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Natural Swimming Holes

Published: August 04, 2020

 

Where can you take a refreshing dip this summer? We asked around and came up with this list of some of our favorite local swimming holes. Remember, these swimming destinations are not supervised nor maintained — so make sure you're making safety your priority: swim with a buddy, watch your children, don't jump or dive, heed any posted signage and be respectful of community watersheds. Keep in mind that currents can change quickly and actual water depth is tricky to judge from the shore. Go slow and be smart, and you'll have a great time and discover a new favorite summer destination.

Designated Swim Areas

The following swimming areas are within managed parks and roped off exclusively for swimming. This helps separate swimmers from boaters and reserves a stretch of beach for easy water access. There are no lifeguards here, and the water depth is variable and could change suddenly, so plan to use good judgment and look out for everyone in your group. Plan ahead and check to see if you need a permit to access parking or day-use areas.

East Woahink Lake Day Use in Dunes City by Jennifer Archer
East Woahink Lake Day Use in Dunes City by Jennifer Archer

 

Cleawox Lake

Honeyman Park, Florence

The charming park amenities at Cleawox make this coastal lake a great place to take young children or enjoy a romantic coastal picnic. Rent a paddleboat or canoe for a paddle around the beautiful lake. Cleawox is framed by dramatic sand dunes and plenty of campgrounds. The lake sparkles and the swim area itself has a large sandy beach with a gentle slope into the water. Even if you are not camping, you can extend your lake time with an overnight at a nearby Florence hotel. Don't forget to bring your sand pail and shovel!

Perkins Peninsula Park

Fern Ridge Reservoir, Veneta 

Just outside of Eugene on your way to Veneta, Perkins Peninsula Park provides a designated area for swimming in Fern Ridge Reservoir. Here you'll find RV camping, large lawns, a baseball diamond, volleyball courts and picnic areas. During the summer months, you'll likely see families gathered for lakeside BBQs and boaters sailing across the lake. The roped-off swim area is on the opposite side of the park from the boat ramp. Fern Ridge can be murky and reedy but swimming here is still a great adventure for kids. 

Orchard Point Park

Fern Ridge Reservoir, Veneta

With two swimming areas, picnic facilities, walking and cycling paths and summertime concessions, Orchard Point is a great swimming destination for the whole family. Located on the northeast shore of Fern Ridge Reservoir near boat ramps and marinas, it's a great place to spend a lazy summer day.

Baker Bay Park

Dorena Reservoir, Cottage Grove 

A woman and two young girls swim together in the deep blue waters at Dorena Lake which is surrounded by mountains.

Summertime at Baker Bay Park on Dorena Reservoir feels like a classic summer vacation. Rent inflatables to float on the lake, and munch on hot dogs and sip cold drinks when you're ready for a snack. A roped swim bay next to the large manicured lawn provides a generous space for families to frolic and splash. Keep that summer vacation feeling going with an overnight stay at nearby Village Green Resort in Cottage Grove. Enjoy a ramble in downtown Cottage Grove or along the Row River Trail.

Lowell State Recreation Site

Dexter Reservoir, Lowell

On the north side of Dexter reservoir, you'll find a swim beach and designated swim area. The Lowell State Recreation Site also offers a playground, picnic shelter and a basketball court. Watch the boaters speed by as you soak up the sun.

Popular Swimming Holes

These creeks and rivers are popular with locals, but aren't officially designated swim areas. Some swimming holes may be remote and all are subject to inconsistent conditions. Just because you, or others, swam here before doesn't mean it is safe today. Watch for changing currents, unexpected submerged debris and slippery rocks. Exercise safe swimming if you decide to take a dip here.

Willamette River in summer by Melanie Griffin
Willamette River in summer by Melanie Griffin

 

Coast Fork Willamette River

Mount Pisgah Arboretum, Eugene 

This access spot on the Coast Fork of the Willamette River is close to Eugene-Springfield at a day-use park with restrooms, parking and a park fee. Enter at the arboretum and hike the flat loop trail south along the river. Here a natural pebbly beach nestles up to a fairly shallow stretch of the river which attracts families with younger children. While this swimming spot is a favorite, please remember that this is a freely moving river prone to currents and unexpected depth changes. 

Sweet Creek

Mapleton

Sweet Creek Falls by Thomas Moser

Tucked in the coastal mountains, this popular waterfall hike offers short trail segments with multiple trailheads, making it a family favorite. The shady Sweet Creek Trail runs along the creek which is mostly shallow and filled with boulders and rocks, with tiny waterfalls cascading into small pools. There is no clear path to the water's edge but in some spots its possible to scramble over rocks and dip your feet in or wade. Caution should be used.

For a quieter scene with fewer hikers, drive past Sweet Creek to the Beaver Creek trailhead to another small waterfall.

