Family Friendly | Fee $5 | Average August Water Temperature 64°
The Potamoi (Greek river gods) themselves might well have carved out this impossibly clear trifecta of swimming holes along the Little North Fork Santiam River. Once your feet hit parking lot pavement, a mere 64 steps separate you from Three Pools’ calm aquamarine “shallows” (ahem, they’re still 12 feet deep) near a towel-ready pebble beach. Upstream, a stone totem stands guard over two clear-to-the-bottom pools that eventually squeeze into a kind of natural waterslide. You’ll pay a price—crowds—for easy access to such a striking scene, but then again, few offerings worthy of the gods come without a little sacrifice.
Fill empty tummies with quick and easy grub from Venti’s in downtown Salem. Built on chicken teriyaki, this 16-year-old café has branched out to vegetarian dishes like garlic-sesame tofu wraps and spicy numbers like Cajun rockfish.
Family Friendly | Fee $7 | Average August Water Temperature 65°
Isolated (think 26 miles on winding back roads) but accessible (they’re good roads), Lost Lake sits high on Hood’s slopes, at a heat-blasting 3,100 feet. Besides the 10 degrees of mercury you’ll lose on your way up, you’ll also ditch the crowds. Shrouds of firs and pines offer prime fort-building terrain for the kids (and a welcome contrast to the scarred slopes of clear-cut you’ll pass on the way here) and ring the 175-foot-deep emerald waters. You’ll need a person-powered craft, like one of the paddleboats for rent outside the 1950s-esque General Store, to gain the best view of Hood’s perfect peak—from the middle of the lake—because no motorized craft are allowed. Which means only one thing will interrupt your serenity: water-bound first-timers’ inaugural whoops of glee.
MAKE IT A WEEKEND
Stay the night—or a week—at one of the lake’s six lodge rooms or seven rustic (read: no plumbing) cabins. From $70
DIY Swimming Hole: The Columbia
Fee $225 | Average August Water Temperature 68°
If the Clackamaniacs at Milo McIver State Park or the “wildlife” at other close-in cooling-off spots don’t jive with your idea of a relaxing afternoon, create your own sanctuary with a 21-foot pontoon rental from SK Watercraft. Essentially drivable swimming docks, these boats sport bench seats, flat fixed platforms, and space for 12 of your closest friends. Boating beginners can rest easy, too: the rental (from $225 per half day) comes with a boating permit and directions to the Columbia’s nearest safe and sunny swimming spots, like the beaches of Government Island, where bald eagles, blue herons, and the occasional camper are the only wildlife you’ll meet. — Camille Grigsby-Rocca
Stop in to Portland classic Gartner’s Country Meats and stock up on everything from salami to pepper-cured ham before you leave the dock. Might as well throw in an extra pound of pepperoni too. Just in case you get stranded.
IN THE COOLER Ashland’s Caldera Brewing was the first Oregon brewer to blast the notion that good beer had to be bottled, putting its IPA in cans in 2007. Thankfully, others have followed suit, making our cooler hauling lighter (and tastier). Here’s what we’re packing this year: Caldera IPA (the original), Hopworks Urban Brewery’s Organic Lager (the new guy), and Fort George’s Vortex IPA (the classic).