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The City of Portland, Oregon

Portland Parks & Recreation

Healthy Parks, Healthy Portland

Phone: 503-823-7529

1120 SW Fifth Avenue, Portland, OR 97204

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Frequently Asked Questions

The summer 2018 program at Poet's Beach will be open July 12 - August 26, 2018

Beach will be open during typical park hours: 5:00am-midnight

The 2018 Poet’s Beach program is modified from the 2017 program. In 2018:

  • The beach will not have lifeguards on duty. Visitors who wish to enter the water do so at their own risk.
  • Personal flotation devices (“life jackets”) will not be available to borrow this year.
  • Park Hosts will not be on duty and visitors will not be surveyed for feedback.
  • Picnic tables and portable restrooms will not be available this year.
  • Please obey all rules and regulations.

Poet’s Beach at a Glance

  • Program duration is July 12, through August 26, 2018.
  • Poet’s Beach is a sandy shore with river access, and an in-water swimming area delineated with a swim line and floats. The swim line’s purpose is to mitigate potential conflicts between swimmers and other river use, including boats and other watercraft. Because Poet’s Beach is not lifeguarded, swimmers enter the river at their own risk and need to be aware of the risks and potential hazards of entering the Willamette River.
  • Water depth is shallow in the area of Poet’s Beach.
  • Permanent restrooms are available a few minutes' walk or bike north of the beach at South Waterfront Park Garden, 1831 SW River Drive. Wayfinding signs will point Poet's Beach users to the permanent restrooms.

How do we get there?
Poet's Beach is in South Waterfront Park, on the west side of the Willamette River and just north of the I-5 Marquam Bridge.

  • Walk, roll, or bicycle along the South Waterfront Park Trail. Bicycle racks are available at Poet’s Beach for short-term use. Please note that road construction may prevent access to Poet’s Beach via SW River Parkway. SW Hall Street and SW Montgomery Street are better alternatives.
  • If taking public transportation, the nearest Portland Streetcar stop is SW River Parkway and Moody Avenue. The nearest TriMet bus stops are 35 and 36. Note that road construction may affect TriMet routes; check trimet.org before you begin your trip. 
  • If driving, the nearest road intersection is SW River Parkway and Moody Avenue. Paid vehicle parking is available in the area.

Is there an admission charge to Poet’s Beach?
The City invites guests to swim and to enjoy the Beach at no cost.


Does Poet’s Beach have lifeguards on site?
No lifeguards will be on duty. Visitors who wish to enter the water do so at their own risk.


Are there life jackets for me to use at Poet’s Beach? What about kids’ sizes?
No life jackets are available for use at Poet’s Beach. The City recommends that guests bring their own life jackets (or other PFDs). Do not use air-filled or foam toys, such as "water wings", "noodles", or inner-tubes, in place of life jackets. These toys are not designed to keep swimmers safe.


What about other City staff on site?

  • Portland Park Rangers will patrol Poet’s Beach up to three times per day, depending on staffing and other demands. Rangers can answer questions, enforce park rules, and will note and report any issues to the appropriate Bureau and/or other City staff. Rangers patrol more than a dozen downtown parks, thus their ability to visit Poet’s Beach is dependent on their work flow on a given day. Rangers are not law enforcement officers, but rather park ambassadors.
  • For emergency services, including police, ambulance or fire, call 9-1-1.
  • More information about river swimming safety is located at portlandoregon.gov/parks/article/643913.

What do I do if I see a crime at Poet’s Beach?

  • If there is a crime in progress, if a serious threat or problem is developing, or if there is an emergency, please call 9-1-1.
  • For non-emergency park-related problems or special situations, call the Park Rangers at 503-823-1637.
  • For dog attacks or other serious situations involving animals, call Multnomah County Animal Control at 503-248-3790 or call Police Non-Emergency at 503-823-3333.
  • For park maintenance problems, call 503-823-1600.

Is the Willamette River clean?

  • Today the Willamette River through Portland is cleaner than it's been in decades, thanks in large part to ratepayers’ investment in the Big Pipe project that dramatically reduced combined sewer overflows.
  • The ground on Poet’s Beach was remediated in the late 1990s with “rip rap” (boulder rock) and many layers of sand, and the substrate has been found to be clean. In 2017, engineering consultants reviewed river bottom conditions in the swim area at Poet’s Beach using side-scan sonar, and found no known underwater obstacles such as large debris, holes, or sudden drop-offs. However, conditions can change over the winter, so as with all other
    river swimming – use caution and swim at your own risk.
  • Beachgoers and swimmers should be aware of potential hazards when visiting, such as broken glass, river currents, floating debris, low water temperatures, and other concerns.
  • More information about river water quality can be located at portlandoregon.gov/bes/CheckTheRec

Does Poet’s Beach offer restrooms, showers, foot-washing stations, and potable water?

