Willamette River Summer Recreation Guide

YAY SUMMER!  The short, sublime, Pacific Northwest summer is at our doorstep and there just are not enough days to do it all. Decisions must be made!

Here’s a plug for a handful of fun summer events produced by Human Access Project. Remember when swimming in any river always wear river shoes.

Third Annual Mayoral Swim 

with Ted Wheeler

Station 21 Fire House Dock

Wednesday, July 11 • 6-7:30 pm


Swim Across the Willamette River with Mayor Ted Wheeler. The Willamette River is only ¼ of a mile across, so how can you have lived in this city for so long and never swum across the river? It’s a rite of passage!

The swim is supervised by AMR River Rescue lifeguards and 30-40 safety boaters but if you have any concern about your ability to swim across, please wear a life jacket. Otherwise, take your time and see downtown like you have never seen it before.

Swim under the Hawthorne Bridge, and a van is provided to shuttle your personal belongings to the west side. This swim is not a race; it’s a fun time and generally takes most people 15-30 minutes to get across. It typically has 200-300 participants with an after-party following the swim. You can say you have taken a swim with Mayor Ted.

The Big Float 8

Tom McCall Waterfront Park

Saturday July 14 • 11 am-6 pm 

$5-$15 (early discount pricing and discounts for kids)


This year The Big Float falls on Bastille Day. This is a family-friendly chance to celebrate our city’s river with thousands of other Willamette River lovers in innertubes, as you take a float right through downtown Portland.

There aren’t too many places in the world where you can enjoy a live concert from your innertube and The Big Float has two floating stages. At the after-party, zoom down on two 100’ long slip-n-slides, get eats at the pod of food carts and enjoy free chair massages.

It’s time to get off the couch, express your inner tube and join The Riverlution.    Last year, 2,500 people participated and this year, if Mother Nature provides a bright, sunny day, as many as 4-6,000 are anticipated to join in the fun.

All participants are required to wear life jackets (available for $10 at our website), and teams of AMR River Rescue lifeguards, safety kayakers, Portland Fire and Multnomah County River Patrol, supervise the event.


Sunday Parkways Sunday Splashways

Audrey McCall Beach

Sunday, July 22 • 11 am-4 pm


Sunday Parkways is a must-do summer event where neighborhood streets are closed down to create a bike and walking route in each quadrant of the city.

This summer, the Human Access Project partners with Portland Department of Transportation and Sunday Parkways to bring Sunday Splashways to Audrey McCall Beach, located directly off the eastside esplanade under the Hawthorne Bridge with great sunset views of downtown.

The Human Access Project will set up a swim line, provide AMR River Rescue Lifeguards for supervision and bring in a floating stage so you can hear live music while you take a pit stop to cool off from your Sunday bike ride.  The Splashdown may even get a visit from Weenies on the Water, Portland’s floating food cart!

River Hugger Swim Team

Fire Station 21 Dock

June 15- September 7

M-F 7 am, Tu-Th 6 pm

$5 drop in, $5 swim buoy rental

The River Hugger Swim Team is a recreational protest swim, bringing attention to the extreme deficit of river edge access downtown.

According to Portland Parks and Recreation only 5% of downtown has access to the river’s edge of the city’s largest public open space and natural area owned by the citizens of Oregon – the Willamette River.

The River Hugger Swim Team is the confluence between community, recreation and activism. Can you swim a mile in a pool in under 45 minutes?  Come join in.

It is fine to wear fins, and many swimmers do. There is no better way to start a summer day than to take a swim with the Huggers. Once you experience open water swimming, there is no going back to the concrete box.

There’s no chlorine, lap lanes or flip turns. Experience the rush of being a part of a human swimming pod, with an average of thirty + swimmers each swim.

Willamette River Summer Recreation Guide

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