The amazing destination in the Opal Creek Wilderness, Three Pools Day Use Area along the Little North Fork of the Santiam River is known for its scenic beauty and as a place of summer water activities. Multiple pools with lucid emerald water, a small waterfall, impressive craggy pillar, scenic basalt cliffs, beautiful bedrocks, and pebbled beach - all of those make this fantastic location extremely popular. For all of the adventure seekers, in addition to swimming, there are a number of jumping opportunities.
Stairs from the parking area lead down to the beach and a large swimming hole. Families with kids prefer this place and therefore it can be more crowded.
To get to other pools nestled between rocks and cliffs further upstream is more challenging since it requires a tiny bit of rock climbing and rapid crossing. Some of those pools are deep and used for jumping.
An excellent riverside swimming location that is perfect for swimming can be found just before the point where the Little North Fork enters into the rocky canyon of the Three Rivers site. You can access this place by a short hike that begins on the left side of the parking area and runs along Three Pools. The trail offers great views down into the canyon and spectacular emerald water between rocks and cliffs.
Due to the high popularity of Three Pools, large crowds are to be expected on the hot summer weekends. Though the area is large enough for everyone to get their own little space, the entry is limited to those visitors who have found a parking spot for their cars. When the 90-car parking area is full, you can't park your vehicle along the Forest Road within 1/2 mile of the Three Pools site.
Cautions: Cliff jumping and slippery rocks are associated with risks, please use caution and make safe decisions.
Three Pools | General Description
Open: Year-round from sunrise to sunset
Managed by: US Forest Service
Location: Willamette National Forest
Services: Vault toilets, garbage service, picnic sites, no water, no cell service
Activities: Swimming, cliff jumping, fishing, hiking
Distance from the parking: Short
Road access: Any passenger vehicle
Day-use fees: Yes or Interagency Senior/Access/Military Pass
Dogs: Must be on a leash
Restrictions: No glass bottles; No parking along FR 2207 within 1/2 mile
Accommodations: Shady Cove Campground - 1.1 miles
Elevation: 1,400 ft (427 m)
Three Pools Area is located:
- 42 miles east of Salem
- 88 miles southeast of Portland
- 90 miles northeast of Eugene.
Directions to Three Pools
- Follow east on State Highway 22 to Mehama
- At milepost 23, turn left onto North Fork Road and drive 15.3 miles to the Forest Boundary
- Continue 1.3 miles on gravel FS Road 2209 to the intersection of FS Road 2207
- Turn right and follow another 0.8 miles to Three Pools Day Use Area.