Oregon’s pristine waters make it a paradise for fishers, boaters and adventure-seekers. Whether you aim to hook a record-breaking sturgeon or just want to enjoy a lazy afternoon on the river, these four waterways — all less than an hour away from Portland — provide the perfect setting for your next fish tale.
Popular with whitewater rafters and other river-floaters, the Clackamas flows through miles of rugged mountainous terrain and towering forests. The river’s native runs of coho and Chinook salmon, summer and winter steelhead, and multiple types of trout draw year-round interest from anglers. The closest boat ramp, Carver Park, sits only 20 miles (32 km) southeast of Portland in historic Oregon City. For more solitude, bank fishers also favor Milo McIver State Park near Estacada.
On sunny summer days, the gentle Sandy attracts a mix of inner-tubers, kayakers and rafters, along with fly and bait fishers. Reel in abundant populations of winter steelhead, cutthroat and rainbow trout, and coho and Chinook salmon in Glen Otto City Park. Located just 20 minutes east of Portland in the town of Troutdale, this leafy oasis also boasts a swimming beach, playground, picnic area and other family-friendly amenities.
Best known for bisecting Portland into east and west sides (and thus necessitating the city’s famous bridges), the Willamette River is one of only a handful of U.S. rivers to offer salmon and steelhead fishing in a large metropolitan area.
Boaters can often be spotted drifting beneath the bridges in search of other species like sturgeon, shad and smallmouth bass. At Mary S. Young Park in West Linn, bank fishers will find seasonal access to Cedar Island.
Stretching 33 miles (53 km) from the Northern Oregon Coast range to Tillamook Bay, the Wilson River is known as one of the state’s best spots for steelhead and Chinook salmon. The river flows west through the Tillamook State Forest, where several campgrounds and day-use areas provide anglers with easy river access. Don’t miss a visit to the Tillamook Forest Center, only an hour west of Portland, home to a replica 40-foot-tall (12 m) fire lookout tower and a network of hiking trails.
Good to know
If you’re heading out on the river to catch your dinner, check the state’s fish consumption guidelines and resources.