Last week’s heat wave has left anyone lacking air conditioning or a sufficient number of fans desperate for relief, and now more heat is on the way. Luckily, the Willamette Valley is home to some excellent natural swimming pools to help you beat the sweaty heat. And the best part is they’re cheap, close by, and fun for all ages to cool off on a blazing summer afternoon. If you’re new to town, looking for a new spot to swim, or just need a break from the heat, here are three of the best swimming holes in our area for you to choose from.
If you can’t go very far then Avery Park is your best bet in Corvallis. It lies just south of the OSU campus and is home to a multitude of these refreshing getaways as it borders the snaking Marys River (Just watch out for poison oak). The most popular of these swimming holes lies just behind the Parks and Rec office on the northwest side of the park. If you follow the path on the building’s left side and then keep left along it for about 200 yards, you’ll come down onto a rocky outcrop with full access to the river. The area boasts its own rope swing, plenty of room for relaxing in the sun, and multiple shallow and “deep-ends” that are perfect for kids and pets to play in. The area is popular and can get pretty crowded, but it’s only a short swim up or down the river to find a less crowded spot.
Having reliable transportation opens up the options a fair bit. Foster Lake is the nearest big body of water and only takes about 45 minutes to drive to. Lewis Creek Park is a day use park on the far side of the lake from Highway 20, and is home to plenty of picnic and barbeque space and amenities, plenty of grassy field for games, and a large, cordoned-off swimming area protected from boats. To the east of Lewis Creek is Sunnyside County Park, the main campground on the lake. Sunnyside has a boat ramp and plenty of access to the lake, as well as showers and bathrooms for overnight camping.
If lakes aren’t your thing and you’d rather just lie back and let the current steer you, a river float starting in Willamette Park might be the best option. Floating the river takes a little planning as it requires floatation devices and supplies for a journey downstream, but if you’re up to it it’s an excellent way to cool down and relax with friends and family. Willamette Park is located at the end of Southeast Goodnight Avenue on the southern edge of Corvallis. From the parking lot it’s only a stone’s throw to the water, and any of the many pre-blazed trails off the walking path will lead you right to the water’s edge. The float generally takes between two and three hours, but there are plenty of sandbars and beaches to stop at if you need more time in the sun. The end of the float is easiest at Michael’s Landing, which is located at the northern end of 1st Street, behind the Old Spaghetti Factory. Be sure to park a car at Michael’s Landing or arrange a ride prior to getting in so you don’t have to walk all the way back to Willamette Park.
By Summer Noller