Portland District

Home
Home > Missions > Recreation > Columbia

Life jackets and water safety

Cormorants on East Sand Island


Life jackets are available during the summer months at certain sites. Visit project sites or contact parks for detailed dates of operation. 

Life jackets are available on a first come, first serve basis.

For a printer friendly list of life jacket loaner stations, click here. 

Visit our water safety page for more safety tips.

Visit our water safety page for more information.
Visit our water safety page for more information.

Life jacket loaner stations

Bonneville Lock & Dam

  • Hamilton Island boat ramp (Wash.)


The Dalles Lock & Dam

  • The Dalles Marina (managed by Port of The Dalles)
  • The Dalles River Front Park (managed by North Wasco County Parks and Recreation)
  • Columbia Hills State Park (managed by Washington State Parks)
  • Heritage Landing (managed by Oregon State Parks)
  • Maryhill State Park (managed by Oregon State Parks)


John Day Lock & Dam

  • Plymouth Park day-use area and boat ramp 
  • LePage Park day-use area and boat ramp

Recreation along the Columbia River

Bonneville Dam from upstream.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is the largest provider of water-based outdoor recreation in the nation. Portland District's recreation sites allow visitors of all ages to enjoy biking, hiking, boating, fishing, camping, hunting, windsurfing and more. Whatever your favorite outdoor activity, one thing is certain: recreation can enrich your life. Visit one of our recreation areas to connect with nature and create unforgettable memories. With more than 90 percent of our recreation areas located within 50 miles of a city or town, there is likely to be a Corps site near you. 

 

Visitor centers at Bonneville Lock & Dam

Two visitor centers, one on Bradford Island in Oregon and one on the Washington shore, are open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. A third visitor center is open seasonally for limited hours at the navigation lock. Located just 40 miles from downtown Portland in the heart of the Columbia River Gorge, Bonneville Lock & Dam provides fun, educational opportunities for all visitors.

A team of rangers and volunteers staff host interpretive programs throughout the day and are available to answer questions and share information about the significance of this icon of the Pacific Northwest. Schedule varies by day and location. 

A word of caution: Bonneville Dam is an active hydro-electric power plant. There may be times when portions of the visitor areas will be inaccessible by the public. These closures may come with little or no warning. We appreciate your patience during these temporary closures and will provide advance warning as early as possible.

 

Outdoor recreation around Bonneville Lock & Dam

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is the largest provider of water-based outdoor recreation in the nation. Around Bonneville Lock & Dam and along the shores of the Columbia River, Portland District's recreation sites allow visitors of all ages to enjoy picnicking, site seeing, wildlife viewing, fishing, windsurfing and more. 

Located just 40 miles from downtown Portland, Bonneville Lock & Dam provides opportunities to connect with nature and create unforgettable memories.

small image of the picnic shelter on Robins Island

Robins Island Recreation Area (Ore.): Open daily 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., this area's large picnic shelter accommodates up to 100 people, and has horseshoe pits, a playground and open grassy areas for outdoor recreation such as ball and disc games. Visitors also enjoy this area's bird-watching and scenic views of the Columbia Gorge. Directions: Once on the Oregon side of the Bonneville property, travel to the flag pole intersection and bear right. Cross the navigation lock and then turn left at the sign for Robins Island.

Bradford Island Recreation Area (Ore.): Open daily 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Located just below the fish ladders, this site affords spectacular spillway views of the surrounding Columbia River Gorge. Wildlife viewing includes views of osprey in the summer and bald eagles in the winter. Fishing for sturgeon, salmon, steelhead and shad are popular activities on the shoreline of this island recreation area however it should be noted that much of the bank is steep. Directions: Once on Bonneville property, go to the flag pole intersection and bear right.  After stopping at the guard station, cross the navigation lock and the first powerhouse, then turn left at the sign for Bradford Island Recreation Area.

