Work party volunteers head up the trail at Sandy River Gorge Preserve, Oregon.
Sandy River volunteer work party. Work party volunteers head up the trail at Sandy River Gorge Preserve, Oregon. © Bruce MacGregor

Places We Protect


Sandy River Gorge Preserve

Untamed river, upland terraces and an old-growth forest — all on Portland's doorstep.


Why It's Important    

At Sandy River Gorge Preserve, six miles of untamed river with upland terraces and canyons provide excellent habitat for native fish, wildlife and an old-growth forest, all within 20 miles of Oregon's largest urban area.

Originating in the snowfields of Mt. Hood, the Sandy is the last undeveloped western Oregon river near a metropolitan area. Protection for this unique treasure began in 1970, when the Diack family donated 156 acres to the Conservancy. Today, after years of planning and coordination by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, state agencies, Metro and private conservation groups, most of the Sandy River Gorge is protected and managed for its natural, scientific, educational and recreational values.

Popular with wildlife watchers, anglers, rafters and kayakers, the Sandy River is designated an Oregon Scenic Waterway and a federal Wild and Scenic River.

Long before the Cascade Range existed, the ancestral Sandy River began carving its meandering course. As the Cascades rose, the stream cut through twenty million years of Northwest Oregon geology, carving a 700-foot-deep gorge that exposes a cross-section of seven major geologic formations.


East of Portland, in the Sandy River Gorge


436 acres

Plants at the Preserve

Within the gorge lies the best remaining low-elevation, old-growth Douglas-fir forest in Oregon, including trees over 500 years old. Forested upland terraces provide a corridor for wildlife, including black bear, cougar and elk.

Animals at the Preserve

The Sandy River provides excellent spawning habitat for native runs of Chinook and coho salmon and steelhead trout. The forest is home to the Oregon slender salamander, a species found only in northwestern Oregon. Black-tailed deer, river otter and osprey are also common.

What the Conservancy Has Done/Is Doing

The Conservancy owns several properties in the gorge. Ecologists monitor streamside habitats, amphibian populations and water quality. Volunteers and youth corps teams remove non-native invasive Scots broom, Japanese knotweed and Himalayan blackberry, and maintain hiking trails. Volunteer naturalists lead interpretive field trips. Many educational activities, including a fall salmon festival and additional hiking trails, are enjoyed at Oxbow Park.