What’s to Love: Do you want to have a day at the beach without driving 70+ miles to the coast? That’s exactly what we wanted this past weekend, and the beaches of Sauvie Island provided a reasonable substitute. Specifically, the Walton Beach area is about 9 miles from the bridge crossing along the NE coast of the island. It’s a pleasant drive that takes you by many possible side-excursions including blueberry picking at Bella Organics, the Pumpkin Patch Farm, and the Reeder Beach Country Market.
After 9 miles of beautiful Sauvie Island scenery, you’ll notice plenty of parking areas on your left and access-stairways up over the dune. We’ve never had a problem finding a place to park. After leaving your car, it’s a short walk (100 yards or so) to the beach. As you walk over the dune, you’ll catch a glimpse of the Columbia River and what appears to be miles of open beach. Pick out a spot and enjoy the scenery!
Caveats: If I get too picky, this list could be unnecessarily long. I think most people are aware of the caveats when heading to beaches along the Columbia River. I let my kids wade in the water, but personally, I would never let them swim in it. I wouldn’t catch and eat fish from it either. The reasons for my opinions I generally keep to myself because I don’t want to spoil the experience for my kids who really don’t care to hear them.
While I’ve seen litter on previous visits, for the most part, the beaches are pretty clean. These public beaches often host large parties with people leaving behind piles of trash and burned wood (no fires allowed!). Hopefully, your trip won’t be marred by this nasty spectacle. While you probably won’t get the crowds of a camping area like Oxbow, the beaches at Sauvie Island are not monitored as closely either. Some see this as a plus, some see it as a negative.
Website: Sauvie Island Website
Distance from Portland: About 20 miles from downtown Portland. Here is a map of the area.
Recommended Ages: Great beach for young kids! The only wave action you’ll see is when boats pass by. Be alert for off-leash dogs, which are a common sight in the area.
Parental Stress Factor: Pretty low…this is a very relaxed beach without many of the worries associated with small kids playing near ocean surf.
Physical Difficulty: The beach is not handicap accessible. There are some stairs that would be hard to navigate in a wheelchair and the beach does not have a boardwalk.
Family Fun Factor: I’m going to rate this medium to high. We always have a great time out on Sauvie Island not matter what we’re doing. There are just so many options for fun that satisfy a wide variety of age groups and personalities.
Pet Friendly: You bet! This is a great beach for dogs. It’s common to see dogs off-leash, which is not something I like to see, but I know most readers are not as uptight as I am about dogs off-leash.
Weather Considerations: Definitely a spot for nice weather! If you get rained out, just head over to a local farm.
If you’re into boating, there are three main boat launches (Sauvie Island Boat Launch, Hadley’s Landing, and Cove Marina) – check the website for more information. Also, the area has a couple campgrounds that are clean and safe, which might be a good option for a first-foray into car camping.
You’ll need a parking permit, which now costs a whopping $7.00 for a day and $22 for an annual. If you don’t want to stop at the store right over the bridge, which is sometimes busy, the Reeder Beach Country Store has them for sale and is conveniently located near the beaches.
Family Tips: If you have a sun umbrella, this is the perfect beach to crack it out. The short walk makes this similar to a “car camping” situation. Just please remember to pack-out everything you bring in! Make sure your kids use the porta-potties in the parking areas instead of the beach.
Plenty of nice beach areas for a picnic lunch and/or snacks. Bring plenty of water with you as well. Due to the short walk to the beach, load-up on all kinds of beach toys and ammenities. You might as well be comfortable while you’re enjoying the nice summer weather.
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