Hamilton Island (Wash.): Hamilton Island offers boat ramp water access, more than a mile of shoreline for fishing, and five miles of trail that offer scenic views of the gorge and wildlife viewing opportunities. The access road ends at a gravel parking lot with vault restrooms and the trailhead for the Hamilton Island trail. Hours are seasonal: March - October, 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. / November - February, 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Fort Cascades trail pavilion

Fort Cascades National Historic Site (Wash.): Fort Cascades, built in 1855, is one of several forts built to protect the portage around the Cascade Rapids. The site has a 1.5 mile interpretive trail where visitors may learn about the history of the site which was used by Native American Tribes, the Army in the 1850s, travelers on the Oregon Trail and the early fishing industry. Visitors also enjoy the trail for exercise, wildlife watching, and scenic views. There is little elevation change and most of the trail is shady, lush and green. Help preserve this unique area and also protect yourself, children, and pets from poison oak by staying on the established trail and keeping your pet on a leash. Spectacular views of the Columbia River and Bonneville Dam can be seen from here. Directions: Once on Bonneville property, turn right at the first stop sign, then an immediate left into the Fort Cascades Historical Site parking lot. Hours are seasonal: March - October, 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. / November - February, 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Image of a couple trying their luck fishing at the North Shore Recreation Area.

North Shore Recreation Area (Wash.): This site provides spectacular views of the river, surrounding gorge and wildlife viewing. The open shoreline between the Fort Cascades Historic Site and the Washington Shore Visitor Complex is available for fishing with access to vault restrooms. Intermittent sections of gravel trail stretch along the shoreline for approximately one mile. Hours are seasonal: March - October, 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. / November - February, 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Tanner Creek Fishing Area (Ore.): In addition to fishing, this site provides great wildlife viewing of salmon spawning in the fall and several species of birds throughout the year. Two trails lead down from the parking lot for access to the fishing area. There are flush toilets available near the parking area. Hours are seasonal: March-October, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. / October, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. / November-February, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.

 

GEOCACHES AT BONNEVILLE LOCK & DAM

Park rangers at Bonneville Lock and Dam maintain eight geocaches. Beginner and advanced geocachers will enjoy the hunt with five traditional caches and three multi-caches.

Five caches are on the Oregon side and three are on the Washington side, and each one helps geocachers learn about Bonneville.

A man bends over to discover his geocache find
  • "Green Power" is about hydropower,
  • "More Power to You" is about the Northwestern hydropower system,
  • "Take Me to Lunch" is about sea lions,
  • "Go with the Flow" is about the Juvenile Fish Bypass System, and
  • "Ducks Float" is about water safety.

The last three are about history

  • "BIH" is about Bradford Island history
  • "Bonneville Landmark Cache" is about the history of Bonneville Dam, and
  • "Hamilton or Strawberry Island?" is about Lewis and Clark's travels here.

Rangers and volunteers are available to help!

There are also several privately-owned caches at or near Bonneville Dam. While Bonneville Dam doesn't require permits for caches, other Portland District project locations might. In all cases, it's recommended you contact the project or public lands manager before placing any caches. Caches hidden in sensitive areas or pose a security/safety risk will be removed. For more information about hiding or finding geocaches, you can visit www.geocaching.com or www.opencaching.com.

 

PARTNER-OPERATED, CO-LOCATED SITES

Bonneville Fish Hatchery (Ore.): This chinook and coho salmon hatchery is operated by Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife. Display ponds also offer a relaxing place to feed large rainbow trout and view adult white sturgeon measuring more than six feet long. A gift shop is open during summer months. Interpretive displays are inside buildings and outdoors, including a viewing area to watch fall spawning activities. Hours are seasonal: March-October, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. / October, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. / November-February, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Directions: At the flag pole intersection on Bonneville Dam property, bear left. Follow the road around to the large parking lot on the left.  RV parking is available here. 

Columbia River Gorge Historic Highway (Ore.): Operated jointly by the U.S. Forest Service and the State of Oregon, the nation’s first scenic highway was constructed between 1913 and 1922. This trail has reserved areas for pedestrian and bicycle use only, such as the section between Tanner Creek, Eagle Creek and Cascade Locks.  Please note that if you are biking the trial, there is no bike/pedestrian access to the Bradford Island Visitor Center at Bonneville Dam (on the Oregon side of the river) due to restrictions across the powerhouse.


Recreation at John Day Lock & Dam

CAMPGROUNDS

Corps-operated campgrounds are open mid-April to mid-October, unless otherwise specified. Reservations are available at Recreation.gov or by calling 877-444-6777. Without reservations, availability is first-come, first-serve.

