Category: Portland Dog Park Adventure Series

Dog Park Adventure Series: Thousand Acres/Sandy River Delta

Address: Crown Point Hwy, Troutdale, OR 97060

Fenced: No
Size Segregated: N/A
How many sections: N/A
Water: No (except river)
Size: XL

Note on location: This park isn’t so much a dog park as it is a giant nature area where dogs can roam freely. It has significant natural barriers between it and the road, and I’ve never had any concerns on that account. It is also not technically in Portland, but is a pretty quick drive.

Weather/Health Considerations: In the winter, it gets quite windy; it’s generally about 5-10 degrees colder then the Portland metro area. If it’s been a wet winter, the river floods almost the entire plain area, so you can only use the woods paths to the west (there’s still plenty of room there, though!).

Training/Enrichment Opportunities: Great place to practice advanced recall work. If there’s water in the river (often dry in summer), a good place for water-retrieval practice. Very large spaces for on-land retrieval work. Opportunities for strengthening obedience and other skills with distraction and distance. Very advanced nosework would be great here. River banks/fallen trees offer fun parkour/agility opportunities.

General Thoughts: Samuel
This is definitely one of my favorite places to take Rick (and one of his favorite places to be). We don’t go too often, as we are limited what we can walk to. It’s not the best choice for young dogs, newly adopted dogs, those prone to flight, or pups who don’t recall or check in with their handler. I would recommend this as a great spot for dogs over 1-2 years and who have been in the home just about that amount of time.

If your pup is ready for this adventure, it will be a great one! There is so much exploring to do, I’ve never known a dog to get bored or disinterested here.

General Thoughts: Rosie
Thousand Acres is probably one of the Portland dog owner’s best resources. It’s a rare space where dogs have almost unlimited freedom to roam and explore, while still being bounded and safe. Yes, it’s not a good idea for those Beagles that put nose-to-ground and never reappear, but for the most part even the less recall-oriented dog is ok here. I love how many different terrains there are for the boys to explore, Fiske digs for rodents in the plain area and Bill often gets gleeful zoomies in the wide open space. You can go just a quarter mile up the trail from the parking lot to the open floodplain and remain there, or if you want some exercise yourself, you can follow the trail to the river and along it, then back through the woods. The full circle is a leisurely 1-1.5 hours. There are homeless camps set far into the brush areas nearer the highway, so just avoid the semi-beaten tracks and stay on the well-worn ones.

Dog Park Adventure Series: Sellwood Park

Address: SE Spokane Street and Oaks Parkway

Fenced: No
Size Segregated: N/A
How many sections: 1 large open area, unofficial beach/paths area
Water: No (except river)
Size: Medium/Large

Note on location: The official off-leash area is right by the parking lot, bounded by the paved walkway. The city park extends maybe a quarter mile down the beach, and then it becomes Oaks Park, which is a privately owned/run area but open to the public.

Weather/Health Considerations: Official off-leash area is very muddy in winter. If you go to the river, make sure your dog isn’t going to swim out to the depth where there is a dangerous current. The fence by the path is not complete, and there are homeless encampments back in the woods which can offer unsafe edibles for curious dogs. Finally, although rare, there have been known to be coyotes seen here looking for small dogs to prey on, so if you have one of the little guys, keep a sharp eye out.

Training/Enrichment Opportunities: The river is generally safe for a ways out, so if you’re training for water-retrieval work it’s not a bad place to practice. Overall, the beach has good visibility, so working on play skills there isn’t bad, as well as generalizing obedience work to the outdoors or working on recall, but only if your dog already has a reasonable recall (the off-leash area by the parking lot also runs right up to the road).

General Thoughts: Samuel
The Sellwood off leash dog area is not my favorite. Being so close to the road and parking lot makes me uncomfortable! And if there’s any amount of rain, the whole area is a mud pit. The paths and beach area are pretty nice, but not worth the travel time for us. There’s plenty of parks closer in with a better experience (for us at least).

General Thoughts: Rosie
I like Sellwood, but it’s not for everyone. If your dog doesn’t have good recall, I’d probably skip this park since there are no fences between the off-leash area and a parking lot and road. I do like that the beach extends a ways and there’s also a path above the beach, as it’s actually quite a pleasant walk for those whose dogs just like to do their own thing. For Fiske and Bill, the differing terrain offers plenty of stimulation and variation, and the beach has long open stretches where I can throw Fiske’s ball. I generally avoid the official off-leash area, since it’s often very muddy and the road makes me uncomfortable.

Portland Dog Park Adventure Series: Fernhill Park

Address: 4050 NE Holman St. Portland, OR 97211

Fenced: No

Size Segregated: N/A

How many sections: 1 large open area

Water: Yes (fountain shut off in winter); jugs/bowls by table in off-leash area

Size: Large

Note on location: Unfenced, and bounded by roads, but none are high-traffic and the park offers plenty of natural barriers (trees, hills) to reduce chance of dogs running into streets. The official off-leash area is next to NE 41st Ave, there are posts designating its boundaries. People generally don’t keep their dogs within them, though.

