Water makes Portland what it is.

The city's geography is defined by its rivers. Our pristine Bull Run tap water makes our beer taste good and attracts Japanese ramen-makers to move here. And, for most of the year, our water falls from the sky. The rains feed the farms in the valleys below, and the glaciers on the mountains above.

The ceaseless drizzle gives this place its lush green tones, as well as our damp, rumpled and slightly aggrieved sense of self.

Then, for a few precious summer months, the rain is done, and that's when you get to really enjoy our water.

Summer in Portland is special because it's fleeting and earned. We've been pent up under clouds and blankets, then all of a sudden the sun is shining hard and hot. So maybe it's natural that we feel an almost preternatural urge to return to the water, like those salmon swimming up the Columbia right now.

We've dedicated this issue to all things water. We visited five natural hot springs tucked in the Cascades along I-5. We got the scoop on what's happening with the Dock next to the Hawthorne Bridge, the city's new favorite swim spot. We made a visit to Rooster Rock, the nude beach popular with the Portland gay community.

If you want to think about the future of swimming and boating in the metro area, it's time to think about the 400-acre Oswego Lake. We chatted with two heroes who are suing the city of Lake Oswego to overturn an ordinance that stripped Oregonians of their right to access the public lake from public parks. We paddled through the slough, the mucky side channel of the Columbia River that's home to hobo pirates and an impressive array of birds. We also hopped on a fishing boat and puttered up and down the Willamette, popping ashore for drinks at the nearest pub then returning to the boat to find some great dockside bars, and some terrible ones. And we grabbed our boards for a trip to the Washington Coast's super-hip new surfer hotel.

We hope this guide will help you get out there and get wet. The water will not be going away, but the sun will be. Turns out, they're better together.