The Ross Island Loop (from Sellwood Beachfront Park)


SUPPDX: Taking a break on the north tip of Ross Island has a great view of downtown Portland.


Distance: 5.03 miles

Skill Level Suggested: Moderate Experience for the full 5 mile roundtrip

Workout Level: High

Sense of Reward: Pretty Darn Rewarding on a Windless Day

The Ross Island Loop is our standard workout. From Sellwood Beachfront Park (aka, Sellwood Dogpark),

Stair access at Sellwood Park
There is a convenient stairwell directly to the water if the public pier is busy. Watch for rocks!!!

the Ross Island Loop is almost exactly a distance of 5 miles. Like many SUP rides, this doesn’t take into account river flow, wind, or boat traffic that can easily add to the trip and make it feel like 8 miles instead of 5! We tend to take the northeast route northbound as it can be slightly more forgiving to the predominantly northeastern winds chugging down the river.

There’s also far less boat traffic as half the east side of Ross Island is a no-wake area. This makes the trip back a viable option if the wind is blowing from a different direction or there’s just a lot of traffic on the narrower west side of the island. We most often pull in and take a break on the north tip of the island, which is mostly rock with a little bit of sand beach, so be careful with that equipment! Beverly also brings an extra bag to collect trash on occasion (she’s very sweet like that).

The western route south can be a fun downwinder on blustery days but like I said, it’s narrow and boat traffic can turn a good downwinder into cross chop.

Poop Central
Yes, Sellwood Riverfront Park is a big dog park. Yes, you have to watch out for poop every step of the way.

There’s also residual bounce back from the island itself so there’s additional complications, although sometimes very fun ones, when taking this route home. There is a long, narrow stretch followed by a break from boat traffic if you stay on the shallower east side of Toe Island, which is also a pleasant stop on days when it is above the surface of the river. Most times we make a straight path to the last floating home on the east side of the river which keeps us out of the main boat traffic but adds a little bit of length to the trip.

This slight off-route decision can also be helpful as Willamette Park is one of the busier public access points to the river so there’s plenty of boat traffic about on sunny days.


If Willamette Park is more convenient than Sellwood Park, this put-in and route is also very popular and does cut a little over a mile off the workout. Willamette Park is pay-to-park but has facilities and is generally a clean, well run city park.

Ross Island Route
Sellwood – Ross Island Route

Sellwood Beachfront Park has free parking although expect it to be full on warm summer days. There is also a ramp immediately south of the parking lot on Spokane Ave. so street parking and a short walk are a convenient alternative to door dings and crowds.

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