FOR VISITORS > Sandy River Water Trail

Sandy River Water Trail

Sandy River Water TrailWelcome to the Sandy River Water Trail– a chance to explore one of Oregon’s most unique rivers!

Now naturally flowing without dams from its water source at Mount Hood, the river flows to the mighty Columbia River. The Sandy River offers paddlers and other recreationists excellent opportunities just minutes from the greater Portland area.

The 38 river miles that make up the Sandy River Water Trail features scenic basalt canyons, rare old growth forest and exciting examples of river restoration in action.

The Sandy River Water Trail Guide provides information and maps to help make your trip safe and enjoyable, with trip suggestions and resources to more in-depth information.

Printable Guide in pdf Format

Sandy River Water TrailClick here to download the complete guide in pdf format.

What is a Water Trail?

Water trails are about connections…connections to public land, parks, open spaces, and other river access opportunities that connect people to the river while emphasizing stewardship and low impact to nature.

Water trails are stretches of rivers mapped out with the intent of creating educational, scenic and rewarding experiences for nonmotorized boaters (paddlers).

Water trails offer a variety of skill levels while highlighting legal and safe put-in’s and take-out access locations. Water trails also highlight public amenities, such as restrooms and garbage receptacles.

The Sandy River

Within an hour’s drive from Portland, the Sandy River provides excellent options for river recreation. The lower, more accessible river segments attract visitors during the busy summer season, while the more challenging segments provide a chance to improve paddling skill and experience.

Alder Creek Rapid
Alder Creek Rapid

The Sandy River provides a full spectrum of rapids, from Class I –flat water to Class IV+ whitewater rapids. The Sandy River illustrates the complex geologic and natural forces that have shaped the Pacific Northwest. The river moves rapidly through rugged canyons with deep boulders and pools, and gravel bars shaded by tall conifer forests. Weather patterns result in more than 100 inches of annual precipitation at higher elevations.

The Sandy River takes its name from Mount Hood’s Sandy Glacier, which feeds the river with sediment-laden, nutrient rich water. During parts of the year where the snow and glacial melt account for much of the river’s flow, the Sandy can take on a distinct, clouded appearance.

Visitor services along the Water Trail

Former Marmot Dam Site
Former Marmot Dam Site

An abundance of services are available for river users along the entirety of the Sandy River Water Trail.

For visitors to the lower segments of the river, the city of Troutdale offers supplies, restaurants, and gasoline all within minutes of major river access points. Contact the West Columbia Gorge Chamber of Commerce (503) 669-7473 for more information.

Visitors to the middle and upper river segments can find a wide range of services in Sandy and the Villages of Mount Hood along US Highway 26. The Sandy Area Chamber of Commerce (503) 668-4006 as well as Oregon’s Mount Hood Territory (800) 424-3002 can help you locate these services.  

Water Trail Information:

Please contact the respective site or land managers:
Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD):
1-800-551-6949
www.oregonstateparks.org

Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Salem District:
503-375-5646
www.blm.gov/or/index.php

Metro:
503-797-1850
www.oregonmetro.gov

Sandy River Gorge
Sandy River Gorge

Portland Water Bureau:
503-823-7404
www.portlandonline.com/water/dodgepark

City of Sandy
39250 Pioneer Blvd.
Sandy, OR 97055
www.cityofsandy.com or 503-668-5533


City of Troutdale
104 SE Kibling Ave.
Troutdale, OR
www.ci.troutdale.or.us
General Information: 503-665-5175
Parks and Facilities: 503-666-8303

Kayak Clubs and Information
PDX Kayaker - www.pdxkayaker.org

TABLE OF CONTENTS

filecabinet Printable pdf Format Sandy River Water Trail Guide

Safety Guidelines and Emergency Resources

Sandy River - photo by Rob Keller
Sandy River - photo by Rob Keller

Adequate preparation is critical to safe paddling. Be sure everyone on board has the training, skill and experience, including self-rescue and assisted rescue experience. Learn as much as you can about the route and any hazards by scouting ahead of where you’ll be boating. Keep a sharp lookout for other paddlers and navigation hazards, such as logs, strainers, and submersed rocks. Pick clean lines and learn to “read the river.”

