First off, this is not a post about how to be Portland’s greatest hipster or hipster fashions. This post is about how to remain comfortable during that one week a year when the weather gets really hot in Portland, Oregon. Most of us, at least the ones of us who live on the super cool Eastside, don’t have air conditioning. Since we are all super cool why would we need it, right? Anyways, having lived here for far too long I will share what we like to do on those hot summer days to cool off
Option 1: Go Play in a Fountain
Downtown Portland has lots of water fountains that you can play in to cool off. This is a lot of fun for kids and adults and you will often see whole families enjoying a couple of hours chilling at a fountain. And don’t worry about the water, it’s now chlorinated. The most well known and visible fountain is the Salmon Street Springs in Waterfront Park near Naito Parkway and SW Salmon. It has computer controlled jets that change patterns of the water display. My personal favorite that I played in when I was kid back in the 1970’s is the Ira Keller Fountain between 3rd and 4th and Market and Clay. Yes, it takes up an entire city block!!! This fountain/park has concrete waterfalls and pools and is a great place to read a book and listen to the falling water or cool off in the water. Other great fountains in downtown that you can actually play in include “The Car Wash” at SW 5th & Ankeny, Kelly Fountain at SW 6th & Pine, Bill Naito Legacy Fountain in Waterfront Park near the Burnside Bridge, and the Lovejoy Fountain at SW 3rd and Mall Street. There are a few other fountains in downtown, but they are not that great for playing in… unless you are REALLY intoxicated and then you might get to meet Portland’s finest police officers.
Option 2: Go For a Hike
There are a lot of great hikes in and around Portland. It is amazing how much cooler it is when you get under the canopy of the forest. While there are a lot of hiking options in Portland’s Forest Park we prefer to head out of town a bit and hike to a waterfall. Plus, Forest Park has a creepy vibe to it and we prefer to go where it feels less creepy and more peaceful. If you are looking to stay close to Portland Tryon Creek State Park in Lake Oswego or Mary S. Young State Park in West Linn offer great short hikes and they are free! Thirty minutes east of Portland and you have miles and miles of great hiking trails and dozens of picture perfect waterfalls in the Columbia River Gorge. Many of the waterfalls are right along the road, so if you are looking to just cool off and not waste precious energy hiking, the cool water of the falls will do the trick. About 90 minutes south of Portland is Silver Falls State Park. Silver Falls has many hiking options from short to 9 miles long. The hikes take you down into a lush canyon with a cool stream running through it and lots of impressive waterfalls.
Option 3: Go Play in a River
When you live in a place that has a lot of rain, you generally have a lot of rivers. The rivers around Portland offer great places to swim, although personally I wouldn’t swim in the Willamette. The Sandy and Clackamas Rivers are great places to cool off while swimming or tubing. People drown every year due to the strong currents and really cold water, so if you go, be careful especially early in the summer when the water is colder and swifter. One of our favorite things to do is to go kayaking. This past week we launched our tandem kayak in Oregon City and paddled past the old paper mills and got as close to the Willamette Falls as we could get. The brown water smelled really bad, but the views and the adventure was great. We also saw a 6-7 foot sturgeon jump out of the water near the falls. That was one crazy big fish! Besides kayaking many people enjoy speedboats, wake boarding, sailing, and jet skiing on the Columbia and Willamette Rivers.
Option 4: How to Survive 105
Most of the time our summer mornings are cool and overcast and then it usually hits a high in the mid to low 80’s in the afternoon. But every few years we get a serious heat wave that hits Portland where it climbs past 100 and it gets miserable! It did that this past weekend and was hitting 105 in parts of Portland. When it gets that hot and you don’t have air conditioning there are not a lot of options to stay cool. Many people flock to the Sandy and Clackamas Rivers, but it gets so crowded that it’s not our idea of fun. It’s too hot to go kayaking and hiking, so that only leaves a couple of options. To stay cool this past weekend we rented a 3-person personal watercraft (jet ski) on the Columbia River. Bombing up and down the river at 50+ MPH and catching air from launching off boat wakes was a great and fun way to stay cool. Our daughter is a little speed demon and she screamed, “Faster! Faster!” the whole time. The other options to stay cool when it gets that hot is to head to the mall or go see a movie, but it’s not nearly as much fun as jet skiing.