Lake Oswego is a beautiful area just 8 miles south of Portland, close to where the Tualatin and Willamette rivers converge. The lake is a natural lake, a long finger like body of water, fed by the Tualatin River, that was dammed up in 1921 so that it filled the narrow little valley around it and spread out into the low spots, almost like fingers reaching crevices in the hills. The lake is 400 acres, and is at the center of all the neighborhoods of Lake Oswego. The hills around it rise up from the lake, with winding streets meandering through the surrounding forest, and houses tucked into the hills. The neighborhoods here are some of the most expensive in the Portland Metro area, and the Schools rated the highest!
The history of Lake Oswego is quite interesting, you can read about it below under history! The downtown area is set right around the eastern end of the lake, where it is flat. There are cute, trendy shops and restaurants that have views of the lake or border it, with lots of pretty flowers and hanging baskets, stone and brick patios, cool art pieces and outside tables and benches. It almost feels like you are in a resort town! The Willamette River is below the town, to the east, partly hidden by neighborhoods and trees. There is a wonderful park at the southeast end of downtown, that is a little protected inlet on the Willamette River, called George Rogers Park. We take my grandchildren there a lot in the summer! It is beautiful. I write more about it in the Park section below. This park gives the town access to the Willamette River for swimming, kayaking and enjoying the river. There are many different parts of Lake Oswego, each unique in what it has to offer, and the neighborhoods stretch all around the lake. I will write in more detail about the different neighborhoods below, under the neighborhood section. The Lake has lots of fingers and channels, with houses built all around it, and many have lake access points that are deeded to the owner of a house. The lake is a private lake, and if you don’t have lake rights, it is hard to access. There are neighborhood parks that allow access to certain docks or beaches, but you have to make sure you understand what your lake rights mean when you buy a house.
The houses in Lake Oswego are some of the most expensive in the whole Portland Metro area and the schools are top rated. There are lots of retired people who live her, but because of the schools, there has been a large influx of young families who want their kids to be in a top rated school! The town has changed quite a bit over the years that I have been selling real estate there. It has blossomed, modernized, yet kept it’s quaint historic charm, and it’s popularity keeps increasing!
The downtown of Lake Oswego proper is only 6 miles out of downtown Portland, along the Willamette River! So it is a very easy commute into downtown. If you are on the far side of the lake, it is easier to jump on I 5, or if you are up on the east hill, you can go down to Capitol Hwy. From Portland you can ride the Willamette Shore Trolley – which takes you from Portland to Lake Oswego along the Willamette River, with views and a trip through Oregon ‘s Darkest Tunnel! Tryon Creek State Park comes down the hill from SW Portland, with trails that end right in the downtown area. Some of the neighborhoods are oriented around the park, and people can enjoy the beautiful woodsy trails that meander through it. On the west side of the lake is the Lake Grove area, still part of Lake Oswego, but in a completely different location with a completely different personality! Then up on the hill on the North side of the town, you will find Mountain Park, a community in the forest, with trails and it’s own rec center! You can learn more in my neighborhood section below
There are houses that sit right on the Willamette River in East Lake Oswego, and also several apartments and condos. Many houses have views of Lake Oswego or the Willamette River. But of course these would be at a premium, very expensive! I showed a house on the end of the point of land that sticks out into the lake, on Lake Shore Drive. It was amazing! You were out in the lake, with water surrounding you on 3 sides, nature all around you. It reminded me of my parents house up on Lake Tapps near Seattle…where we could swim and water ski all summer long, right off our dock! It was like being at a resort every day! That is easy to find up in Washington, there are lots of lakes. But here in Portland, this is probably the only one that I know of! So the prices are very high! What Lake Oswego has is unique in this area! Not only does it have it’s own private lake, but it is right on a beautiful river that you can explore and enjoy! If you want to know more about recreation on the Willamette River – this is an awesome guide you can download – it has maps of all the boat launches along the whole river – fishing info and all kinds of things! Willamette River Recreation Guide
Neighborhoods in Lake Oswego
Here is a map showing the different neighborhoods of Lake Oswego. We specialize in giving tours of Portland or any of the suburbs to buyers who are looking for a house but aren’t sure what area they want to live in. I’ve worked in Lake Oswego since 2005, know the area well, live in the next town, and can help you understand all the Lake Oswego has to offer! Below are some little insights into some of my favorite neighborhoods.
First Addition is one of the oldest and the most prestigious neighborhood in Lake Oswego. It is squeezed in between downtown area, so walkable to restaurants and shops, and the 645 acre Tryon Creek State Park, with it’s forested wilderness and accessible trails. Most houses have lake rights so can access the lake too. The neighborhood was originally historic homes and cottages from the late 1800s to the 1940s, on decent sized wooded lots. As Lake Oswego grew, and became more popular, in the early 2000’s, the lots have been purchased by builders, the houses torn down, and huge gorgeous ones built in their stead. My first listing in Lake Oswego was back in 2006, in First Addition. It was a cute little bungalow on a 6000 SF lot. We listed it for a million dollars, and sold it for $900,000. The buyer tore down the house and built a huge mansion like house in it’s place. That was my introduction to First Addition! I love the area, the historic homes are awesome, and the Chamber of Commerce gives an historic walking tour that showcases First Addition. The tour includes houses built in many Architectural styles, including Gothic, Craftsman, Colonial Revival, Vernacular and English Cottage. You can read about the history in our history section below.