Weather/Health Considerations: Overall, the park seems less muddy than most in Portland during the winter. There are tons of big trees, so in the summer the park is probably nice and shady.

Training/Enrichment Opportunities: The large trees offer interesting nosework terrain, as well as the uneven ground level. These also provide sight barriers, so it would be a good place for advanced recall work.

General Thoughts: Samuel
This was a fun outing for us all. I loved how varied and challenging the terrain was. You can easily create an enriching adventure for your pup, even if there are not many dogs around (we only saw about 5). There’s squirrels to tree, hills to run up and down, and plenty of smells to track down! I am not generally a fan of unfenced, off leash dog areas like this one, so close to the road. But I have to say, the layout of this one really works. I still wouldn’t recommend for wanderers or pups without a solid recall. There’s too many risks due to the location. But if you have a pretty reliable pooch, this is a place to check out! Rick and I will absolutely visit here again!


General Thoughts: Rosie
I really liked this park! It’s very pleasant, quite large, and has an interesting mix area areas for the pups to play. The trees make scent carry in odd ways, so it was a great challenge for Fiske to find his ball when he’d lost it, and I think it’d be great fun to bring nosework supplies here at some point as well. There are also several significant hills, so we threw the ball down them and Fiske and Rick got very efficiently tired out from running back up. We didn’t see any small dogs (besides Bill), but it may have been due to the weather (usually only the most desperate, high-energy dog owners brave the heavy Oregon rain).

Portland Dog Park Adventures: Gabriel Park (Summer and Winter)

Address: Winter: 4115 SW Canby St, Portland, OR 97219
                      Summer: 7000-7198 SW 45th Ave, Portland, OR 97219

Fenced: Yes
Size Segregated: No
How many sections: 1
Water: No, though a lot of folks keep up on bringing jugs of water
Size: Medium (Winter)/ Large (Summer)

Note on location: Summer park is right next to the tennis courts off 45th Ave. Winter park is harder to find: from Multnomah Blvd, turn north onto 40th Ave (you’ll pass the Post Office), then left onto Canby St., then you’ll see a parking lot on the right. You can park there, or continue driving past the community garden and there is another small lot right next to the dog park area.

Winter park parking lot by the community garden

Weather/Health Considerations: The winter park holds up surprisingly well to Portland’s rainy winters.

Training/Enrichment Opportunities: There is a lot of open space around the summer park and trails around the winter park. This makes for a great space to practice impulse control and recalls.

General Thoughts: Samuel

I’ve only been to the winter park a couple times. I do appreciate the space (it’s three or four times the size of Wallace Park) but it does tend to have a challenging dog or two in the space at any given time. It works well for Rick and me, as he has the space to disengage with them. Though I wouldn’t recommend the space if your pup is smaller or more timid. The timid pups tend to get a lot of flack from the rowdier guys. Owner involvement is a bit lower here (from what I’ve seen), as folks tend to camp out towards the front of the park, by the table and chairs.

Covered table at winter park

General Thoughts: Rosie

The winter park is sand, and the steep hill generally keeps the messiness down. So, less chance of really dirty pups! I do like the winter park, as it’s big enough for Fiske to chase the ball and isn’t too messy, but it doesn’t offer much interest for dogs who like to sniff around on their own. I agree with Samuel that I regularly see some reactive dogs here, and often a pretty hands-off attitude by owners. The hill also creates a situation where humans are at the top and rarely venture out form there, so if an altercation develops, it’s often a good while before the owners can get there to disrupt it. If your dog is very dog-focused, she might run into some issues with the more intense/reactive pups here.

The paths in the woods nearby are quite pleasant, but are designated on-leash and I have seen park employees enforcing it. The summer park is very large and grassy, again without water but people generally provide jugs of it for use by the community. If your dog is a jumper, the fence on one side of the summer park is only about 4 feet high, so that might not contain your bouncy pup. However, there are a lot of different areas and interesting things to sniff here, so if you have a sniff-and-wanderer like my little guy Bill, it’s a great place for an hour of mental stimulation.

The main winter park area (Fiske and Rick modeling)

Sorry, we don’t have any summer park pictures up here yet!

Portland Dog Park Adventure Series: Wallace Park

Address: 1628 NW 25th Ave, Portland, OR 97210

Fenced: Yes
Size Segregated: No
How many sections: 1
Water: Yes
Size: Medium

Note on location: In the NE corner of larger Wallace Park. There are often many people, including children, using the rest of the park, so if your dog is not a fan of loud playgrounds, this might not be the place for you.

