About the Sandy River

Welcome to a special place – the Sandy River Basin

Generations of Oregonians have enjoyed the Sandy River Basin. The Sandy’s wild and scenic rivers are home to thousands of residents and businesses, as well as native salmon and wildlife. People boat, fish, hike, camp, ski and sightsee at popular recreation sites such as Oxbow Park, the Mt. Hood Wilderness Area, Trillium Lake and Timberline Lodge. The deep, winter snows that attract winter recreators gradually melt in the spring and summer. That provides clear, cold water for salmon, drinking water, recreation and irrigation.

Video from Bureau of Land Management U.S. Forest Service work day at Marmot Dam

Snow melting from glaciers high on the west slopes of Mt. Hood gives rise to the Sandy River. The river drops steeply before reaching the valley floor, where the communities of Zigzag, Welches and Rhododendron are located along State Highway 26. The Salmon and Zigzag rivers, important tributaries to the Sandy, also begin on the upper slopes of the mountain. The Sandy is the only major glacial river draining the western Cascades in Oregon.

The Bull Run River, an important tributary of the Sandy, serves as the City of Portland’s water supply providing high quality drinking water for over 800,000 people. After a 56 mile journey the Sandy flows into the Columbia River near the City of Troutdale.

The Sandy and its tributaries provide essential habitat for salmon and steelhead trout, which are listed under the Endangered Species Act. Wild runs of Fall Chinook and Coho salmon are very important within the lower Columbia River area. The Sandy River Basin Watershed Council is working with landowners and residents to preserve water quality and restore salmon habitat so that the rivers and healthy salmon runs can be enjoyed by future generations. We encourage you to join in and take action where you live.

Exciting things are happening here. The watershed council and its partners are working on habitat restoration projects. After operating them for almost a century, Portland General Electric removed Marmot Dam from the Sandy River, and Little Sandy Dam from the Little Sandy River in 2007 and 2008 respectively. A decommissioning agreement signed by PGE, the Watershed Council and other parties, in 2002, set the dam removal process in motion. Once again the Sandy River is free flowing from its headwaters to the Columbia River.