Life Jackets

The single most important piece of protective equipment is a life jacket (also known as a PFD, personal flotation device). Wearing a PFD will help retain body heat and keep your head above the water. Paddlers are required to have a properly fitting, U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket for each person on board if operating a canoe, kayak, raft or boat 16 feet in length or less. All children 12 and younger are required to wear a life jacket when the boat is underway. Remember, life jackets only work if you wear them. The chance of putting one on if your craft capsizes in a swift moving river is nearly impossible.

Training and Self-Rescue

Paddling education will help you gain experience and learn how to use your strokes, read the river and how to communicate on the water. Learn self-rescue, how to rescue others and practice, practice, practice. If your boat capsizes, float with your feet in front, pointing downstream. Don’t fight the current. Use your arms like oars and “steer” toward the bank. Let the current help carry you. Do your best to stay calm and relaxed. Save your energy for exiting where you can.

Swimming Safety

Sandy River above Dodge Park - photo by Sam Drevo
Sandy River above Dodge Park - photo by Sam Drevo, northwestpaddling.com

All rivers have strong currents and hazards underneath the surface posing dangers to swimmers. Even though air temperature is warm in the summer months, the water is fed by snow melt and cold year-round. Even strong swimmers need to know their limitations. Don’t swim alone, wear a life jacket and do not drink alcohol because it dehydrates the body and lowers core body temperature, making swimmers more susceptible to hypothermia and muscle cramping.

Emergency Contact Information

POLICE, FIRE, MEDICAL EMERGENCY CALL 9-1-1
Clackamas County Non-Emergency 503-665-8211
Multnomah County Non-Emergency 503-823-3333
Legacy Mount Hood Medical Center www.legacyhealth.org or 503-674-1122
National Weather Service www.nws.noaa.gov
Paddling.net www.paddling.net/guidelines
Oregon State Marine Board Safety Page www.boatoregon.com/Safety/index.html
http://www.boatoregon.com/OSMB/paddlecraft/paddlecraft.shtml
American Canoe Association www.americancanoe.org/

You’re Responsible!

It is the responsibility of every river user to protect this incredible resource. Appropriate, low-impact use of the Sandy will ensure it stays healthy and beautiful for the future.

Respect Private Property

While the river is a public resource, it should be assumed that property is “private” unless otherwise noted. Respect all “No Trespassing” and “No Hunting” signs (see Navigability section). With increased access, the number of paddlers on the Sandy River will increase. Adopting the following principles can help preserve the future of the river for others.

Leave No Trace

Revenue Bridge Rapid - photo courtesy of American Whitewater
Revenue Bridge Rapid - photo courtesy of American Whitewater

Please review these principles and be sure to learn more about the “Leave No Trace” training opportunities in your area. Leave a site cleaner than you found it.

Plan Ahead and Prepare

  • Know the regulations and special concerns for the area you will visit.
  • Prepare for extreme weather, hazards, and emergencies.
  • Schedule your trip to avoid times of peak use.
  • Repackage food to minimize waste.

Minimize Campfire Impacts

When On Land, Camp and Travel Lightly

  • Look for durable surfaces and stay on designated trails to prevent damaging sensitive areas.

Respect Wildlife

  • Observe wildlife from a distance. Do not follow or approach animals or feed them. Feeding wildlife can be bad for their health, their behavior and exposes them to predators and other dangers.
  • Protect wildlife and your food by storing rations and securing your trash.

Be Considerate of Other Users

  • Respect other visitors – keep the noise level down and travel in small groups.
  • Yield to others – when on the river, communicate with other users. Do not block access to a line or rapid. When on land, allow room for additional boaters who come in behind you.
  • Let nature’s sights and sounds prevail – avoid the use of bright lights, radios, electronic devices and other intrusive objects in camp and while on shore.