LePage Park (Wasco, Ore.): Amenities include bathrooms with warm showers, docks, electricity and a dump station. Activities include boating, beach access and fishing. Le Page Park is also a good launch point for boat-in access to Philippi Park. For park specific information, call 541-739-2713.   Fees:
  • Campsites: $25 per night
  • Day use fee: $5 per car
  • Bus or commercial vehicle: $20
  • Additional vehicle at a campsite: $5 per vehicle per night
  • Boat ramp and tie-up dock fee: $5 per day
  • Dump station: $5 for non-campers

Philippi Park (Ore.): Philippi Park is accessible by boat only and is located approximately three miles up the John Day River from its confluence with the Columbia.  Parking and boat launch facilities are available at LePage Park. Open from May 19 to Sept. 30. Camping available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Amenities include bathrooms with warm showers, beach access and boat docks. Popular activities include camping and fishing.

Paradise Park (Plymouth, Wash.): Paradise Park is located 2.9 miles west of Plymouth Rd. on Christie Rd. Site can accommodate up to 60 people. 7-day limit. For park specific information, call 509-783-1270.
  Fees:
  • Group camping: $35 per night

Plymouth Park (Wash.): Campground is open mid-April to mid-October. Plymouth Day Use Swim Beach open mid-May to mid-September. Amenities include full hookups, electricity, bathrooms, showers, courtesy docks, beach access and a dump station. Popular activities include camping and fishing.
  Fees:
  • Campsites: $15 - $27 per night
  • Day use fee: $5 per car
  • Bus or commercial vehicle: $20
  • Boat ramp and tie-up dock fee: $5 per day
  • Dump station: $5 for non-campers

PRIMITIVE CAMPING

There are no reservations for primitive campsites; they are first-come, first-serve with a 14-day use limit. All sites have boat ramp access to the river.

Giles French Park (Wasco County, Ore): bathrooms, trails

Rock Creek (Wash.): Portable toilets (April - Sept. only) (35 miles east of The Dalles on Highway 14)

Roosevelt Park (Roosevelt, Wash.): bathrooms, fishing, picnic shelters, windsurfing

Sundale Park (Goldendale, Wash.): picnic area, vault toilet, *boat ramp open to the public outside of commercial treaty fishing seasons.

Threemile Canyon Park (Quesnel, Ore.): fishing, vault toilet, windsurfing


RECREATION AREAS

Cliffs Park (Goldendale, Wash.): fishing, vault toilet

Paterson Park (Irrigon, Ore.): boat ramp, vault toilet (on Paterson Ferry Road, Irrigon, Ore.)

Railroad Island Park (Goldendale, Wash.): boat launch, fishing, vault toilet

 

PARTNER-OPERATED SITES

Crow Butte (Wash.) located at milepost 155 on Highway 14, is operated by the Port of Benton County. For information, call 509-948-6069.

Willow Creek (Ore.) RV campground is operated by Heppner Parks & Recreation. For information, call 541-676-5576.

Additional recreation sites are managed by the City of Arlington (I-84 exit 137, call 541-454-2868), Boardman Parks & Recreation (I-84 exit 165, call 541-481-7217), Irrigon Parks & Recreation (I-84 exit 168), and the Port of Umatilla (I-82 exit 1, call 541-922-3939 or 541-567-6151)


 

 


Rules, policies and related information

Collapse All Expand All

National Recreation Reservation Service logo

Search for and reserve available campsites at Recreation.gov or by calling 1-877-444-6777.

Campsites can be reserved up to 240 days in advance and group facilities up to 360 days in advance.

*Note: not all recreation sites take reservations.

All rules and regulations for the public use of Corps lands are described in Title 36, Chapter III, Part 327. The following document provides more detailed information specific to hunting on Corps lands within the Portland District. Hunters should be aware that some of the lands surrounding Corps reservoirs are managed by other County, State, and Federal agencies and different guidelines may apply. Hunters are responsible for recognizing private land boundaries and should not hunt on private land without permission of the landowner.

Questions about these guidelines should be directed to:

Bonneville Lock and Dam, 541-374-8344

The Dalles Lock and Dam, 541-506-7857

John Day Lock and Dam, 541-739-1135

Rogue River Basin Project, 541-878-2255

  • Information about hunting at Applegate project should be obtained from local U.S. Forest Service offices.
  • Rifle hunting is allowed in designated areas at Elk Creek and Lost Creek reservoir, with restrictions.

