rangers will patrol up to three times per day They will be available for addressing questions, to enforce park rules, and to note and report any issues to other Bureau and City staff. Rangers patrol more than a dozen downtown parks, thus their ability to visit Poet’s Beach is dependent on their work flow on a given day.
  • River rescue lifeguards provided by the firm AMR will be on-site during lifeguard hours. They are trained in swift water rescue and will make life jackets available to guests.
  • For emergency services, including police, ambulance or fire, call 911.
  • More information about river swimming safety can be located at portlandoregon.gov/parks/article/643913.

Is the Willamette River clean?

  • Today the Willamette River through Portland is cleaner than it's been in decades, thanks in large part to ratepayers’ investment in the Big Pipe project that dramatically reduced combined sewer overflows.
  • The ground on Poet’s Beach was remediated in the late 1990s with “rip rap” (boulder rock) and many layers of sand, and the substrate has been found to be clean. In 2017, engineering consultants reviewed river bottom conditions in the swim area at Poet’s Beach using side-scan sonar, and found no known underwater obstacles such as large debris, holes or sudden drop-offs.
  • More information about river water quality can be located at portlandoregon.gov/bes/57781.

Does Poet’s Beach offer restrooms, showers, foot-washing stations, and potable water?

  • Portable toilets are available at the beach during site hours.
  • Permanent restrooms are available a few minutes’ walk away at the South Waterfront Park Garden, at 1831 SW River  Drive. Wayfinding signs will point Poet’s Beach users to the permanent restrooms.
  • No showers or foot-washing stations are available at Poet’s Beach.
  • Potable (drinking) water is not available at Poet’s Beach, but nearby cafés and shops offer bottled water and beverages for purchase. PP&R encourages all guests to bring their own potable water and to pack out what they pack in. Please don’t litter!
  • Shoes are recommended. This is an urban beach. For your protection, wearing shoes or sandals is recommended on the sandy beach and in the water.

Does Poet’s Beach offer concessions?
At this time, Poet’s Beach does not offer concessions, but nearby cafés and shops offer snacks for purchase. PP&R encourages guests to bring their own picnics and snacks, and to pack out what they pack in. Please don’t litter!


What beach-related items can I bring to Poet’s Beach?
PP&R encourages guests to bring towels, beach chairs, umbrellas, life jackets, floaties, and other beach-related items for their comfort. Shoes are recommended. This is an urban beach - for your protection, wearing shoes or sandals is recommended on the sandy beach and in the water.

Please do not litter, and remember to recycle or throw away your leftovers.


Are dogs allowed at the beach?
No. Animals are prohibited within the designated in-water and beach area. This prohibition does not apply to service animals while performing their qualifying services, nor to animals while during the official performance of police or rescue activities.


Can I launch or land my light watercraft at Poet’s Beach?

  • Light watercraft (including paddle boards) are not allowed to use the Poet’s Beach sandy beach or the delineated in-water swimming area, but use of paddle boards or other light watercraft is permitted outside of these areas.
  • An alternative location to land or light watercraft is located near Poet’s Beach. There is a second paved ramp leading to the sand just north of the Poet’s Beach ramp, and those with light watercraft could use this ramp if they wished to launch or land their watercraft outside of, but still very close to Poet’s Beach.
  • Jet skis are not allowed at Poet’s Beach.

Is the site accessible per the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?
Poet’s Beach is accessible to the extent feasible to get to the beach and consistent with the preservation of the beach’s natural features. No further improvements are planned for Poet’s Beach at this time. Portland Parks has other opportunities for people to enjoy the water, such as splash pads, fountains, and pools. Read more about opportunities to stay cool this summer at portlandoregon.gov/parks/article/644091.

For additional ADA information or to request assistance, call 503-823-4333 or 711 (TRS).


What are the river conditions like at Poet’s Beach?


Is the site called Poet’s Beach or Poetry at the Beach?
The beach area on the north side of the Marquam Bridge, on the west side of the Willamette River, is known by three names. This location is formally part of South Waterfront Park, a public park operated and maintained by PP&R. In 2012, public art was added and the art installation (not the site) was called “Poetry at the Beach.” However, the public now commonly refers to the site as “Poet’s Beach.”  The pilot beach program (but not the site) during the summer of 2017 is also being called “Poet’s Beach.” Formally recognizing the site as “Poet’s Beach” would require a public re-naming process or City Council action.


How will you know if the beach is a success, and what does the future hold?
PP&R staff and contracted lifeguards will collect data that may help inform future swimming beach programs.


What are the Poet’s Beach rules?
In addition to other applicable laws including the provisions of Chapter 20.12 Prohibited Conduct:

  1. Swimming must occur in the designated in-water beach area within the boundaries marked by ropes, buoys or signs.
  2. Persons who swim outside the designated in-water swimming area do so at their own risk.
  3. Persons who swim outside of lifeguard hours do so at their own risk.
  4. Children younger than ten years old must have a responsible adult supervising them at all times.
  5. PP&R requires bathing suits, and babies must wear diapers designed for swimming.
  6. Do not swim if you have had diarrhea in the past two weeks, or a disease communicable by water. Swimmers who are not toilet trained must wear a swim diaper. Immuno-compromised individuals should use caution when using a public swimming beach.
  7. No bicycles are permitted on the beach. PP&R provides bicycle parking on the on-land portions of South Waterfront Park.
  8. Inner tubes, air mattresses and other beach toy-type items may be used only in in-water and beach areas. Please keep face masks, fins, snorkels, and floating toys inside the ropes.
  9. Barbecues are not permitted within the beach area.
  10. Poet’s Beach and all Portland Parks are smoke- and tobacco-free. Smoking and tobacco are defined to include, but are not limited to: bidis, cigarettes, cigarillos, cigars, clove cigarettes, e-cigarettes, nicotine vaporizers, nicotine liquids, hookahs, kreteks, pipes, chew, snuff, smokeless tobacco, and marijuana.
  11. Possession and consumption of alcohol are not permitted.
  12. Possession or use of glass or other breakable containers is prohibited within the designated in-water and beach areas.
  13. Animals are prohibited within the designated in-water and beach area. This prohibition does not apply to service animals while performing their qualifying services, nor to animals while during the official performance of police or rescue activities.

Can I reserve Poet’s Beach for a private event?
No, PP&R will not grant any new special use permits for Poet’s Beach during the swimming pilot season (July 12 – September 4, 2017). Poet’s Beach is a new program for the City, and PP&R would like to more fully understand management of the site before granting special permits for its use.