Paddle Section References


 

 Sandy River - photo by Rob Keller
 Sandy River - photo by Rob Keller

Wild and Scenic/State Scenic Waterway

In recognition of the river’s remarkable values, a 12.5 mile segment of the Sandy River from Dodge Park, downstream to Dabney State Recreation Site is designated as a federal Wild and Scenic River by the U.S. Congress and is also designated as a State Scenic Waterway by the people of Oregon.

These designations represent preserving what makes the river so special; amazing scenery, broad recreation opportunities, water quality and prime habitat for fish and wildlife. With the Wild and Scenic designation, restrictions are placed on certain activities such as hydroelectric development, to preserve the river’s inherent character.

To learn more about Wild and Scenic River, visit: www.rivers.gov
To learn about the State Scenic Waterway program, visit: www.oregonstateparks.org

Paddle Summaries

Put-In Take-Out River Class
(I to V)
Optimal Boating  Craft Experience
Level
Lewis & Clark State Recreation Site Columbia River Delta I Year-round All paddlecraft
(kayaks,canoes,rafts)
Beginner
Dabney State Recreation Site Lewis & Clark State Recreation Site I+ Year-round All paddlecraft
(kayaks,canoes,rafts)
Beginner
Oxbow Regional Park Dabney State Recreation Site I+ Year-round All paddlecraft
(kayaks,canoes,rafts)
Beginner +
Dodge Park Oxbow Regional Park II+ Year-round Rafts at high river flows Intermediate
Former Marmot Dam Site Dodge Park IV, V Fall/Winter/Spring Rafts at high river flows Advanced
Sandy/Salmon Confluence Former Marmot Dam Site III Fall/Winter/Spring Rafts at high river flows Intermediate

What to Expect

The Sandy River originates from the slopes of Mount Hood. The river flows nearly 55 miles to the Columbia River. The Sandy River Water Trail begins near Brightwood at RM 38 and flows to the confluence of the Columbia River at RM 0.0

How to Use this Guide

The Sandy River Water Trail offers an exciting river experience for all levels of paddlers. This guidebook is to be used as an aid to further scouting and research to plan your floats.

The Sandy River has many access points from Dabney State Recreation Site, downstream with roads that run parallel to the river. However, the river’s middle and upper sections do not have the same access. Use the information in this guide to determine put-in’s and take-outs. Always develop a float plan and let other people know your plan!

The “Popular Floats” are organized based on skill level: beginner, intermediate and advance. Note estimated travel times and recommended skill levels. Do not overestimate your skill.

Popular Floats

Oxbow Regional Park
Oxbow Regional Park

These six trips represent a wide range of river conditions and difficulty levels. Paddles times are estimated based on average river flows and may vary by type of craft and boater skill level. It’s important to select a trip that fits your skills. Current river levels and flow conditions can be found online at the Northwest River Forecast Center: http://www.nwrfc.noaa.gov/rfc/

Beginner - I
Lewis and Clark State Recreation Site (RM 2) to the Sandy River Delta at the Columbia River (RM 0)

Once you leave the park toward the confluence, you enter the Sandy River Delta. It is not recommended to paddle into the Columbia, where open water conditions vary and high degree of skill is required. Estimated paddle time: 1 hour.

Beginner - I+
Lower Sandy from Dabney State Recreation Site (RM 6) to Lewis and Clark State Recreation Site (RM 2)

Sandy River at the Boulder Garden
Sandy River at the Boulder Garden

This popular float consists of four miles of Class I riffles and numerous access facilities. This section is lined by private property, so paddlers need to stay below the high water mark along the bank. This section is also commonly used for tubing during the summer months. Estimated Paddle time: 3 hours

 

Beginner - I+
Oxbow Regional Park (RM 13) to Dabney State Recreation Site (RM 6)

This 7-mile float goes through swift moving Class I rapids. This is a very popular and busy section of the Sandy used by people with a variety of skill levels including anglers. Estimated paddle time: 3.5 hours

Intermediate - II+
Dodge Park (RM 18.75) to Oxbow Regional Park (RM 12.5)

