What’s to Love: I have many fond memories of shooting bow and arrow as a kid. My dad made this target out of hay bales, cardboard, and canvas. We’d haul it out to the schoolyard next door and hit everything EXCEPT the target. I remember purposefully shooting arrows as high as I could up into the sky with my friend trying to catch them before the hit the ground. What were we thinking?
Luckily, Washington Park offers a relatively-safe outdoor venue for practicing archery with your kids. If everyone follows the rules, your kids will be able to practice without errant shots flying all over the place. Our session was super mellow with two other parties (adults) practicing.
Not only were the other groups helpful and supportive, they took some time to explain some of the shooting etiquette and gave us many tips about bows, arrows, and setting up targets. As a matter of fact, they even helped us move hay bales closer to the shooting line (they were HEAVY!), so my son had a better chance of actually hitting something. The range is in a quiet setting with plenty of space for shooting.
Caveats: Until 5PM, you will have to pay for parking inside Washington Park. This is a new addition to the park, but I could certainly see it coming. The park is getting overrun at times with an abundance of users – both legal and illegal. Hopefully, the money is going to monitor the various activities. It still is one of my favorite places in Portland.
Make sure you read and understand the rules at the range. If you don’t, please ask someone who is practicing. My bet is they’ll be thrilled you asked! Also, make sure your kids have some experience before showing up at the outdoor range (see insider info below for more about that).
Distance from Portland: It’s about 3.3 miles from downtown Portland. I’ve marked the exact spot of the parking area. The archery range is just about 100 – 200 yards from where you park – look for the hay bales!
Recommended Ages: Great activity for a wide variety of age groups. Under age 5, you may want to wait until a time where the range is free and clear. Ages 5 and over should be able to practice with other shooters present. Definitely help your kid – don’t just tell them to load and arrow and shoot. You’ll want to be literally on top of them to make sure their arrow flies in the general location of a target.
Parental Stress Factor: If your kid can get an arrow of in the general vicinity of the target, you probably won’t be too stressed at all. The stress I experienced was mainly due to the fact there were other adult shooters present. They were serious archers, and I didn’t want to mess up their time. Fortunately, they were also very helpful and psyched to see a little kid giving it a go. Hopefully, you’ll have the same experience!
Physical Difficulty: If you attend a class (see Insider Info), they will give you a better idea of the type of bow your kids should be using. Most beginner sets are fine for shooting at the outdoor range, but certainly, distance and arrow-stability will be limited.
Family Fun Factor: If you have multiple shooters, especially younger kids, you’ll want more than one adult/parent present. I could see this being a fun activity for the whole family, but I recommend that everyone has their own gear. Otherwise, you might spend most of your time trying to get everyone to share. It’s such a cool sport, and kids are always anxious to let arrows fly.
Pet Friendly: This is not a place for dogs, even on a leash. It’s way too easy to get distracted, and your dog may end-up running into the shooting area while arrows are flying. Leave your dog at home for this activity.
Insider Info: “Archers Afield” has some nice programs for beginning-level archers. A great way to learn the basics is to host a birthday party. There will be someone on-hand while your kids are shooting arrows. This attendant explains the basics of shooting and safety. I highly recommend some type of instruction before venturing out to Washington Park.
The metal stakes used to hold down landscaping fabric (find at any gardening store) are perfect for attaching target to the existing hay bales. Again, make sure you bring your own targets – it’s a rule that you must shoot at targets.
Family Tips: I recommend a protective guard for your kid’s forearm, as well as something to hold their arrows. Do not bring small children (i.e., toddlers) who may aimlessly wander into the shooting area while you’re helping your older kid. Do not let your kids shoot there without constant supervision.
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Leaping Lamb Farm Stay on October 5th, 2009
Wapato Access Greenway on November 28th, 2010
White River Sno-Park (West) on January 30th, 2014