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Oxbow Regional Park
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Oxbow Regional ParkWhat’s to Love:  One of my favorite things about writing these articles is the shocking surprises that often occur while on different adventures.  The biggest surprises happen when I think a place is just going to be awful, and it turns out being the exact opposite.  It’s happened several times this summer, and it definitely happened on my visit to Oxbow Regional Park.  This park is a MUST visit during the hot days of summer!

Oxbow Regional ParkI definitely have a stereotypical view of river-beach-areas.  I imagine a huge frat party with drunk people floating on inner-tubes with a beer cooler being toted close behind.  Of course, there are the requisite dogs running wild – pooping on everything in sight and knocking over kids.  Oh the crazy things running around in my imagination:  dirty sand, human waste all over the place, people drowning in strong currents, trash everywhere,  etc.  Without rules, these “swimming holes” often become places you certainly wouldn’t want to visit with your family.

I’m glad to report that Oxbow Park was shockingly clean with excellent river access, a beautiful sandy beach, clean swimming, potable water on-site, light currents, and a clean campground – ALL WITH NO ALCOHOL OR DOGS!  These two rules coupled with attentive park rangers make Oxbow one of the most family friendly parks around.

In addition to the beach, Oxbow has a very nice campground with campfire programs every Friday and Saturday night at 8PM.  Of course, there is fishing, boating (non-motorized), inner-tube floating, sand castle building, and sun bathing.  All of this can even be accessed via a reasonable bike ride from Portland.  If you haven’t visited this park, get there while you still have time this summer!  Here is a short clip of the area:

Caveats:  My only complaint is they need to ban smoking in the park.  They already ban it on hiking trails, which is a nice touch.  However, who wants a bunch of smoke drifting toward your kids who are enjoying the beach?  Unfortunately, there are still many parents who insist on smoking around their own kids.  I’m not sure what the issue is, but they need to get smoking out of this park.  However, please, don’t let this deter you from visiting – there is plenty of room to get away from smoke.

$4.00 charge to get into the park.  It’s reasonable, but always a caveat in my book!

Website Oxbow Regional Park

Distance from Portland:  About 20 miles from downtown Portland, but it will probably take closer to 30 minutes to get there.  The speed limit inside the park is 15 miles per hour, and it’s enforced!  Here is a Google Map of the area.

Recommended Ages:  A great park for all ages, especially if you’re camping.

Parental Stress Factor:  Low/medium stress.  Due to the arduous task of getting everything together, going to the beach always provides a level of stress.  Kids playing in a river with a current is also stressful.  However, if you have a handle on those two items, this can be a low stress outing.

Physical Difficulty:  Not difficult…a wheelchair could access part of the beach, because the boat launch is paved right up to where the sand starts.  Also, much of the park is wheelchair accessible including camping spots; however, the hiking trails are not accessible.

Family Fun Factor:  High!  The beach is always a blast and Oxbow Park is no exception.  With the rangers’ continued enforcement of the rules, this park will remain a fun place for families to visit.

Pet Friendly:  No dogs allowed in the park.  Please keep your dogs at home.  You do not want your dog sitting in your car while you’re frolicking on the beach!

Weather Considerations:  Oxbow is definitely a great summer location due to the beach, boating, swimming and camping.  

Oxbow Regional ParkInsider Info:  There are miles of hiking, biking and horse trails inside the park.  If you’re camping, it’s definitely a good idea to bring bikes.

The Metro website claims this is one of the best sites for winter steelhead fishing.  Plus, to celebrate the return of Chinook Salmon, there is a Salmon Festival (October 11th and 12th).  Here is some information from their website:

“The festival offers interactive exhibits, nature walks, engaging activities for children, arts and crafts demonstrations, music and storytelling, horse-drawn wagon rides, a salmon barbecue and food court, and the Wy-Kan-Ush-Pum Village hosted by the fishing tribes of the Columbia River Basin. Don’t be afraid of those clouds – the festival is “weatherized” with entertainment, exhibits, children’s activities and food areas under cover.

Registration and cost: $8 per vehicle; $12 per bus. For more information, call 503-797-1850.”

Family Tips:  The swimming area is located at the end of the boat launch adjacent to “Group Area D.”  To make things a bit more convenient for your family, drive down the launch to the turnaround and drop-off your stuff.  Make sure someone is there to watch it!  If you have one, bring your Bob Jogging Stroller and load it up with all your gear.  I love bringing these to the beach to help transport our gear.

Bring along plenty of snacks and/or a picnic.  You may want to use one of the day-use sites to grill up some food.  They have drinking water right at the end of the boat launch, so you don’t need to go overboard with the water.