Lakewood is a spectacular neighborhood. It is a peninsula jutting out into the lake from the east downtown area, with houses right on the lake all the way around. It is an exclusive little neighborhood, narrow, and mostly surrounded by water, yet walkable to downtown, and the Willamette River! Lakewood Bay is on the north side, which is a protected little area with boat docks. There are condos around some of it, that have decks that come right out onto the water and beautiful views of the lake.
Hallinan is a really close in neighborhood that borders the Willamette River and is close enough to the south downtown area to walk. It rises gently from the flat lake area, with quiet streets, early and mid-century homes with hardwoods and charm, and big yards. It is one of my favorite neighborhoods because ou can walk to George Rogers Park and enjoy the river, or walk to the town area to restaurants and shops.
Glenmorie is the the south of Hallinan, part of it being on the Willamette River side of Hwy 43, the rest of it rising kind of steeply from 43, offering views of the valley and river below. There are a few houses that are right on the river, and a big condo complex.
Skyland rises steeply up from Hallinan along Upper Cherry. The houses up here feel like you are on top of the world. I had a listing on Upper Devon that looked out on the lake below, the Willamette River and the Mt Hood to the east. It was spectacular. It is also possible to walk downtown from this area, because there are some pathways that lead down, but it would be a long hard hike back up!
Jumping back to the north side of the lake, there are some neighborhoods that I want to say more about.
North Shore Community is on the lake side of downtown Lake Oswego, with quiet little winding street meandering through the trees, and historic homes tucked into the trees. There are more Lake front and view homes along North Shore Dr, and this area is also walkable to the cutest part of the downtown.
Mountain Park is a huge neighborhood that is set apart from the main part of Lake Oswego because it is way up on the hill to the north, the summit being 975 feet high, with a 360 degree view. It is called Nansen Summit. Most of the houses were built in the 1970s and 1980s, it was originally developed as a mixed community with really nice single family homes, condos and apartments, all built around the forested area that has miles and miles of walking trails and a private Rec Center with tennis, pool, classes, weights and other things. You can only belong to it if you live in Mountain Park. It is a good way for people from out of town to settle into a community quickly, and make friends at the club. It is a close knit area.
Forest Highlands is next to First Addition, and what I like about it, is it runs right up against Tryon Creek State Park, plus parts of it are not that far from the downtown area, so you could ride bikes or take a long walk and get into town. There are also trails through the forest in Tryon Creek that you could potentially take to get to the downtown area. The houses are cute, the area is really nice, and prices are a little bit lower than the closer in neighborhoods.
Bryant Neighborhood is at the far end of the lake, which has completely different things to offer. If you are up on the hill on Boones Ferry, before you head down and around into Bryant, there are some really good restaurants and grocery stores, like La Provence, a yummy french restaurant with unique entrees and amazing pasteries, and Market of Choice grocery, that makes you feel like you are in a vacation resort area! As you go down into the neighborhood, you wind around to Lakewood Blvd, then if you continue on there are some really nice little neighborhoods with wide streets, lots of trails and people walking everywhere. If you keep going out past Jean Rd, there is the beautiful outdoor mall, Bridgeport Village. Sometimes we ride our bike there, into the village area, past the fountains and outdoor patios, and eat at one of the wonderful restaurants they have there. It is fun to explore the different shops. There is also a Whole Foods there and lots of other shops. It would be fun to live near this area, but it is pretty far from the main part of Lake Oswego.
Tryon Creek State Park is a 645 acre park that goes from downtown Lake Oswego along the lake all the way up to Terwilligar- with miles and miles of trails. It has alot of old growth trees, ferns and beautiful trails. First Addition backs up to it, and so does the Forest Highland neighborhood. My daughter used to run down it with her dog, you can run from the top of the hill by Lewis and Clark, all the way down to Lake Oswego!
George Rogers Park is one of my very favorite parks in all of Portland. If you have read much of my guide, you know I love the water and nature. This park is right on the Willamette River in downtown Lake Oswego, where the lake drains into the river. It has a sand beach, it is calm and quiet so great place to take kids, you can kayak or just float on rafts and enjoy the sun and water! There is also a big grassy area up above the steps. In the late winter when the river is high,
the park floods sometimes to the top of the steps! It is my favorite park to take my grand kids to when it is hot outside! There is also an area with rocks where you can find cool chunks of lava rock.
The city has 573 acres of parks and open spaces- They offer lots of classes and community activities that you can sign up for if you live here.
Lake Oswego was first settled in 1847 by Albert Durham- who built a saw mill on Oswego Creek. Alot of the land still had some of the remaining members of the Clackamas Indian tribe living here- but the government sent them to Grand Ronde in 1855- opening up the land for settlement. In the early days, most trade came from Portland to Oregon City along the Willamette River and up the Tualatin River Valley through Tualatin, Scholls, and Hillsboro.
The thick woods and rain-muddied roads were major obstacles to traveling by land. Along the rivers of this area can still be seen the leftovers, of river landings, ferry stops, and covered bridges of this period. Passenger traffic hit its peak in 1920 with 64 trains to and from Portland daily. Within 9 years, though- the train was dead. Lake Oswego couldn’t compete with the east coast for Iron production. The Lake was formed- it is navigable, people enjoy playing in it. Canals were dug along the lake by Chinese immigrants in the early 1900’s which extended the amount of waterfront property.
There are several older neighborhood associations- First Addition is the most prestigious- being right in downtown Lake Oswego- within walking distance to the lake and all the shops and restaurants. It also has some of the oldest homes. A historic walking tour guide is available from the Chamber of Commerce. It showcases the First Addition, the second oldest neighborhood in Lake Oswego . The tour includes houses built in many Architectural styles, including Gothic, Craftsman, Colonial Revival, Vernacular and English Cottage.