The Oregon’s Swimming Holes app, made for iPhone and released in July of 2013, includes more than 200 swimming holes around the state. (Pictured: Three Pools by Flickr user vivalabilioteca)
Buck Lake is just an hour east of Oregon City in the Mt. Hood National Forest. (Photo credit: Flickr user Ben Amstutz)
In Southern Oregon, head east of Roseburg to Little Falls on Steamboat Creek. (Photo credit: Flickr user TheNewJane)

When software developer Jake Schirm moved to Oregon from San Diego eight years ago, he traded the SoCal surf culture for life among Oregon’s rivers and streams. With four kids in tow (now age 15, 14, 11 and 6), he started looking for family-friendly swimming spots. “I was trying to learn about rivers and places to go swimming with my family,” he says.

His research led him to a much loved, but sadly out-of-print guidebook by Relan Colley called “Oregon’s Swimming Holes.” Intrigued by the concept and noting the prohibitively expensive prices that used copies of the book were going for, Schirm saw an opportunity. He contacted Colley and suggested they work together to create a smartphone app with the original content. “He said he was game to bring it back,” Schirm says.

The Oregon’s Swimming Holes app, made for iPhone and released in July of 2013, includes more than 200 swimming holes around the state. Users can search by region, and each swimming hole entry includes all pertinent information, including the name of the swimming hole, the river it’s on, rating (Colley included only swimming holes that he would personally rank six out of 10), description, water quality, swimming skill, directions and amenities.

Schirm says people seem to like it, especially those who knew the book first. He says it’s been a great tool for long road trips when everyone needs to get out of the car and take a break. He’s careful to give kudos to Colley, however. “Reland Colley is the guy who did all field research,” he says. “He’s swum in all those holes. He’s the real expert.”

Here are five great Oregon swimming holes to check out this summer. Download the Oregon Swimming Holes app from iTunes to discover even more:

Little Falls on Steamboat Creek, 50 miles east of Roseburg (Rating: 9)

Cleawox Lake in Jesse M. Honeyman Memorial State Park, 4 miles south of Florence (Rating: 10)

Cliff Pool, Three Pools and Salmon Falls Park, 40 miles east of Salem on the Little North Fork Santiam River (Rating: 10, 10 and 8, respectively)

Buck Lake, one hour east of Oregon City in the Mt. Hood National Forest (Rating: 10)

Warehouse Beach on Lake Walulla, a backwater near the McNary Dam, 15 miles east of Umatilla (Rating: 9)

about author Eileen Garvin

Eileen Garvin lives and writes in Hood River. When she’s not hunched over her keyboard or digging in the garden, you can find her mountain biking, kiteboarding, hiking, skiing or camping somewhere in Oregon.

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  1. Barbara says…

    Love seeing all the places in Oregon that I don’t know about. I appreciate the information

    Written on July 2nd, 2014 / Flag this Comment
  2. Jim Castro says…

    There are sooooo many beautiful swimming holes in Oregon it is unfair to pick just five. My favorite is the swimming hole at Yellowbottom on Quartzville Creek just east of Sweethome. I had not been there for 40 years but was lucky enough to visit just last week and I can attest it is as inviting and beautiful as ever not to mention that QV Creek is full of such great swimming places.

    Written on July 2nd, 2014 / Flag this Comment
  3. robert says…

    this is a great story and growing up near Medford

    when i was in school brought back all the memories of

    all swimming holes in the area thanks

    Written on July 3rd, 2014 / Flag this Comment
  4. LettieBug says…

    Oregon is BEAUTIFUL!! Please remember to pack out what you pack in and pick up all trash left behind…. let’s work together to keep Oregon, and our gorgeous swimming holes as breathtaking as they are!! <3

    Written on July 3rd, 2014 / Flag this Comment
  5. Beth Copanos says…

    I always loved swimming in the Rogue River…my favorite place to fish also!

    Written on July 3rd, 2014 / Flag this Comment
  6. ray soyars says…

    you’re forgetting Calapooia river -Mckercher park past brownsville, little fall dreek kind of southeast of springfield, and Triangle lake to the west of eugene, not to mention all the wilderness high lakes thru out the state, and also Wildwood falls just a little south of cottage grove just to name but a few, been in Oregon since i was 13yrs old im 53 now been to most of the good swimmin holes thru out Oregon :)

    Written on July 10th, 2014 / Flag this Comment
  7. Brian Wilson says…

    sounds great, i’ll be getting a waterproof I phone very soon. cant wait to try the app.

    by the way, I live in Bend Oregon just moved here from Salem,Or so i like have no idea where to hit some nice swim holes out here, and i wanna take my wife and kinda have a romantic day on the river. sounds great to me anyways. if you or anyone has any good ideas. e-mail me please. peace.

    Written on July 17th, 2014 / Flag this Comment
  8. Benno says…

    This breaks the code. Some swimming holes are naturally big public areas. Some are word of mouth and places of solitude. In this age of “everyone must share all information” something is lost. The idea that any person who happens thru Oregon can now just check their App for sweet swim holes takes away any advantage of being local and keeping some places from being overrun. In my world, if I really love a place, I do not publish its whereabouts online. Ever. That is my gift to the place, to keep is mellow and quiet. This kind of publishing of great spots for personal gain as a writer always bothers me.

    Written on July 18th, 2014 / Flag this Comment
  9. Danielle V says…

    too bad they haven’t bothered to make it Android.

    Written on July 28th, 2014 / Flag this Comment
  10. Erika says…

    I stumbled upon Colley’s book when I wasting time in my college library at OSU. I was so excited after we adventured to a chosen swimming hole that I bought a second book for my best friend. The book has brought me to amazing, unforgettable places and the memories of the adventures are even better than the swimming hole itself. One of my favorite parts about the adventures was that the swimming holes still felt like a secret especially when the book went out of print. I even had a local ask me how I knew to get there when I arrived at one swimming hole. I excitedly told him about the book and he used much profanity to express his feelings towards the book and the outsiders at his local swimming hole. I actually don’t appreciate this app at all as I want to protect these special spaces by limited usuage. It’s one thing to live in oregon all your life and love oregon the way many of us Oregonians do as we know how to take care of these sacred spaces. It’s another to allow outsiders traveling through the ease of an app to take over the swimming holes with their wasteful, disrespectful and trashy ways. Hope Mr. Shirm from CA has time to stick around and clean up the mess that their friends have left behind.

    Written on September 27th, 2014 / Flag this Comment
  11. Jenifer says…

    We JUST moved to Elkton and have NO IDEA where we can go and take the grandkids..no..I dont have a smartphone..

    Written on June 5th, 2015 / Flag this Comment
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