Ten miles northwest of Portland  at the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia Rivers is the rural enclave of Sauvie Island, a scant 20 minutes from downtown. On clear days here, views of the snowcapped Cascades Range backdrop oceangoing freighters and cruise ships.
Visitors enjoy horseback riding, swimming, and U-pick farms plying apples, berries, peaches, pears, nectarines, melons, green beans, corn, zucchini, tomatoes, and pumpkins. A favorite spot for bird-watching, the area sees eagles, great blue herons, geese, and sandhill cranes among the 250 species that pass through on the Pacific Flyway.
Wildlife aficionados see red foxes and black-tailed deer on the island’s northern half. In addition, anglers come to Sauvie’s lakes and sloughs for panfish and bass, and to the Columbia side for sturgeon, salmon, and steelhead. Bikers come for the 12-mile “hill-less” biking loop. Nearby is Collins Beach, a nudist hangout.
Other seasonal highlights here include watching the Christmas ships (whose colored lights and yule-time decor resemble the most elaborate parade floats imaginable) and swimming at Walton Beach at the end of N.W. Reeder Road. Mid-January offers a rare chance to see bald eagles feeding here.
This is Oregon as it was, before Starbucks, gas stations, and souvenir shops. Described by the British Navy and Lewis and Clark as a major outpost of Chinook culture, in the early 19th century Sauvie drew Euro-American settlers, who came to engage in the extensive trade along the Columbia River and to till the fertile soil.
History buffs and nature lovers can enjoy fall foliage at the James Y. Bybee House (Howell Park Rd., 503/222-1741). This 1858 farm, built by Oregon Trail pioneers, is furnished with pieces from that period. If you’re not edified by reading Sauvie Island’s history dating back to Lewis and Clark, the Bybee House also features a collection of old farming implements and an orchard with 115 species of apples brought by the pioneers. The house is open noon–5 p.m. Saturday–Sunday, June–Labor Day.
In late September, the Bybee House is open for the Wintering-In Festival. Combining this event with a bike ride through the island’s pumpkin patches, yellow-leafed cottonwoods, and river views is a wonderful way to herald the coming season.
To reach Sauvie Island, take U.S. 30 northwest to St. Helens, Linnton, and Sauvie Island.
Be aware that if you park at one of Sauvie Island’s public beaches or wildlife viewing areas, you’ll need a parking certificate, available for $3.50 per vehicle at Sam’s Cracker Barrel Grocery on Sauvie Island Road; turn left after coming off the bridge. Also remember to gas up and hit the ATM beforehand heading to the island; neither are here.