Water Falling

Cliff jumps and high dives near portland.

When I was a child, manhood came at age 12. This was when I was first allowed to plummet from the 20-foot high dive at the Oregon City pool, thus proving my mastery of both fear and death. But it is gone now. The high dives especially have gone away from poolsides nationwide—as have most boards that let you catch serious air—making way for much less dangerous, cool-looking water slides that look like leftovers from a Tinkertoy set. But damn it, as an adult you feel like an idiot chasing an 8-year-old down a water slide. Here's where you can still catch some air, both outdoors and in.

The Matt Dishman Community Center

This is a perfect summer pool: indoors, and so less likely to be packed than the outdoor pools in the dog days, L-shaped and 43 feet long with the kiddie pool elsewhere from you. But the main thing that makes it amazing? The existence of an undisturbed diving board, springy as all get-out for a solid water entry. Should you want to learn to dive gracefully, there's a drop-in class every Tuesday and Thursday at 6 pm. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.

Matt Dishman Community Center, 77 NE Knott St., 823-3673. 

Tualatin Hills Aquatic Center

Holy crap. One of the last true high dives in the Portland area. A 3-meter diving board, and 5- and 7.5-meter diving platforms open to the public for an hour or two each day (check the schedule). Only the 10-meter platform, a full, aching 33 feet above the rippling surface of the 17-foot-deep pool, is reserved for staff and the Tualatin Hills Diving Club. Damn. And did we mention the rope swing? There's a rope swing. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.

10 minutes from Portland: Tualatin Hills Aquatic Center, 15707 SW Walker Road, Beaverton.

Oneonta Gorge

The Columbia Gorge's best swimming spot requires that you overcome two kinds of logjams: a literal one, in the form of a high-piled stack of trees, and a human one, made of camera-toting dingbats more concerned about snapping a photo than the dangers of walking on slippery wood. Overcoming both is worth it. The next task on your quest involves a short, frigid hike through chest-deep water as you're sandwiched between mossy cliff faces that block out most light. You emerge in front of a towering waterfall with a perfect pool for low-danger cliff diving. AP KRYZA.

40 minutes from Portland: Take I-84 east to the Old Gorge Highway (or to the Multnomah Falls exit, if you hate scenic beauty with slow traffic), continue east past Multnomah Falls and look for the gigantic, abandoned railroad tunnel on the south side of the road marked Oneonta Gorge. If you reach Horsetail Falls, you've gone too far. 

Mosier Pocket

Sorry, Mosier. This is a well-kept secret except to locals, but the Mosier Pocket is one of the most gorgeous little rock-field pools you ever did see, off a down-slope trail from 3rd Avenue near a parking pullout. After a 1-mile hike, you will find yourself descending toward a picturesque waterfall, where the waters of Mosier Creek plunge into waiting clear waters whose bottom you always see. Be a not-idiot, and scout the pool for its deep spots before you go making any jumps off the top rocks. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.

1 hour, 24 minutes from Portland: Take I-84 to Exit 69 for Mosier, then follow U.S. Highway 30 as it becomes 3rd Street, and park where you see the pullout as you exit past the town and 3rd Street crosses the creek. The water's downhill, and there's a trail on the other side of the guardrail.

Lacamas Lake Regional Park and the Camas Potholes

Portland does not think of Camas, Wash., when the sun shines. But goddamn, it should. Walk all the way around Lacamas Lake, cross a small bridge, and slip down a 20-percent grade, and you will find the Potholes—so named for the natural pits in the rocks along the shore, formed like nature's acne. Look one way, there's a waterfall formed of dam runoff. Look the other, and it's a river glen in an alien world, with a 15-foot jumping spot into a miniature swimming hole and, on a recent 75-degree Sunday, no one at the water's edge. It's like the secret place in the forest the kid flees to in one of those dark Disney movies where home life is scary. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.

5 minutes from Portland: Lacamas Lake Regional Park, 3344 NE Everett St., Camas, Wash. Open 7 am-dusk. 25 minutes from Portland: Take I-205 north to Washington, then take Exit 27 at Route 14 east. Follow Northwest 6th Avenue east to Division Street. Take a left on Division, a right on Northeast 17th Avenue and a left to go north on Washington State Route 500. The park will be on the right.

High Rocks

Oh, High Rocks. Oh, Clackistani home to much-publicized drownings, Mickey's big mouths and Oregon City loudmouths. To sun-reddened Taz tattoos and tan lines that don't match the swimsuit. To shirtless men basking on the great basalt platforms like Komodo dragons, and just as full of toxins. You are home to me. Hold my beer, I'm gonna see if I can do two flips off the rock on my way into the water. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.

25 minutes from Portland: Take I-205 south to Gladstone, Exit 11. Continue south on 82nd Drive, take a right on Columbia Avenue, a left on 1st Street, and another left on Yale Avenue.

Naked Falls

The name refers to (rumored) nude sunbathing, but another kind of daredevil generally frequents Naked Falls. The swimming hole's principal attraction—besides the beautiful, crystal-clear Washougal River—is a 30-foot cliff for jumping into a section of deep, moderately flowing water. But even if you're not keen on that idea, there are plenty of other attractions—smaller falls for sliding or sitting in pools, a bridge with a rope swing, and plenty of large rocks for reading, napping and basking in the sun. ADRIENNE SO.

1 hour from Portland: From I-5 north, cross the Columbia River and take Exit 1A to Camas. This road becomes Washington State Route 14. Turn left on Washougal River Road and follow the signs to Dougan Falls. Follow the gravel road past Dougan Falls for approximately 2 miles. The access point is on the right. No Northwest Forest Pass required.

Punchbowl Falls

Never, ever take a dive here. After all, jumping from the heights of lower Punchbowl Falls, the Disneyland of near-Portland hikes, with stunning views of the 35-foot upper falls and a lovely, temptingly accessible diving spot into the lower pool, is totally banned. You should never, ever take this plunge into the bracingly frigid waters after following the narrow, 3-mile trail—which has left you sweaty, parched and in need of refreshment—into the beckoning waters. That would be wrong. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.

45 minutes from Portland: From I-84 take Exit 41 directly after the tunnel and follow the signs for the Eagle Creek Trailhead. $5 recreation fee.

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