What’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!
I 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.
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!
Other Posts of Interest...
Cape Perpetua Scenic Area on August 19th, 2008
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Driftwood Beach State Park on October 3rd, 2009
Sandy River Delta: Got Dog? on April 24th, 2012