One of the bridges you pass under on the portland bridge swim

The Portland Bridge Swim

The Portland Bridge Swim is an annual open water swimming event that takes place in the Willamette River Portland, Oregon. This unique race offers participants the opportunity to swim an 11 mile course that passes beneath 12 of the city’s iconic bridges.

The swim is growing in popularity amongst open water swimmers, due to the uniqueness of the venue as well as its challenging but rewarding course. There used to be a team relay option but the race was recently restricted to solo swimmers. The race caps off at 100 participants, register early to avoid disappointment.

Is the Portland Bridge Swim current assisted?

Swimmers swim with the current, but the swim does not always feel less than the actual distance. The Willamette is a tidal river, so you will likely have to swim against a tidal surge for a portion of the race. The strength of the surge varies from year to year but can be strong some years and you should expect to have to swim hard at times.

Do i need a support kayak?

Yes, all racers must be accompanied by a support kayak. Your support person will carry drinks and snacks for refuelling. They will assist with navigation, timekeeping, and pacing. They will keep you visible and offer safety support. A good support kayaker will give you positive and realistic support during the emotional ups and downs of the race.

Race organizers do offer to help connect out-of-town racers with willing Portland kayakers. If you have a kayaker but no kayak, you can find kayaks to rent at Alder Creek Kayak Rentals. Book early because there are limited numbers.

Read how Hilda Nkosi prepared for the Portland Bridge Swim

What is the water quality like?

An important aspect of the swim is to raise awareness about the health of our rivers. The water quality used to be poor. In fact sewage was released into the river following heavy rain as recently as 2011.

The Willamette has cleaned up its act recently, but industry along the river has contaminated the silt in some areas. There are still dangerous toxins in the silt. The quality of the water depends on turbidity and rainfall. Swimmers should consider the information on river toxicity posted on the Portland bridge swim website.

Water is tested at several points along the river right up to race time.

The Portland Bridge Swim
Sellwood Riverfront Park
1221 SE Oaks Park Way
Portland OR 97202
USA
Race time: July 7, 2024 5:30 am
Distance: 11 miles
Registration opens: January 1, 2024 12:00 am
Other information:

Prior to entry, all entrants must complete a 5000 m or 5500 yd swim within 1 hour, 40 minutes, verified by an observer.

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