This scenic 6.25 mile float begins with the Class III “Pipeline” Rapid then eases into numerous pool drops. Class II rapids intertwine with sweeping vistas and abundant wildlife. This is the starting point for Oregon’s State Scenic Waterway and the federal Wild and Scenic river designation. Estimated paddle time: 4 hours

Intermediate - III
Sandy-Salmon River Confluence (RM 38) to the Former Marmot Dam Site (RM 30.5)

Sandy River Gorge, Revenue Bridge Rapid - photo American Whitewa
Sandy River Gorge, Revenue Bridge Rapid - photo American Whitewater

Scenic cliffs mark the confluence of the Salmon River and the Barlow Park trail system. Paddlers get constant whitewater action with continuous Class II+ boulder gardens. The Alder Creek Rapid (Class III - IV) is known for a dangerous hydraulic effect at higher river flows. Scout/portage on the river right bank. The former Marmot Dam site, the largest dam removal in Oregon, poses many hazards due to the dynamic nature of the newly-restored river. Use extreme caution in this area. Estimated paddle time: 3 hours

Advanced - IV, V
Former Marmot Dam Site (RM 30.5) to Dodge Park (RM 18.75)

A 6.5 mile portion of this segment is referred to as the “Sandy Gorge,” and is considered an advanced level run. This segment should be considered for experts only with numerous Class IV-V rapids due to the changing sediment conditions. Several professional guides offer trips through the Sandy River Gorge. Estimated paddle time: 4 hours River character

Overview Map & Legend

Legend

Glenn Otto to Columbia River - River Miles 3 to 0
Click to Open

Glenn Otto to Columbia River - River Miles 3 to 0

Glenn Otto to Columbia River
Click to Open

Dabney State Recreation Area to Lewis & Clark State Recreation Site - River Miles 8 to 4

Dabney State Recreation Area to Lewis & Clark State Recreation S
Click to Open

Dodge Park to Oxbow Regional Park - River Miles 15 to 9

Dodge Park to Oxbow Regional Park - River Miles 15 to 9
Click to Open

Dodge Park to Oxbow Regional Park - River Miles 19 to 15

Revenue Bridge to Dodge Park - River Miles 25 to 19
Click to Open

Revenue Bridge to Dodge Park - River Miles 25 to 19

Marmot Dam to Revenue Bridge - River Miles 28 to 24
Click to Open

Marmot Dam to Revenue Bridge - River Miles 28 to 24

Former Marmot Dam Site to beginning of Sandy River Gorge - River

Former Marmot Dam Site to beginning of Sandy River Gorge - River Miles 33 to 27

Sandy/Salmon Confluence to Alder Creek - River Miles 38 to 33
Click to Open

Sandy/Salmon Confluence to Alder Creek - River Miles 38 to 33

Sandy/Salmon Confluence to Alder Creek - River Miles 38 to 33
Click to Open

Park Descriptions

Most parks have designated hours of operation and specific rules for alcohol use. Be sure to visit the park website for more information.

Barlow Trail Park – Sandy Ridge Trailhead
The Barlow Trail Park and Sandy Ridge Trailhead are adjacent recreation sites near the confluence of the Sandy and Salmon Rivers. The area is cooperatively managed by BLM and Clackamas County. There is no boat launch or direct vehicle river access available at either site. River users are encouraged to park at Barlow Trail Park and carry boats across East Barlow Trail Rd at this time. Both sites provide vault restrooms and the Sandy Ridge Trailhead offers paved, pull through parking for vehicles with trailers. BLM has identified the Sandy-Salmon confluence area as a future river access point and day use recreation site, but no date for development has been set.

