Photo essay: Outdoor swimming pools, public and private

Jason E. Kaplan
Creston Pool in Southeast Portland

Portland’s outdoor public pools are much beloved facilities. But new construction has not kept pace with population growth.

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Portlanders don’t have a lot of options for cooling off when the mercury shoots up. There are no lakes within easy biking or walking distance. And the Willamette River, even the clean segments of the river, are not suitable for young children.  

That leaves outdoor pools as the best bet for getting relief from the heat in the city.  

The Portland Parks & Recreation department operates seven outdoor pools, most of which were constructed in the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s, said Nancy Roth, PP&R’s Aquatic Supervisor, in an email. Peninsula Pool dates back to 1913.

The last outdoor public pool to be built in Portland was Wilson Pool in 1957. 

Demand for outdoor pool capacity is especially high in east Portland. There are no city-owned outdoor pools east of Montavilla Pool, which is located at SE 82nd Ave and Glisan.

As part of its  2020 vision plan, PP&R aims to accommodate 1% of the population at any one time — or about 5,000 people — in the summer, Roth said. The current pool network, including indoor pools, can accommodate about 3,300 people.

Pending funding, plans are underway for an outdoor pool in east Portland, at Parklane Park. A center with a pool is planned at the Washington/Monroe site in inner Southeast Portland. Pools, like other park amenities and parkland, are funded through system development charges.

In 2017 total outdoor pool revenue was $1,344,533. Expenses clocked in at $1,439,344. The busiest pools are Grant, Wilson and Sellwood.

OB photographer Jason Kaplan set out to capture the summer pool scene. He shot several Portland Parks pools, a few hotel and club pools and a facility in the small town of Independence. Be sure to click on slideshow at the end of the photo essay.

Peninsula 1

1. On one of the hottest days of the year, Free Swim meant the Peninsula Park pool was at its capacity of 188 people. A line of people waiting for a chance to swim stretched out the gate.  (Photo Store)


2. Located on the edge of Independence, the small town pool is operated by the local YMCA.  It is open to the public throughout the summer. (Photo Store)


3. Concealed in the bottom of a forested gully, the Creston pool feels miles away from Southeast Powell Boulevard.  (Photo Store)



4. Surrounded by a privacy fence, the Irvington Club Pool is open to members only.  It was photographed during the morning practice of the kids’ swim team, which competes in a league of club swimmers from around the region. (Photo Store)


5. On a hot day the large Sellwood pool is near capacity.  Officially it can accommodate 409 people.  (Photo Store)


6. The Lloyd Center Doubletree by Hilton has one of the few outdoor hotel pools in Portland.  The pool entertains 20-30 people at its busiest. (Photo Store)


7. Located at the north end of the city in the St. Johns Neighborhood, Pier pool has the feel of a spartan urban facility — surrounded by the towering evergreens of Pier Park. (Photo Store)

Oakhills 8

8. The Oak Hills Homeowners Association in eastern Washington County has its own recreation center, including a large outdoor pool.  Pictured on a warm summer morning, the facility sits pristine until open swim starts at noon. (Photo Store)


Photo gallery: Click on image below to view more pool photos.

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