Sharps Creek

Cottage Grove

Near Sharps Creek campground, you'll find several creek-formed pools popular for swimming. The pool access is a mix of large boulders, rocky beach and small sand pockets. With uneven bank-access, this swimming hole is better for older children and adults. Pack a picnic lunch for enjoying streamside and bring a pan to pan for gold creekside (this was a former gold mining hot spot!).

Brice Creek

Cottage Grove

woman floats on her back in a clear natural pool at Brice Creek

Brice Creek is a beloved swim spot but be prepared for a longer drive into the Cascade foothills outside of Cottage Grove and a small hike to the pools. Once here, you'll find clear, refreshing deep water pools, small waterfalls and towering forest. Getting to the water's edge can be tricky down steep embankments, making this spot best for older children and adults. This is a popular spot with locals, so consider visiting during days and times when you're less likely to run into crowds.

Lake Creek Rock Slides 

Triangle Lake

Located in the Lake Creek Recreation Area, a mile walk to the "rock slides" leads to large, smooth rocks beneath the creek which has formed natural "slides." On any given summer day here, expect to see adults and older children sliding happily along the slippery rock bed. This destination can be crowded, so consider coming during the week and earlier or later in the day.

Siuslaw Falls

Lorane

Siulsaw Falls has lovely stair-step falls that flow into a wide natural pool making it a great place for wading. Watch for deep pockets of water and remember that rocks can be slippery. 

Wildwood Falls

Cottage Grove

Wildwood Falls by Melanie Griffin

 

Wildwood Falls is a beautiful waterfall only a short walk from the road. Wearing a life jacket is strongly recommended as the downstream currents can be strong. This is a popular spot with the college crowd, so opt for a different swimming spot if you're a family with children.

 
 

Swimming Hole Safety

As inviting as a shimmering pool looks on a hot summer day, always approach natural bodies of water cautiously and practice safe swimming. Always let someone know where you are going and consult our adventure checklist before heading out.

Here are some tips for staying safe when visiting Oregon swimming holes: 

  • Be knowledgeable of the water environment you are in and its potential hazards.
  • Plan ahead and check for any algae advisories that may be in place.
  • Children and inexperienced swimmers should wear a Personal Flotation Device (PFD) when in or around natural bodies of water.
  • Always supervise children closely. Reading, playing cards and looking at your phone is a distraction. Accidents can happen quickly.
  • Walk carefully and expect slippery, mossy rocks or loose stones. You may want to wear water shoes to navigate the rocky riverbed. 
  • If you choose to cross a stream by going through it, study the area first. Avoid deep and/or swift water.
  • When crossing on a natural bridge of rocks or logs, consider where you will land if you fall. Never cross above rapids or falls.
  • If you fall into fast-moving water, do not try to stand up. The force of the water will just push you over and hold you under. Most drownings result from getting a leg or ankle snagged in tree limbs, rocks or in underwater debris. Float on your back with your feet pointing downstream and toes pointing up toward the surface. Look downstream and be prepared to fend off rocks with your feet (so you can protect your head).
  • Don't swim in pools above waterfalls, as strong currents may pull you over.
  • Jumping from cliffs can be dangerous due to shallow water, submerged rocks, trees, or other hazards.
  • Be prepared for surprisingly cold water - even when the temperature outside is hot! 
  • Don't mix alcohol and swimming.
  • Please do not bring or use glass containers near water.
  • Always swim with a buddy, never swim alone.
  • Wrap up the fun before you are too tired, too cold, too far from safety, have too much sun or have had too much strenuous activity.
  • Know how to prevent, recognize and respond to injuries.
McKenzie River by Samantha Inouye
McKenzie River by Samantha Inouye
 

 

Hotel Swimming Pools May be Open

Another way to cool off this summer is to plan a family "staycation". Book a hotel package at a local hotel with a swimming pool and enjoy an afternoon of pool time. Hotels with open pool facilities may have different protocols, such as reservations for pool access, capacity limits or time limits, so call ahead to make your plans. Most hotel pools do not have lifeguards.

It is summertime and that means swimming pools. Although many community pools are closed to… More Info

Supervised Swimming is Safest

Of course pools and swim areas with lifeguards are the best places to swim. Some public and membership-based pools have re-opened for specific use with reserved times, like adult lap swim. Check with your local pool to find out what protocols are in place.

Splash! Wave Pool by Willamalane
Outdoor and indoor aquatic facilities feature lap swims, recreational swims, diving wells, water slides, children's wading pools and… More Info
Author: Taj Barnhart Morgan

Taj Barnhart Morgan is the Director of Content Strategy for Travel Lane County. A journalism graduate from the University of Oregon, Taj has two decades of special event management and hospitality marketing experience in San Diego, CA and Maui, HI. Passionate about mothering, and back to her Oregon roots, she is discovering the Eugene, Cascades & Coast region all over again through the eyes of her daughter.