The Water

Oregon Coast

Two rivers wind through Portland, Oregon: the north-flowing Willamette, running past the city's Waterfront Park and esplanade, and the "mighty" Columbia, the fourth largest river in the US. Portland gets the nickname "Bridgetown" from the twelve bridges crossing these rivers, each an example of a unique architectural style and six that must open for tall sailboats and giant cargo ships.

In the summertime, the Willamette turns into a recreational waterway, filled with kayaks, Chinese dragon boats, and jet skis. But the river is not always calm: its floods have turned downtown Portland into a little Venice more than once over the years. Long known for its salmon runs, the Columbia stretches through the breathtaking Columbia River Gorge: 80 miles of cliffs and waterfalls starting just 20 minutes up the river from Portland. The Gorge is a nature-lovers paradise, with spectacular vistas, numerous hiking trails, and scenic bike routes. An hour up river from Portland is the picturesque town of Hood River, where the choppy Columbia and constant gusts combine to form the windsurfing capitol of the world.

If it's ocean you're looking for, the Oregon Coast is a year-round playground for adventure-seekers and beachcombers alike. Along the scenic coast Highway 101 you'll find quaint beach towns and wind-wracked headlands hundreds of feet above the crashing Pacific, and miles of un-peopled beach. Wild flowers grow atop massive cliffs, and eons of wind and angry waves have carved giant boulders into caves and lovely cathedral-esque hollows. Bring your wetsuit and surf or sea kayak among the sea lions instead of the crowds.