4 cooling outside recreation picks for Oregon’s July warmth wave

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Stella Hartfield, 17, left, and her boyfriend Orion Crofut, 19, both from Lake Oswego, went to the Willamette River in Portland to cool off on June 28, 2021.

Kristyna Wentz-Graff / OPB

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By now you’ve almost certainly seen the headlines. My friends, it’s hot this week.

Starting today, we expect temperatures in the triple digits across much of the state. Summer heatwaves can be dangerous, especially for older adults and vulnerable communities. But alongside the very real health threats (and please: check your neighbors or call 2-1-1 if you need help transporting you to refrigerated accommodation), it’s also undeniably true that you’re trying to go about your daily business while get done These scorching summer days aren’t much fun. We live in Oregon after all; Shouldn’t we be floating down a river or lounging by an alpine lake during these hot snaps?

Getting outside on a hot day can be risky, especially if you’re too tall. Trust us, this isn’t the day to tackle that 20-mile hike you’ve been looking forward to all summer.

“For me, it’s about aligning activity with destination based on local weather,” said Zach Urness, outdoor editor of the Salem Statesman Journal and host of the Explore Oregon podcast. “If you’re hiking through the forested mountains in the morning and driving to an alpine lake, that can work well,” he said, “or if you’re going to the Oregon coast, a lot more is possible because I’m there in the ’60s and ’70s.” years to see high temperatures.”

Urness said that on hot days it’s especially important to plan ahead and start early; This way you can avoid both the late afternoon heat and the hordes of people with the same idea. He said he’s watched crowds increase year after year and noted when parking lots tended to fill on the busiest days. “It’s around 10am on the coast,” he said, “and probably 10:30am at swimming holes or river entry points. So getting there before that time makes a big difference.”

As relaxing as a day on the river sounds, caution is advised. Dozens of Oregonians die in boating accidents each year. Urness said the best way to protect yourself is also one of the easiest: “Wear a life jacket,” he said. “So many fatal accidents, or accidents in general, are solved with just this one thing.”

One last tip: be careful with your drinking, you party animals. “I mean, people are probably bringing cold beers down the river no matter what I say,” he said, “but again, if you’re wearing a life jacket and you’re not hammered, the chances of survival increase dramatically.”

Here are four chilling, underrated summer spots that Urness recommends you this week.

Rafting on the Upper Clackamas River

This stretch of river is finally open to the public after years of being closed following the 2020 Riverside Fire. Urness said the upper section offers greater thrills than the quieter lower Clackamas, especially after the record-breaking wet spring we just had. “The river is about 20% higher than usual at this time of year,” Urness said, “so the rapids are more splashy and fun.” Tip: If you’re new to rafting, it’s a good idea to hire a guide . “I spoke to a guide out there and he said they were ready,” he said. “They have many leaders; They have many vacancies.”

Sitka Sedge State Natural Area

With temperatures forecast to be in the 60’s and 70’s on the Oregon Coast, it’s a no-brainer to head toward the ocean for a little respite from the heat. If you’re concerned about crowds, Urness recommends this newer state park just south of Tillamook. “It’s just a beautiful place,” he said. “It’s a hike through some wetlands and then out to this secluded little beach where you can look north and see Cape Lookout, look south and see Cape Kiwanda. It’s kind of sandwiched between those two more popular areas.”

Alpine lakes in the Mount Jefferson Wilderness

You need a permit to visit these mountain oases, but the good news is that permits are fairly easy to obtain. They also help limit the crowds. Located 90 minutes from Salem, places like Pamelia Lake, Marion Lake, Duffy Lake and Santiam Lake are accessible as either a day hike or an easy overnight trip. “You hike through shady, old-growth forest to reach them,” said Urness, “and then you can bask in the cool mountain waters.” A word of caution: The wet spring has resulted in a bumper crop of mosquitoes in the Northwest (although all of these lakes are above 5,000 feet, which will likely limit the insects). Still, you might want to pack your bug spray for the hike.

McDowell Creek Falls County Park

“I wanted to put a waterfall in here,” Urness said. We cannot disagree with that.

Just outside Albany, he said this natural area is similar to popular destinations like Silver Falls State Park, but with a fraction of the crowds and more relaxed rules. “You can take your dog along the trail and also splash in the falls and pools,” Urness said. It’s also the most kid-friendly spot on this list, and somehow managed to avoid the crowds of tourists that attract so many other outdoor destinations. “Even though people know about it,” Urness said, “I’ve been there on peak days and when the car park is half full I’m surprised.”

Get out, get wet, stay cool and enjoy.