Marion County Swimming Holes

Great Dips In Oregon's Willamette Valley
Marion County: home of cool swimming holes
Marion County: home of cool swimming holes

With deference to the rest of the country, there is no place like Oregon for recreational outdoor swimming. Swimming holes are abundant and the beauty and variety of the surrounding countryside are unmatched. To the west there is ocean, to the east, desert. There are high mountain lakes in the Cascades, which stretch from California to Washington. Lovely rivers have created beautiful lowland valleys. With the exception of southeast Oregon, there is likely to be a decent swimming hole within half an hour's drive from any place in the state.

With few exceptions, Oregon law protects the public's, and hence the swimmer's, right and access to the vast bulk of the state's fresh and salt water. The Oregon Supreme Court has recognized the public's right, through the doctrine of custom, to unencumbered recreational access to the coastal shoreline, from the vegetation line to the ocean. Nearly all of the waters of the state, at least to the extent that they are"navigable," are preserved for public, including recreational, use. This body of law, combined with the fact that over 55% of the state is publicly (mostly federally) owned, makes it a recreational and swimmer's haven.

Oregon freshwater swimming is mostly seasonal, from June through September. July to mid-September is usually best. Lower elevations generally warm up quicker than higher ones, but it can remain chilly near the coast when it is warm everywhere else. Waters in Oregon may be nippy, but only a handful of places dip below 650 F in the heat of summer. Most swimmers will find water above that temperature comfortable.

Lower Northwestern Oregon is a region of diverse geography and immense enchantment. Swimming spots there are among the most varied in the state; they span the gamut from pure mountain streams to meandering, silt-loaded rivers. One of the best swimming stream in the whole of Oregon is located in Marion County. The Little North Fork of the Santiam River simply abounds with tremendous places to swim. What follows is a survey of some of the choicest of these cool river dips.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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