Managing Agencies: Clackamas County Parks, 503-742-4414; Bureau of Land Management (Salem District), 503-375-5646 Website: http://www.co.clackamas.or.us/parks/ barlowtrail.htm or http://www.blm.gov/or

Directions: From the east side of Sandy, head east on US Highway 26 (Mount Hood Highway) for 11.4 miles. Turn left on Sleepy Hollow Dr soon after a large sign indicating a left turn for Marmot. NOTE: This will be the second turn-off for Sleepy Hollow Rd. Once on Sleepy Hollow, go 0.3 miles and turn right on E Barlow Trail Rd and over the Sandy River. Barlow Trail Park will be on the right in approximately 0.3 miles. The Sandy Ridge Trailhead will be on your right 0.6 miles beyond Barlow Trail Park.

Dabney State Recreation Site
Dabney State Recreation Site marks the western terminus of the Sandy’s National Wild and Scenic River and State Scenic Waterway designations. Offering views of scenic bluffs and access to large sandy beaches, Dabney has been a popular summer destination for decades. An excellent boat ramp serves rafters, kayakers and floaters. Other amenities include picnic facilities, flush restrooms, and even a well-rated disc golf course. Recreation sites are open from dawn until dusk each day.

Managing Agency: Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD), 1-800-551-6949 Website: http://www.stateparks.com/dabney.html

Directions: From I-5 take exit 300 onto I-84 E/US-30E toward Portland Airport/The Dalles; Take exit 18 toward Lewis and Clark State Recreation Site/Oxbow Regional Park; Turn left onto Crown Point Hwy; Continue onto Historic Columbia River Hwy; turn right after 2.6 miles and your destination will be on the left.

Dodge Park
The 14-acre Dodge Park is a popular location for visitors who come to picnic, swim, camp, fish, or use the park as a river access point. In 2011, the Portland Water Bureau completed improvements and the park now has new camping opportunities with 5 RV and 15 walk-in tent sites. Dodge Park represents the eastern terminus of the Federal Wild and Scenic and State Scenic Waterway designations. It is the last developed site on the river until the US Forest Service campground at RM 48.

Managing Agency: Portland Water Bureau, 503-823-7404 Website: http://www.portlandonline.com/water/ dodgepark

Directions: From I-205 N take exit 12 for OR-212 E/ OR-224 E toward Estacada/Mt. Hood; Turn right onto OR-212 E/Carver Rd; Continue to follow OR-212 E; Continue onto SE Compton Rd; Turn right onto SE 352nd Ave; SE 352nd Ave turns left and become SE Dunn Rd; Turn left onto SE Bluff Rd; Turn right onto SE Hudson Rd; Turn right onto SE Lusted Rd; Turn left to stay on SE Lusted Rd.

Former Marmot Dam Site
Marmot Dam’s removal in the fall of 2007 opens up new opportunities for recreation, public access and river recreation on the Sandy. The BLM has identified the site as a new day use recreation area and river access point, but at this time no date for additional development has been set. Currently, a gate prevents vehicle access to the site itself so a 1/4 mile walk from a temporary parking area is necessary. Please note that all commercial and competitive use of the site requires a permit from the BLM.

Managing Agency: Bureau of Land Management (BLM), 503-375-5646 Website: www.blm.gov/or/index.php

Directions: From I-205 take exit 12 for OR-212E/ OR-224 E toward Estacada/Mt Hood; Turn right onto OR-212 E/Carver Rd continue to follow OR-212 E; Slight right toward US-26 E/Mt Hood Hwy (signs for SE 312th Dr/Sandy/Mount Hood); Merge onto US-26 E/Mt Hood Hwy via the ramp to Sandy/Mount Hood; Turn left onto SE Ten Eyck Rd; Take the 2nd left to stay on SE Ten Eyck Rd; continue onto SE Marmot Rd; Keep Left at the fork; Turn right to stay on SE Marmot Rd; Turn right to stay on SE Marmot Rd.

Glenn Otto Park
Glenn Otto is the most heavily-used park within the City of Troutdale’s park system. In the summer the park’s large beach is a popular destination for swimming and picnicking. A number of urban park amenities can be found here including shelters, playgrounds, restrooms and potable water. A small stand adjacent to the park offers café snacks (sandwiches, coffee, etc) and fishing gear. To manage summer crowds and ensure public safety, seasonal river rescue and lifeguard stations are located here.

