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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

Other Posts of Interest...

Henry Hagg Lake on August 2nd, 2010

Cape Lookout State Park on November 3rd, 2007

Kelley Point Park on November 21st, 2007


  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.

    • Thanks for your comment Mary. For obvious reasons, I spend a great deal of time at parks. Since my kids have been knocked over numerous times by \”friendly\” dogs, and I've personally seen MANY irresponsible owners with their dogs around kids (even in dog-friendly Portland), I think keeping dogs away from kids is a good thing, especially around playground equipment. Dogs just like to play too much. There will be incidents and problems, even if owners are careful.

      That said, I think it's a bit unrealistic and/or unfair to dog owners if ALL park space is off-limits to dogs. I think the obvious solution is giving parks special areas (away from kids) dedicated to open space for dogs. The problem with this is that there are always owners who break the rules. However, in Portland, it seems to work for the most part.


  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.

    • Lance,

      Thanks for your comment, and thanks for reading my article. I respect and appreciate your difference in opinion, and I'm sure there are many who would agree with you. I was just going to post it, and let other folks comment, because I like to avoid political discussions on a family site. However, I suppose I asked for trouble by expressing my opinions, and you deserve a response. 🙂

      Concerning the dog issue, I don't necessarily think there should be an outright ban on dogs in the entire park (I just reread what I wrote). I was simply glad there was a ban on dogs in the beach area (not stated as clearly as I would have liked). I bet it was fine at one point to have your dog on that beach and most likely, bad owners ruined it for everyone.

      Believe it or not, I'm a dog lover – had one pretty much my whole life. For the Oxbow beach area, I think the rule is a good one, especially with how crowded it can get. Also, please note that this is coming from a dad whose (small) kids have been knocked over by unleashed dogs on several occasions. Therefore, I'm obviously a bit biased.

      I don't think we'd ever agree on the smoking issue. I grew up with a smoker (my dad smoked cigars!), and I believe our exposure to smoke growing up led to a host of health problems for my brother and sisters.

      The dangers of 2nd hand smoke are well documented, and innocent children should not have to be exposed to others' smoke. This is so painfully obvious to most people, and that's why it's banned in Portland parks, schools, and public buildings.

      Frankly, I find most smokers are very considerate about this issue. I think they don't like the ban, but they also know they shouldn't smoke around kids.

      Vince Schreck, Ed.D.
      Instructional Designer, Portland State University
      Editor: Portland Family Adventures

      • Amen about the second hand smoke and dogs knocking little ones over!! Smokers do not have a right to force us to inhale their cancer causing smoke. Sorry Lance.

    • I know this is really old, but I was just looking for info on blue lake and this popped up. I am a smoker and I am really tired of everyone telling me that I shouldn't smoke outside. You are so rediculous! I don't smoke inside (personal choice), but if you don't want me to smoke outside either….Maybe you would like to rid the world of all people who do anything that bothers/annoys you! Then earth would be such a great place…just for you! Get over yourself!

      • Smoking is supposedly banned on the hiking trails. I'm just asking people to follow the rules. Yes, on the beach, I wish people wouldn't smoke, but it's just my personal opinion. I don't want to rid the earth of people who smoke. I would like to rid the earth of cigarettes though…too many health problems (my dad died as a direct result of emphysema), cigarette butts being thrown all over the place, children being exposed to 2nd-hand smoke, people can't quit, expensive, etc…the list goes on and on.

        I don't expect you to agree with me. Again, it's just my opinion.

      • This is the insane logic that smokers have. I don't smoke inside my house because I don't want it to ruin my furniture or stink it up. But your willing to inhale that crap right into your lungs! So you actually care more about your furnishings that your own lungs. Stupid! and BTW everyone can still smell your stink from 50ft away. I look at someone smoking near me as assault since I can't stop breathing. If you were trying to inject the same toxins into my children with a syringe I would be able to use deadly force to stop you.

  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…

    • Thanks for the comments Jennifer. I think the problem with dogs is "What is a responsible owner?" It's the same question with smoking and kids. Can you smoke responsibly in public areas? Because there really are no standards for what is and what is not acceptable, there will always be conflict. One person may think it's perfectly fine for their dogs to be tied-up and barking the entire time they're at a park. Others might think it's fine for their dogs to run around trampling kids and walking on blankets, etc. Some smokers think it's fine to smoke right next to their kids or even in the same car.

      I'm not trying to set the rules. In the article, I'm just saying I think it's a good thing that dogs are not allowed and that people cannot smoke on trails. That's it…it's just an opinion. Everyone is welcome to express their opinion.

    • Agreed. Most dog guardians are responsible and shouldn't be discriminated against because of the few who may not be. Similarly, most parents are responsible and they ARE able to bring their kids. Both dog guardians and parents (often the same folk) need to be monitored to some degree. Reasonableness should prevail over bureaucracy and anti-dogs prejudice.

  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.

  12. We used to camp at Oxbow all the time. We watched it go from outhouses to what it is today. Back in the day we didn't have to have reservations Now you can't just load up the car and go on a whim. The smoking issue? If I'm paying their huge fee for camping, used to about 15 dollars, then I should have the right to smoke if I want to. Sit by a campfire. Eventually, depending on the wind direction, you're going to breathe in smoke. The majority of smokers are more considerate than Mother Nature.

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