Willamette Valley Projects, 541-942-5631

 

DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY
US ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS
PORTLAND DISTRICT
333 SW 1st AVE
PORTLAND, OREGON 97201-2946 

 

CENWP-DE                                                                                                   27 September 2012




SUBJECT: Commander’s Policy Letter #19, Geocaching Within Portland District Boundaries



1. Purpose. Geocaching may be allowed on public lands managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in accordance with the Code of Federal Regulations Title 36 (CFR 36) and any applicable state or local rules and regulations, provided the activity is conducted in an unobtrusive manner. Geocaching can be an appropriate and compatible recreational activity on public land and water, as long as common sense guidelines are followed. Some Corps projects have used the popularity of the sport as an innovative tool to distribute information, such as water safety, in geocaches on Corps-managed lands.



2. Definition of Geocaching. Geocaching is an outdoor adventure activity for users of global positioning systems (GPS). Individuals and organizations set up geocaches (caches) all over the world and share their locations, often through the Internet. Numerous web sites are available, with one of the most popular being http://www.geocaching.com/. GPS users can then find the caches through published coordinates and site descriptions. Most commonly, a geocache is an object or container holding small objects for exchange. The finder may remove the enclosed "prize" and leave another, sign a logbook, or utilize a number of variations. Some "caches" are simply locations with unusual vegetation or unique land features the cache owner wants the cache hunter to experience (virtual caches). There is also a derivative form of the sport that searches for published coordinates of an existing historical monument, plaque, or benchmark.

While geocaching has become the standard name for the sport, other terms include Navicaching, GPS Orienteering, GPS Stash Hunt, and Benchmarking.



3. Policy. In accordance with 36 CFR 327.19 or 327.21, District Engineers, or their designees, may develop permit systems or policies to track and/or control placement of geocaches on project lands, provided this use does not conflict with project missions or security. Simplicity and ease of compliance should be emphasized. Information needed from the proposed geocache owner will include the cache coordinates (location), his/her name, and his/her address and phone number. The intent of collecting this information is to keep track of the location and number of caches on the project and to contact the owner if the cache needs to be removed. During application, the project should ask the proposed cache owner to provide a current picture form of identification with an address to confirm the applicant's identity. This information is voluntary; however, the applicant’s request can be denied for failure to comply with the information request. The project is required to store this information in a secure manner. Geocache objects or containers should be clearly identified as such when placed on public lands. Transparent containers are required, due to homeland security issues. Caches should not contain alcohol, illicit, or other inappropriate materials. It is the due diligence responsibility of the Project Operations Manager to work with the cache owners and jointly conduct periodic cache inspections to insure they are not being used for illicit and/or inappropriate purposes.

a. Individuals or groups that participate in geocaching activities on Corps property must be responsible for coordinating these activities with the Portland District, to help prevent potential conflicts with management activities (i.e., controlled burns, timber sales, planting, etc.)



4. Restrictions. It is the due diligence responsibility of the Project Operations Manager to establish designated areas where geocaching will be allowed and other areas where it will be restricted. Geocaching activities will not be allowed to occur in restricted areas where there could be conflicts with project missions, project security, or the safety of the general public.

Examples where geocaching would not be allowed include but are not limited to:

a. In designated restricted areas.

b. lf the cache, directly or indirectly, would negatively affect ecologically, environmentally, or socially sensitive areas (i.e., threatened or endangered species, critical habitats, cultural resources, tribal lands without consent, etc.).

c. In areas with potential safety risks, such as unstable banks, cliffs, or other hazards.

d. Where geocaching activities may interfere with established public uses, such as boat launching, picnicking, swimming, etc.

f. Where geocaching activities may interfere with the operation or security of the project.