Finally, if your kids are really good swimmers, you may want to bring some inflatable rafts or boats to use out in the current.  I watched many families with older kids walk-up stream and float back down to the beach – looked like a lot of fun!

Technorati Tags: Sandy River, Oxbow Park, Portland Metro, Gorge, swimming holes, campground, sandy beach

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Dabney State Park on October 28th, 2011
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21 Comments


  1. No dogs allowed in any of the Gresham/Metro parks. I think it is BS to not have any parks that allow dogs? I am surprised no dog groups have questioned the legality of this. However the City of Portland is incredibly dog friendly and doesn't label most dogs owners as irresponsible.

  2. You want no dogs and no smoking, and pretty soon no walking on dirt trails to deter erosion, and no breaking wind because it adds to the ozone layer deficiency. Give me a break. I think that if you wants a special area set aside for those that choose to smoke (which I do not by the way) or have a dog (which I do), then mabye what you really want is your own private island where you can dictate the actions of others. It's a State Park. Smokers should be considerate and dog owners liable for their pets. We don't need more laws telling us what we may and may not do.

  3. Oxbow is a protected wildlife preserve along the wild and scenic Sandy River, and the dog ban is solely to protect its wildlife and is not a negotiable issue. Oxbow is a campground, too, so regarding the smoke issue families with asthmatic family members that react to smoke should avoid it. Smoke from campfires is as dangerous to the lungs as other smoke wafting through the air. Native Americans occasionally use the park too, for Salmon Ceremonies (Oxbow hosts the Salmon People one one week-end each year but use the park on their own, too), and then you smoke of sage, cedar and sometimes sweetgrass wafts through the air.

  4. What a great article! thank you so much for posting it. I share the same views and concerns. It really helps when you make those videos so i can get a clear picture of the park im visiting!! Thank you, and Take Care!! :]

  5. If people smoked, the forest might catch on fire, and plus who would want to see or smell somebody smoking every time they go out of their tent. And dogs, who knows maybe a dog could get lost ,or eat a deer, or pee on somebody's tent, that would'nt have been a pretty site, or steal somebody elses food. Each rule has an explanation. And rules are made to keep people safe and happy so just go with the flow. And your comment ,(and pretty soon no walking on dirt trails to deter erosion, and no breaking wind because it adds to the ozone layer deficiency.) thats just overreacting.

  6. I live in the SW Portland area. I have two kids; a teenager and a preschooler. I purposefully drive to Blue Lake park and now to Oxbow SPECIFICLY because they ban animals, dog in particular! I pay the park fees gladly for the opportunity to put down a picnic blanket, without worry of dog poop; next to a shady tree without the smell of dog urine. I PAY . I DRIVE THE EXTRA DISTANCE.

    I think if you want to take your dog to a nice outdoor area , you have a great opportunity to run a fee based business. Based on all the pro-dog-in-the-park comments, it would be a booming business. It sound like there is a need and a demand for it. I'm sure both the dogs and their owners would enjoy a dog APPROPRIATE area in which to recreate.

  7. I dont smoke, but dont see what the fuss is, with people smoking outside, when i have been to oxbow and smelt fire of bar-b-ques its not any different and people are saying it effects your children second hand smoke can not be contacted unless you are within 5 feet from that person smoking or in a closed room with the smoker… As for dogs I can understand that but for god sake, if the owner is responsible they should be allowed that is the stupidest rule to Oxbow and other areas…

  8. I can see why folks would want to have a few parks without dogs or smoking allowed. In exchange, all I ask is for a couple that don't allow kids.

  9. The park is nice!! The "Rangers" portray themselves as police officers. The rules are insane!! This is a great place to go if you want to just sit in a camp chair and talk quietly to your family. The rangers….Who are not rangers at all… Ask people for Drivers Licences and ID's if they are driving to fast, caught with a beer or talking too loud. Not recommended for people under 60! No dogs?? No smoking?? No drinking??? Its like a Mormon Camp with wanna-be cops..

  10. Screw dogs, screw booze, screw smoking and screw you jug heads who can't spend a day not smoking your drunken dog. Give it all a rest. FYI, I smoke, and drink and am covered in dog hair.

  11. Gosh, thank you for helping me find places where there hopefully won't be a million dogs running up to my kids, scaring them, knocking them over etc. I AM SO TIRED of this. It happens at playgrounds, parks and everywhere. My kids are now terrified of dogs cause of this and I am feeling very against all kinds of dogs. Why can't people just keep their unruly poundfinds on a leash?
    thanks again, great blog.

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