Weather/Health Conditions: Has a wood chip substrate, so that mitigates the mud, but the dog park is essentially a big hole, so the mud definitely still happens. In summer, most of the park isn’t shaded, but the water is functional.

Training and Enrichment Opportunities: It’s a small-ish park, so if you’re using timeouts as a means to interrupt inappropriate play behaviors, this park isn’t a bad place for it. There are also plenty of visual barriers between the dog area and some other park spaces, so if you’re working on dog-dog reactivity on leash, you might be able to do so here. However, this is not the place to bring dogs with human-directed reactivity, as Wallace is generally pretty well-patronized by families, homeless people, and sports-players.

General Thoughts: Samuel
It’s been a while since Rick and I have ventured to Wallace Park. It’s definitely not our favorite space. There’s only one fenced area and it’s not much larger than the Fields Dog Park. There’s a few trees, which does lend some shade in the summer, but turns into a bit of a mess in the winter months.

The groups tend to be a mixture of very high energy social dogs and those on the more fearful and submissive side. There’s generally at least one squabble when we go and the owners lean to the hands-off side of things.

It’s not my favorite park for Rick as he tends to be the center of quite a lot of unwanted attention there and we’ve found it challenging to disengage from that do to the layout and atmosphere of the park.

-Samuel Power, CPDT-KA

General Thoughts: Rosie
I’ve taken Fiske here about five times. It’s a convenient location if you’re in NW Portland and need a quick sprint, as my dogs and I often find ourselves. Parking can be a challenge, so be prepared for some tight parallel parking situations.

The park itself is VERY dusty in summer and has only partial shade. The water works, though, so Fiske takes advantage of that to cool off (he lies down in the muddy area around the fountain). In winter, the park’s geography makes half of it very soggy, so not a place where dogs are going to stay clean. Also, the fence is comprised of wide-mesh (about four inches at least between wires), so I’ve had to retrieve the ball from the other side a few times. And the fence isn’t very high or sturdy, so I imagine it wouldn’t do much to deter the escape artists out there.

The majority of the park’s regulars seem to be high-energy, often herding breeds and the like, and I’ve seen a fair amount of unskillful play happening there. As Samuel said, the humans don’t seem to be very intervention-focused, and I’ve seen more than a handful on their phones and completely tuned out. However, if you have a dog that’s not going to engage with other dogs much but really just needs a place to play fetch – such as Fiske – it’s perfectly suitable for that purpose.

-Rosie Schurman, CPDT-KA

Portland Dog Park Adventure Series: Normandale Park

Address: 5700 NE Halsey St. Portland, OR 97213

Fenced: Yes

Size Segregated: Yes

How many sections: 3

Water: Yes

Size: Large

Note on location: Unfenced area is not for offleash dog fun, and you will get in trouble with rangers if you violate this. Also, you can approach small dog area from 55th, which would allow you to avoid large dogs altogether except those on leash in the park.

Weather/Health Conditions: Very muddy, very large puddles; giardia is a concern here so be aware. Staying dry/warm is unlikely during the winter. However, during summer it is well shaded and there is running water.

Training and Enrichment Opportunities: Because rangers are so on top of leash rules in the park, it’s a good place to practice on-leash manners around other dogs, long-leash recall work, and even dog-dog reactivity work at a safe distance.

General Thoughts: Samuel
We went to Normandale on a Wednesday around 12:30 and stayed for a good 45 minutes. The party was myself (Samuel), Rick the black terrier, Rosie with pooches Fiske (Jack Russell) and Bill (mini terrier), my partner Hannah and her min pin/chi mix Boba.

Partial view of both big dog areas; it’s quite a large park!

It was another rainy day (surprise!) and there were quite a few large puddles throughout the park. Be prepared with towels for this winter outing. Unfortunately, we we’re not so prepared!

Boba and Bill hung out in the small dog area. That space was relatively puddle-free and the duo stayed pretty clean. They didn’t see any other little dogs during their stay, which worked just fine for them. Boba enjoyed sprinting about and patrolling the perimeter. Bill spent his stint requesting to be held (not an unusual activity for him).

Small dog area

Rick and Fiske split their time in each of the two large dog areas, which were quite flooded. Having the option to switch sides is handy; everyone at the park was pretty well behaved, but that can sometimes vary and having the ability to exit a potential situation without leaving the part altogether is really nice. Each large dog area is also roughly the same size, which I appreciate, as there’s no need to compromise crazy running space for my crazy terrier. It makes creating a safe and enriching outing for your pup much easier.

We probably ran into about 5-7 dogs during our park time. Which is another thing I love about Normandale Park. You will pretty much always run into at least a handful of dogs whatever day/time you go. Though the small dog area does tend to be a bit slower, if memory serves, it picks up on Saturdays.

-Samuel Power, CPDT-KA (and Rick!)