5. Management Considerations. Management considerations at individual projects may require other permanent or temporary measures to ensure that geocaching activities are compatible with other project uses. For example, a project may need to prohibit geocaching during active management in an area for timber harvest, prescribed burning, hunting, or other wildlife management activities. Some projects may want to encourage and actively participate in geocaching activities to promote the Corps message in a positive way.

a. In certain instances, it may be necessary to issue a Special Event Permit in compliance with Title 36, 327.21. Conditions that may warrant the need for a Special Event Permit may include one-time activities that are publicly advertised, commercial in nature, involve large numbers of participants, provide cash prizes or other significant awards, or may potentially conflict with other uses of an area, etc.

b. If a cache must be removed from public lands for operational, safety, environmental, cultural, or other reason, a reasonable effort should be made to contact the cache owner and request removal. If the owner cannot be found, or the cache is not removed within a reasonable time, the cache may be removed and impounded as abandoned property, under 36 CFR 327.15.



6. Summary. In general, geocaching can be a fun and appropriate recreational activity at Corps projects, provided the security or missions of the project are not compromised. It provides an opportunity for positive interactions and partnerships with local groups involved in this activity.

Monitoring of web sites, communication and participation with these groups can form healthy relationships with benefits to all involved. Working with these groups can prevent problems and promote the Corps as a willing partner. Regulation should be based on common-sense needs of specific projects or areas, with a minimal permitting burden on the recreating public.


Questions about these guidelines should be directed to:

Bonneville Lock and Dam, 541-374-8344

The Dalles Lock and Dam, 541-506-7857

John Day Lock and Dam, 541-739-1135

Rogue River Basin Project, 541-878-2255

Willamette Valley Projects, 541-942-5631

 

These five steps will help you to anchor safely:

  1. Use anchor lines that are 5-7 times the depth of the water.
    1. Use a float for the anchor line to serve as a buffer and to reduce the risk of getting the anchor line tangled in the propeller.

    2. Lower, do not throw, the anchor to avoid tangles in the line.

    3. Anchor only off the point of the bow. Anchoring off the stern or the side will capsize your boat.

  2. Power upstream of anchor before retrieving it. Maintain position in line with the flow of the current while retrieving anchor. Turning cross-wise to the current increases the risk of capsizing.

  3. Rivers can become turbulent with little or no warning. You are advised to wear a Coast Guard-approved Personal Flotation Device at all times. Also, take precautions against hypothermia. River temperatures can range from 70 degrees in the summer to near freezing during the winter.

  4. River users are reminded that although it is legal to anchor in the channel, it is illegal to block the right-of-way of a vessel that is restricted to using the channel.

  5. Five blasts of the horn signify danger, and you must take action to avoid that danger.

For more tips, visit the Corps of Engineers National Water Safety website.

Click here for a print version of this information.

Day-use fees, including boat ramp and dump station fees, will be collected while parks are available for camping. No fees are collected during park closure dates. Some boat ramps outside fee campgrounds will charge a $3 launch fee per day, which is valid at any Corps-managed recreation site for day it was purchased.

Some designated swim beaches outside fee campgrounds may charge a use fee of $1 per person over the age of 12 or in a vehicle up to $4. However, if a vehicle has more than 8 passengers over the age of 12, there will be a fee of $1 for each additional individual over the age of 12.

All fees have been set to maintain comparable fee schedules with other federal, state, county and private campgrounds. All fees meet the requirements set in Engineering Publication 1130-2-550. Fee comparability within the same state and district is outlined in Paragraph 9 of EP 1130-2-550.

Seaplanes may be operated seven days a week between sunrise and sunset at all Portland District lakes with the exception of Big Cliff, Applegate and Willow Creek lakes. Once on the water seaplanes shall be considered powerboats and must be operated in accordance with marine rules of the road. Seaplanes in the water may taxi to any area of the lake subject to the powerboating restrictions for those lakes. For more information, see: Seaplane operations at Corps of Engineers lakes.

 

If you're enthusiastic about the outdoors, enjoy meeting new people and want to protect parks, then sign up to be a volunteer!
Click here for a listing of current volunteer opportunities at Portland District Park and Corps sites across the country. 


For both safety and security reasons, the operation of aircraft, including drones (formally known as Unmanned Aircraft Systems) may not be operated within 500 feet of operational areas at Corps projects. This includes land with structures such as dams. Click here for the complete District policy memo.

The Corps of Engineers, National Weather Service and other agencies cooperatively gather and analyze data for current and projected future reservoir and river level information.

Know before you go!

Reservoir and water levels

Northwest River Forecast Center

National Weather Service