Portland-area riders can enjoy seven miles of easy trails at the Sandy River Delta, located just off I-84 near Troutdale. The Delta’s trails go through deciduous forest, across open fields, to the Columbia River, and along the old dikes that redirected the flow of the Sandy River. And all this is only 20 minutes from downtown Portland!
The Sandy River Delta is a flood plain that lies between the Sandy and the Columbia Rivers on the west end of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. The Sandy River originally had two outlets to the Columbia River, but dikes were built to redirect most of the Sandy’s flow to the western outlet. Over time the area behind the dikes filled with sediment, creating the Delta.
Several years ago, one of the dikes was breached to restore the Delta to a more natural state. The Sandy River’s new channel created Sundial Island on the north end of the Delta. In low water periods, some riders may consider fording the waterway that now separates Sundial Island from the rest of the Delta, but it’s a bad idea. Lewis and Clark originally called this waterway the Quicksand River for a reason.
The Delta is very popular with off-leash dog walkers. Many urban dog owners are unfamiliar with how their dogs should behave around horses, so be aware that you may need to be an ambassador for the entire equestrian community. Be prepared to stop your horse, call out to the dog owners, and ask them to put their dogs on leash until you can pass by. Most people are more than happy to oblige when they understand what is needed to keep both you and their dog safe.
At the confluence of the old Sandy River channel and the Columbia River, you’ll find a commemorative bird blind designed by Maya Lin, who designed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
The Sandy River Delta offers delightful year-round trails to explore, as well as an opportunity to desensitize your horse to off-leash dogs. The display of fall colors provided by the area’s many cottonwood and alder trees is a bonus. Don’t miss it!
The Delta has parking for ten horse trailers, though cars parking in the designated trailer spots is an ongoing problem, especially on weekends. Arrive early to find the best parking access. The Delta has vault toilets, garbage cans, and picnic tables.
The Sandy River Delta is covered in the Sandy River Delta chapter of Riding Northwest Oregon Horse Trails, by Kim McCarrel, available at www.NWHorseTrails.com.