Nothing says summer like beating the heat with a dip in a friendly water source. Getting wet with all the splashes, dribbles and dancing wavelets is both refreshing and great exercise.
Salem boasts options of every kind for those who want to paddle and wade and enjoy the sunshine while the season lasts.
Just in time for our record-breaking heat wave, check out these cool options.
Toddlers love the thrill of sparkling, walkable fountains and their parents value the safety of the shallow water.
Salem boasts a memorable location right in front of the Capitol on Court St. where families can frolic in a wide, friendly basin. Closed for repairs at the time of this writing, there are plenty more listed on the City of Salem web site, with current hours of operation, including,
• River Road Park, 3045 River Road N
• Fairmount Park, 650 Rural Street
• Northgate Park, 3575 Fairhaven Avenue NE
• Wes Bennett Park, 2200 Baxter Road SE
• West Salem Park, 265 Rosemont Avenue NW
• Englewood Park, 1260 19th Street NE
The Kroc Aquatic Center offers options for those who want to improve their swimming skills as well as those seeking relaxing fun. With both a Leisure Pool and a Comp Pool, the Center is a source for group and private swim lessons, lap and recreation swimming and diving, and aquatics based group exercise classes. Memberships start at $20/month and goes to $125/month, and new members are charged a one-time $75 fee.
Kroc Aquatics Center 1865 Bill Frey Drive NE
THE WATER IN THE WILD
For floating and playing in the summer sun, surrounded by Mid-Willamette Valley beauty, nothing can surpass a relaxing dip in a local waterway.
The Willamette River
The Willamette can be deep and swift, so swimmers should use caution. First-timers should expect rocky beaches and bring of towels and blankets for sitting comfort and swimming shoes for ease of walking.
To the North
One fine location for safety and view is the west side of the river, on beaches near the Wheatland Ferry (Wheatland Rd. NW) about 12 miles north of downtown Salem. Here, long stretches of river are shallow enough for youngsters to wade. Among farmlands, along the leafy river, the river can be charming here.
Another spot, very near the Wheatland Ferry is Willamette Mission Park (10991 Wheatland Rd. NE, Salem). You’ll find a $5 day use fee, but the Willamette here is wide and calm. Most visitors hike and picnic, so there is little competition with other swimmers on the wide rock beaches. To find them, at the Filbert grove day-use area, follow the trail sign marked “Willamette River” and then, from the paved walkway, follow the arrow that points down the dirt path to the river.
Right in Salem
A longtime favorite of locals, close in and with bridge views, are the beaches of Wallace Marine Park, east of the main parking area, and north of the boat launch. There is ample room to walk and find a spot that feels right to you. Observe swimmers and watercraft and enjoy the tall trees and wildlife on either side of the river.
Santiam River Southbound Rest Area
About 15 miles south of downtown Salem
If you’ve admired this beautiful river when glancing west on the I-5 bridge going south, you will be pleased to know that you can swim here. It’s a bit of a walk on a very rocky pathway, but you will almost always have the place to yourself.
Directions: Travel south on I-5 about 12 miles, and exit at the Rest Area just past signpost 243. Drive through car lot, on paved road to bridge. Park on right and head right, or west (crossing pile of concrete pieces) three blocks along stony path that runs a short distance from river. Cross on smaller path through trees and brush to river after about a third mile.
Silver Creek Falls
Silver Falls Park
20024 Silver Falls Hwy, Sublimity, OR
About 30 miles east of downtown Salem
$5 Parking fee
This calm creek water is clear, refreshing and very family friendly, and is bordered by a sloped lawn for comfortable sitting or picnicking.
Directions: After entering the park, exit the highway at the South Falls Day Use Area and park in the large lot. A large lawn and stretch of calm, wide shallow stream to your south provides excellent splashing, floating and paddling, especially for children.
Little North Santiam River
Three Pools Day Use Area
Willamette National Forest
About 45 miles from downtown Salem
$5 day use fee
We could write an article on the swimming holes of the Little North Santiam alone; there are many, with swimming available at most campgrounds and picnic spots along the way. But if you only go once, do visit the Three Pools for their emerald color, clear water and fantastic rock formations. An Oregon treasure!
Directions: Follow Hwy 22 east to Mehema. Turn left on North Fork Road and proceed for 16.6 miles to the intersection of Forest Road 2209 and Forest Road 2207 Turn right on Forest Road 2207 and continue 0.8 miles to Three Pools Day Use Area.
Safety First Water Rules
Wherever you take your dip, remember:
Use the buddy system; never swim alone
Watch children closely, never leave children unattended
Use aquatic shoes in pools, splash fountains and rivers
Stay out of the water when tired or overheated
Learn to swim, and make sure those you love learn to swim