As soon as we see our first 90 degree day each summer, Portlanders run for the Oregon coast and the nearest rivers. So if you’ve been pondering doing a river float, here’s everything you need to know to get out on the water.
You have two main option in the Portland area for river floating — the Sandy River and the Clackamas River. Both rivers have several parks that you can base yourself from and either swim/wade in the water or go tubing. The Sandy is a little closer to central Portland, but the Clackamas is a favorite. Remember, you’ll need two cars if you plan on floating from one park to the next (your other option is to bike or hitch a ride back to the upper parking lot). On your way to the river, either drop a car off at the float STOPPING point (and have the other driver jump in) or have everyone meet at the LAUNCH point and then while everyone is getting ready, two drivers take both cars to the STOPPING point (If it’s your first time floating that area, go take a look at the river so you know what it looks like where you stopping or you may just float on by), leave one car there and then come back. Remember, you need to bring the keys!
Where to buy/rent tubes in Portland:
Most sporting goods stores in town have inner tubes for river floating (places like Fred Meyer and Walmart should too). As summer heats up, it can be difficult to find tubes in stock and/or at a reasonable price (I was quoted $60 for the cheapest tube at one sporting goods store in town). As much as I like to shop local, I decided to buy inner tubes on Amazon (and with Amazon Prime free 2-day shipping, you don’t have to plan ahead that far), which makes the adventure much more affordable!
Best Float Routes: Clackamas River
You have several options for floating the Clackamas River, as there are three typical start points and three end points. The most popular launch is from Milo McIver State Park’s Upper Ramp (see map for details).
Route 1: McIver Upper Ramp to McIver Lower Ramp – 2hrs
Route 2: McIver Upper Ramp to Barton – 6-7 hours
Route 3: McIver Upper Ramp to Carver – 8-9 hours
Route 4: McIver Lower Ramp to Barton – 5-6 hours
Route 5: McIver Lower Ramp to Carver – 7-8 hours
Remember many of these route pass through several sets of small rapids (water levels and speed greatly depend on the year and time of year), so not recommended for small children.
Best Float Routes: Sandy River
The most popular route on the Sandy is Dabney State Recreation Area to Lewis & Clark State Park (see map below). For more on floating the Sandy River check out Popina’s blog. You can also start at Dodge Park and continue to Lewis & Clark.
Things to Bring to the River:
Newbie Tubing Tips:
River Float Map:
View Portland Tubing in a larger map
Have you been tubing in Portland?
Share your favorite river spot in the comments. All photos by Olivia Raymer and may not be used without permission. Float on.