  • Permanent restrooms are available a few minutes’ walk away at the South Waterfront Park Garden, at 1831 SW River  Drive. Wayfinding signs will point Poet’s Beach users to the permanent restrooms.
  • No showers or foot-washing stations are available at Poet’s Beach.
  • Potable (drinking) water is not available at Poet’s Beach, but nearby cafés and shops offer bottled water and beverages for purchase. PP&R encourages all guests to bring their own potable water and to pack out what they pack in. Please don’t litter!
  • Shoes are recommended. For your protection, wearing shoes or sandals is recommended on the sandy beach and in the water.

Does Poet’s Beach offer concessions?
Poet’s Beach does not offer concessions, but nearby cafés and shops offer snacks for purchase. PP&R encourages guests to bring their own picnics and snacks, and to pack out what they pack in. Please don’t litter!


What beach-related items can I bring to Poet’s Beach?
PP&R encourages guests to bring sunblock, towels, beach chairs, umbrellas, life jackets, floaties, and other beach-related items for their comfort. Shoes are recommended. For your protection, wearing shoes or sandals is recommended on the sandy beach and in the water.

Please do not litter, and remember to recycle or throw away your leftovers.


Are dogs allowed at the beach?
No. Animals are prohibited within the designated in-water and beach area. This prohibition does not apply to service animals while performing their qualifying services, nor to animals while during the official performance of police or rescue activities.


Can I launch or land my light watercraft at Poet’s Beach?

  • No, but there is a spot nearby. Light watercraft (including paddle boards) are not allowed to use the Poet’s Beach sandy beach or the delineated in-water swimming area, but use of paddle boards or other light watercraft is permitted outside of these areas.
  • An alternative location to land or launch light watercraft is a second paved ramp leading to the sand just north of the Poet’s Beach ramp. Visitors with light watercraft may use this ramp to launch or land their watercraft very close to Poet's Beach (but outside the designated swimming area.)
  • Jet skis are not allowed at Poet’s Beach.

Is the site accessible per the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?
Poet’s Beach is accessible to the extent feasible to get to the beach and consistent with the preservation of the beach’s natural features. No further improvements are planned for Poet’s Beach at this time. Portland Parks & Recreation has other opportunities for people to enjoy the water, such as splash pads, fountains, and swimming pools.

For additional ADA information or to request assistance, call 503-823-4333 or 711 (TRS).


What are the river conditions like at Poet’s Beach?


Is the site called Poet’s Beach or Poetry at the Beach?
The beach area on the north side of the Marquam Bridge, on the west side of the Willamette River, is known by three names. This location is formally part of South Waterfront Park, a public park operated and maintained by PP&R. In 2012, public art was added and the art installation (not the site) was called “Poetry at the Beach.” However, the public now commonly refers to the site as “Poet’s Beach.”  The swimming beach program (but not the site) during the summer is also being called “Poet’s Beach.” Formally recognizing the site as “Poet’s Beach” would require a public re-naming process or City Council action.


What are the Poet’s Beach rules?
In addition to other applicable laws including the provisions of Chapter 20.12 Prohibited Conduct:

  1. Swimming must occur in the designated in-water beach area within the boundaries marked by ropes, buoys or signs.
  2. Persons who swim, whether inside or outside the designated in-water swimming area, do so at their own risk.
  3. No lifeguards are on duty. Persons who swim do so at their own risk.
  4. Children younger than ten years old must have a responsible adult supervising them at all times.
  5. PP&R requires bathing suits, and babies must wear diapers designed for swimming.
  6. Do not swim if you have had diarrhea in the past two weeks, or a disease communicable by water. Swimmers who are not toilet trained must wear a swim diaper. Immuno-compromised individuals should use caution when using a public swimming beach.
  7. No bicycles are permitted on the beach. PP&R provides bicycle parking on the on-land portions of South Waterfront Park.
  8. Inner tubes, air mattresses, and other beach toy-type items may be used only in in-water and beach areas. Please keep face masks, fins, snorkels, and floating toys inside the ropes.
  9. Barbecues are not permitted within the beach area.
  10. Poet’s Beach and all Portland parks are smoke- and tobacco-free zones. Smoking and tobacco are defined to include, but are not limited to: bidis, cigarettes, cigarillos, cigars, clove cigarettes, e-cigarettes, nicotine vaporizers, nicotine liquids, hookahs, kreteks, pipes, chew, snuff, smokeless tobacco, and marijuana.
  11. Possession and consumption of alcohol are not permitted.
  12. Possession or use of glass or other breakable containers is prohibited within the designated in-water and beach areas.
  13. Animals are prohibited within the designated in-water and beach area. This prohibition does not apply to service animals while performing their qualifying services, nor to animals serving in the course of the official performance of police or rescue activities.

Can I reserve Poet’s Beach for a private event?
PP&R may grant new special use permits for Poet’s Beach during the swimming season (July 12 – August 26, 2018) depending on the proposed activity, timing of the permit, Downtown Operations supervisor approval, and other factors. For more information on special permits, please contact:

PP&R Customer Service Center
111 SW Columbia Street, Suite 660, Portland, Oregon 97201
503-823-2525 (office)   |   503-823-2515 (fax)