General Thoughts: Rosie
I always enjoy Normandale, particularly because I like the two different “big dog” areas. Since Fiske has some social issues, I appreciate being able to switch sides if there is a dog/group that he’s not comfortable with. It’s also so large that I can really get some distance on Fiske’s ball. I also really enjoy the various logs that they’ve left lying around (trees, really), as Fiske can practice his agility skills on them!

One of the big dog areas, with giant logs for agility fun

The park is certainly not pristine in the winter; I have included some photos of our trip there in which Fiske’s lovely white coat demonstrates the effects of the park’s significant mud issues. This can also be a health concern because of giardia and other water-borne illnesses, so keep that in mind, especially for immunocompromised pooches such as puppies, older dogs, and already ill dogs.

Before the park

After the park









One thing that I have noticed at Normandale that particular applies to pooches like Fiske, who are very ball-focused, is that the size of the park is a two-sided coin. On the one hand, you can really let fly and get your dog a lot of great exercise. On the other hand, if there happens to be a ball-possessive dog at the park, your dog might end up far from you when that other dog gets reactive, and it would take you a long time to get there to intervene. So, just keep that in mind if you’re seeing another dog guarding its ball. And of course, please do not bring toys to the park if your dog is a toy-guarder.

Finally, the small dog area does seem a generally pretty calm place, though there aren’t as many dogs there as on the big dog side. Since Bill is usually with Fiske and I (Fiske might be 25 pounds, but he does much better with bigger dogs), we generally don’t use that area, but it’s large enough that small dogs can actually get some running in, unlike a lot of small-dog parks, and it does have shade in summer, as well as running water.

-Rosie Schurman, CPDT-KA (and Fiske, and Bill)

Portland Dog Park Adventure Series: The Fields Park

The Fields Park

Address: 1099 NW Overton St. Portland, OR 97209

Fenced: Yes
Size Segregated: Yes
How many sections: 2
Water: Yes (shut off in winter)
Size: Small

Note on location: The dog park is located on the north side of the larger park area, and can be a bit hard to see from afar. Fencing is wide-set so balls (and very small dogs) can slip through.

Weather/Health Considerations: Because of the sand, park develops a significant odor during the winter. However, it does not get as water-logged as many other parks.

Training/Enrichment Opportunities: Small park allows for easier training of high-energy dogs and puppies. Good park to do recall work as a step up from using a long leash, as it is small enough to make this work feasible. Walking paths nearby allow for dog-dog counter-conditioning, but be aware that there are blind spots and lots of off-leash dogs in unfenced areas as well.

General Thoughts:
Today Rick and I went to the Fields Park. We’ve been there countless times before, so it seemed like a good starting place for our journey in exploring and reviewing Portland’s many off leash dog parks.

We arrived a little before noon on the rainy Wednesday before Thanksgiving. We only encountered one other pooch in our 45 minutes or so there. That happens a good deal at this particular park. Going outside of “busy” times can be really hit or miss as to whether or not you’ll encounter many (or any) other dogs. The Fields tends to be busiest around 3-5pm on weekdays (note: busy can mean as few as five dogs coming and going) and between about 11-3ish on Saturdays. Sundays and weekdays are the spottiest.

With all that said, the Fields Park has been one of my favorite spots to take Rick, especially during his puppyhood and early stages of his training. The small park is great for working on the not-so-polite puppy and adolescent antics that can make larger parks stressful if you have a mind to work on those issues.

At the Fields, a young Rick and I worked on decreasing his frantic appeasement with older dogs, his recall, and solidified his love of fetch and wrestling. It’s been a wonderful neighborhood park for a developing dog. Though he’s grown up quite a lot now, and we prefer larger spaces for him to run and roam, the Fields will always be our go-to for a quick bit of off leash fun.

Samuel Power, CPDT-KA

General Thoughts: Rosie
For Fiske, chasing a ball is the ultimate form of enjoyment in life. So, when we go to dog parks, we usually have one along (he doesn’t guard the ball). The Fields Park poses an issue for us, since the ball can go through the fence. I generally leave it behind if we’re taking an outing there, since bringing it invariably leads to many trips outside the fence for me to fetch the ball back.

However, the park’s flooring of sand is certainly a boon in winter when my white dog grinds any ground-covering nearby into his belly and it requires a solid scrubbing to get it off. The sand generally just falls off him, so much less cleaning is required. And the smaller space is handy if his recall declines and I have to wrangle him.

Rosie Schurman, CPDT-KA

Remember: if anything is happening at a dog park that makes you or your dog uncomfortable, just leave. Follow your gut; if you feel that there is potential conflict brewing, don’t second-guess yourself. Extract your pooch and come back another day!

View from outside the Fields dog park.

Rick after a good run in the rain at The Fields.

The true terrier stare.