What’s to Love: An overcrowded beach along the Sandy River filled with people throwing cigarette butts, trash, and being obnoxiously loud and rude? Is that the Dabney State Park you know and love? My expectations were pretty low going in, especially on a busy summer weekend. However, similar to Oxbow State Park, the rangers and clean-up crew do an excellent job of keeping Dabney clean, under control, and a great place for families.
Prior to our whole-family-trip, my wife visited during the week and thought it was an excellent spot. Our 7-year old couldn’t stop talking about it. They both spun tales of a clean river and sandy beaches, very few people, sand dunes, grills, picnic areas, capturing all kinds of water creatures at will, and people floating peacefully down the river. I kept asking, “Are you sure you were on the Sandy River near Oxbow?
Sure, people park illegally along the access road, erode the bank with rogue trails, throw trash, and a number of other ills that plague popular recreation spots; however, that is all outside the carefully controlled perimeter of Dabney. The worst you’ll see is mini-tailgate-parties in the parking area supplying an endless conveyor belt of people floating downstream to Lewis and Clark State Park.
These folks get their buzz on in the parking area, blow-up their flotation devices, caravan down to the river and plop-in. It’s actually quite fun watching all the various rafts, inner-tubes, air-mattresses, boats, kayaks, etc. It all seems in good fun, and I have to admit that I really wanted to do the float down the Sandy myself.
Indeed, within this beautiful little spot, there are rolling sand dunes, clean water and restrooms, grills, plenty of picnic benches, sandy beaches, and a sweet little mini-river in which young kids can walk up and down looking for fish, frogs, pollywogs, water bugs, etc. Dabney State Park should be on your summer hit list.
Caveats: The parking area closest to the beach fills up quickly. If you want a spot, better show up right when the park opens. There is a $5/car fee for entry into the park. If you park outside the park boundaries and walk or bike in, you do not have to pay the fee.
This is a pretty tame part of the Sandy River with plenty of shallow areas for kids. However, the current quickly gets dangerous for little kids not far from shore. Keep a close eye on your kids the whole time!
Website: Dabney State Park
Distance from Portland: About 20 miles. Here is a Google Map.
Recommended Ages: Great park for the whole family! Teens will really be into floating down the river. Young children love the dunes and mini-river.
Parental Stress Factor: It’s fairly stressful if you’re kids are wanderers. The stress factor mainly comes from young children being around water. The crowd didn’t stress me out the much at all.
Physical Difficulty: Not handicap accessible, but the beach is close for kids with physical challenges. There are paved pathways throughout the park and one does go to the edge of the sand.
Family Fun Factor: Awesome! Even with the crowds, there is enough space and fun to go around.
Pet Friendly: No dogs allowed in the park on leash or off.
Weather Considerations: If you want a small crowd, head to Dabney on a rainy day and play the disc golf course or do some boating. Otherwise, Dabney should be reserved for the hot sunny days of summer!
Don’t forget to check-out the 18-hole disc golf course! I think the best time to visit this course would be during the fall when the orchard comes alive. The first few holes did not impress, but it got much better after that. We didn’t get to play the entire course, but I would go out of my way just to play it. Sorry I don’t have any photos.
If you’re kids are old enough, bring some inner-tubes or other flotation devices and float down the river to Lewis and Clark State Park. You’ll need two cars; however, so many people do it that you could probably hitch a ride back to Dabney no problem.
Family Tips: For larger parties, you may want to consider reserving a sheltered picnic area. If you show up on a busy weekend, most likely, you will not get a picnic bench by the beach. There are plenty of grills for BBQ.
As you can see in the majority of pictures, there isn’t much shade down by the water. Bring water bottles, hats, and sun screen. There are a few shady spots back by the treeline, but they’ll most likely get taken early. If your plan is to stay most of the day, bring a beach umbrella or a shade tent.
If you’re able to park in the main lot next to the beach, it’s probably not necessary to have a child carrier. If you bring a lot of stuff, a Bob-type jogging stroller is a pretty good option for hauling stuff down to the beach.
Other Posts of Interest...
Government Cove Peninsula on August 27th, 2012
Sellwood Riverfront Park on July 12th, 2010
Vancouver Lake Park on August 15th, 2013