Managing Agency: City of Troutdale, 503-665-5175 or 503-666-8303 Website: http://www.ci.troutdale.or.us/parksfacilities/ documents/glennottopark.htm

Directions: From I-205 take exit 22 to merge onto I-84 E/US-30E toward US-30/The Dalles; Take exit 18 toward Lewis and Clark State Recreation Site/ Oxbow Regional Park; Turn left onto Crown Point Hwy; Take the 1st right onto E Historic Columbia River Hwy; destination will be on the left.

Lewis and Clark State Recreation Site
Located on the Historic Columbia River Highway and just south of the I-84 interchange, a signed pull-through and boat ramp provide good river access. The park is heavily visited by locals and visitors alike, often serving as the takeout location for trips originating upstream at Dabney State Recreation Site. The park has a focus on interpretation, with a self-guided botanical tour and historical panels. Recreation sites are open from dawn until dusk each day.

Managing Agency: Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD), 1-800-551-6949 Website: http://www.stateparks.com/lewis_and_clark_ multnomah.html

Directions: From I-205 take exit to merge onto I-84 E/US-30E toward US-30/The Dalles; Take exit 18 toward Lewis and Clark State Recreation Site/Oxbow Regional Park; Turn left onto Crown Point Hwy; destination will be on the right.

Oxbow Park
Located in the scenic Sandy River Gorge, Oxbow Regional Park offers the most extensive infrastructure and wide ranging recreation opportunities on the river. At 1,200 acres, the park provides river users a large trail system, a well-developed and obvious river access point and even coin-operated showers. Oxbow is also the river’s best visitor information source, with rangers on site, an entrance booth and numerous kiosks. The river draws rafters and kayakers and offers anglers some of the best winter steelhead and salmon fishing in Oregon.

Managing Agency: Metro Parks, 503-757-1850 Website: http://www.oregonmetro.gov/index.cfm/go/ by.web/id=150

Directions: From I-205 take exit to merge onto I-84 E/US-30E toward US-30/The Dalles; Take exit 18 toward Lewis and Clark State Recreation Site/Oxbow Regional Park; Turn left onto Crown Point Hwy; destination will be on the right.

Areas Administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM)
The BLM-managed lands along the water trail are undeveloped and do not have amenities or public infrastructure. It is your responsibility as a river user to protect the river’s natural and aesthetic beauty to preserve your access. While on BLM-managed lands:

  • Pack out what you pack in – Leave No Trace
  • Obey camping and hunting closures
  • Respect adjacent private property and stay on public land (punishable as trespassing)
  • Dispose of human waste by digging a hole (4” to 6” deep) and at least 200 feet away from water sources.
  • Avoid trampling riverside vegetation and stay on established pathways.

Website: http://www.blm.gov/or/index.php Phone: 503-375-5646

Sandy River Park

Navigability

Your River Access Rights
This water trail guide is for the Sandy River from river mile (RM) 0.0, the confluence of the Sandy River with the Columbia River, to RM 37.5, the confluence of the Salmon River from the Sandy River.

The State of Oregon owns the bed and banks below the ordinary high water line because the Sandy River has been defined by the state as “navigable.” This means the public has the right to use the land for any legal activity allowed on other public lands, including hiking, camping, picnicking and boating. Going above the ordinary high water line onto private land is considered trespassing, unless it is necessary for portage (to go around) a navigation obstruction or you have permission from the land owner. If you are found to be trespassing on private land for any other purpose, you can be cited.

In addition, the following restrictions apply on public use of the bed and banks of the Sandy River (RM 0.0 to RM 37.5):

  • Public lands are closed to all uses between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. year-round.
  • No open fires are allowed at any time from May 1 to November 1 each year.

For additional information about your navigability rights, visit: http://www.oregonstatelands.us/DSL
Department of State Lands 775 Summer St. NE Suite 100 Salem, OR 97301-1279 Phone: 503-986-5200

Acknowledgments

Acknowledgments