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Swimming in the Willamette

Pete Springer/OPB

Through the Combined Sewer Overflow Projects and the completion of “The Big Pipe”, the Willamette River seems newly capable of providing a way to stay cool this summer. But where are all the swimmers?

Some people in Portland are not yet comfortable with swimming in the river, even after city data has confirmed the levels of contamination have decreased dramatically.

Will Levenson says the next step is to form a bond between the Portlanders and the river, one that he has seen in other cities in America. Levenson organized The Big Float, which on July 29 will give people the chance to float down the Willamette as they listen to live music. The event debuted last year and brought in more than a thousand people eager to bond with the river’s new identity.

Three thousand people are expected to attend this year,  and the profits from the event will benefit the organizers’ next big goal: a public beach in the Hawthorne Bowl in the Waterfront Park, which Levenson calls a perfect entry point to the river for swimming and boating.

Would you swim in the Willamette River? What experiences have you had on the river? 


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