The Sandy River is a river in the state of Oregon, with its headwaters in and around Mount Hood and its mouth at the Columbia River in the city of Troutdale. The river was originally named Quicksand River by Lewis and Clark, which was later shortened to the Sandy River.

The river has two sources in glaciers on the flanks of Mount Hood, although much of its volume when it enters into the Columbia comes from other tributaries. In the future, if the glaciers on Mt. Hood continue their retreat, the river will be fed only by snowpack, and not by glaciers, which will make little practical difference, but will remove a bit of romanticism. The river has a somewhat short course, of less than 100 kms, which explains why even though its basin is in an area with lots of precipitation in the form of both rain and snow, it is not a very large river when it hits the Columbia. On this site, there is not a good definition of what a river is, which is fair since a good definition of what a river is is hard to find anywhere. The Sandy River is not deep enough to be used for commercial navigation in any meaningful sense, but it is certainly too deep to walk across. It is, however, navigable by Oregon's legal standards, which means all parts of the river below the high-water mark are considered a public thoroughfare. The two biggest economic uses of the river are in the Bull Run Watershed, where Portland and other nearby communities get their drinking water, which is on the Sandy's tributary the Bull Run River, and in the tourism that goes on along the river. The river also attracts many people who want a first or second home along the river.

The river is important in many ecological roles, perhaps one of the most important being nature's continued quest to dump Mt. Hood and other parts of the Cascade Range into the Pacific Ocean. The river got its original name, the Quicksand, because when the Lewis and Clark expedition originally passed by it, it was full of sand and debris from a (relatively) minor lahar, or volcanic avalanche, on Mt. Hood. The sand layers from that lahar, 200 years old, are still evident along the banks of the Sandy. The river has probably been regularly buried by lahars throughout the centuries, which it then clears away, until another one comes. Aside from that, the river is also a habitat for all the various faunas and floras of the Cascade region, although much of its lower course has been impacted by development.

If I can inject a little bit of regionalistic pride into this writeup, the river would probably be a very famous attraction in many other parts of the United States, but in Oregon is just one of many beautiful mountain streams. While the river has all sorts of recreation possibilities, including canoing and appreciation of the natural world, it also has a reputation, especially around its lower reaches, of being the type of river that is full of families with big coolers full of cheap bear, listening to Lynyrd Skynyrd. The most characteristic tale of this comes from a time I was wading around the mouth of the river one hot day in July, and a full, unopened can of Budweiser Beer came floating down the river. I fished it out and drank it.

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