Sand Island at St. Helens Oregon- Cruiser’s Review May 2019

Last Saturday we left our home slip in Portland Oregon for the last time. We’re now fulltime, liveaboard cruisers and we’re making our way toward Astoria and then will be heading up to the Puget Sound.

I want to be sure that I remember all the places that we visit, so I plan to write up a short blog post on each location as a little “cruiser’s review”. Hope you enjoy and maybe glean some useful information from these posts!

Arriving at Sand Island Marine Park by Boat

We left Tomahawk Bay Marina on Hayden Island at about 1:30pm on Saturday the 4th. We were able to pass under the I5 bridge without requiring a bridge lift. Our mast is about 62 feet from the waterline to the top and the bridge height was 66 feet. It was a little close for comfort, but we made it under without incident.

My mom was stationed below the bridge for pictures as she expected us to need a bridge lift, which would have put us much closer to her.

sailboat passing under the I5 bridge separating Washington and Oregon

After passing under the I5 bridge, we headed over to the north side of the river to pass by the new Vancouver Waterfront Grant Street Pier. Brenden’s parents were on the pier to wave to us and Tamara snapped a couple pictures as we went by.

Mosaic from the Vancouver Pier

We would have liked to have circled around for a couple passes of the pier before heading downstream through the railroad bridge, but the bridge saw us coming and opened before we even called them! So we had to just move right along.

sailboat headed downriver from the Vancouver waterfront park, through the railroad swing bridge

After navigating through the bridges, it was a simple motor along the river for another 2 – 2 1/2 hours. We had beautiful weather, a breeze right on our nose which prevented us from sailing but which did keep us nice and cool.

Boat kids learning to use our chart plotters

Selfie on the bow of the sailboat as we head downriver

As we approached Sand Island, there was a small section of the river that we weren’t sure of the depth. We were considering going further down river and circling back around to come up from the other side, but right as we were approaching we were overtaken by a large river tug and barge and he moved through that section that we were nervous about and went back up the Multnomah Channel so we figured we were OK on depth and went on through. The shallowest depth we saw was 9.9 feet and we draw 6. It quickly jumped back to 20+ feet and up to 50 feet deep once through that shallow spot.

google map image of our path to Sand Island

Sand Island Docks, Facilities, and Stuff to Do

Sand Island Marine Park has two separate docks to choose from. When we arrived, there weren’t any other boats so we had our choice of where to land. We did a recon pass by both docks and decided to dock at the southern dock which seemed to offer a little better protection from the wind and waves.

Sand Island Marine Park Cruisers Review

The docks were nice concrete docks with long tie rails (no cleats) and in good condition. Signs posted listed a 7-day stay limit and no fishing allowed from the docks. Ashore, at each of the docks accessed by a short walk, there were well-maintained toilet facilities with composting toilets. The bathrooms were clean and well-stocked.

We witnessed bald eagles nesting on the island, osprey nesting on the nearby river marks, raccoons coming to the shore to eat and forage several times during our stay, and deer after dark. On our second day on Sand Island, we walked around the entire island at a very leisurely pace in about 2 hours, with stops for the kids to play in the sand and water.

Sand Island Marina Part St Helens Oregon Cruisers Review

Sand Island Oregon St Helens Cruiser's Review

Sand Island Oregon St Helens Cruiser's Review

Sand Island Oregon St Helens Cruiser's Review

Sand Island Oregon St Helens Cruiser's Review

Sand Island Oregon St Helens Cruiser's Review

We all thoroughly enjoyed our time on Sand Island and both kids expressed their desire to return to this island in the future. If you’re boating or cruising in the St. Helens area, it is definitely worth a stop! The beaches have a nice, fine sand and shade can be found, if desired. There was a bit of swell each night as the evening winds picked up coming from the north, but it wasn’t enough to keep us awake.

Did you find this post useful? Drop me a comment! I’d love to hear about your adventures at Sand Island across the channel from St. Helens Oregon!

Check out our other Cruiser’s Review posts here.  Cheers!  ~Rachel

2 thoughts on “Sand Island at St. Helens Oregon- Cruiser’s Review May 2019

  1. We just purchased our first boat and did our first weekend out at Government Island! We’re going to head down stream visit St. Helens area. The information you provided is really helpful! I’ll be visiting again! Thank you!


    • That’s great, Patrick! I’m so glad that you got use of the blog post – that’s why I’ve been writing them, after all! Hoping to help somebody out. What kind of boat did you guys get? Did you love Government Island? That was our go-to island before we came up here to the Puget Sound! Nice place and we always marveled at how disconnected you could feel, like a true vacation, just by getting away to Government Island for a weekend. So nice. Thanks again! ~Rachel on SV Mosaic


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