lewis river
Image: Neil DeCosta

Finding liquid relief in Washington’s Lewis River

EVERY Summer as the temperatures (hopefully) soar, Portlanders turn their minds to water: where can we sink our toes, legs, or entire body into it? And—as yards turn a crispy brown and river levels fall—do we have enough?

Look to the pages ahead for some answers to both questions. We visit the region’s best swimming and wading spots, and show you why the closest choice, the Willamette River, may become the next great place to take a dip. And to ease your worries that the kitchen tap might go dry, we plunge into the past, present, and future of one of Portland’s greatest assets, the Bull Run water system.


Lewisville Park

Family Friendly | Fee $3 | Average August Water Temperature 84°

Back in the heyday of company picnics (circa 1986), when three-legged racing was practically an Olympic event, Battle Ground’s Lewisville Park could have been considered today’s London. The 154-acre park sprawled along the shores of the Lewis River holds acres of grassy expanse ripe for finish lines, plus picnic tables, barbecue shelters, playgrounds, a baseball field, and, of course, a swimming hole. Several, to be precise. But families—or family reunions—seeking a mellow day on the water best head for the Larch area of the park, where a smallish sand-and-pebble beach affords easy wading and swimming for those still sporting water wings. Mom and Dad can watch from the grass clearing directly behind the beach … or return alone another day for more secluded lounging in the Ponderosa part of the park, where the current is stronger and the beaches are smaller, but curtained by rows of swaying trees.


Waterproof, paraben-, PABA-, and chemical-free, Think Baby sunscreen ensures the only souvenir your kids will take home is a happy memory. Available at Milagros.


Moulton Falls

Family Friendly | No Fee | Average August Water Temperature 84°

The utility player of swimming holes, 387-acre Moulton Falls Regional Park has something for everyone: Instagram-worthy falls surrounded by plentiful flat rocks for playing lizard in the sun, inviting flat water upstream, two miles of trails tracing the Lewis River’s banks, and a three-story arch bridge daredevils (illegally) leap off. Even better, it’s free, which means it can get crowded, so arrive early to stake out your bit of beach or stone and savor this MVP.


Tuck into hearty spaghetti with spicy Italian sausage and Kobe beef meatballs or a bowl of zuppa Toscana (spicy sausage swimming in a cream broth with fresh kale) at Galeotti’s in Battle Ground.