Frenchman’s Bar- 13 minutes from downtown Vancouver, WA

This is part 3 in my spring break series. I hope you enjoy it: Frenchman’s Bar is a family favorite. To begin with, it takes you into a very different part of Vancouver. Within less than 15 minutes of downtown, the roads become more country and winding, the birds more diverse, and the wetlands more abundant. Views of Washington’s volcanoes are clear over pastures of farmland and walkers meander on local trails, taking in the sights of the Columbia River and accompanying beauty. We chose this as part of our spring break staycation because of the proximity to home as well as the feeling of being in a different part of the country.

The Drive To and From

In addition to what is mentioned above, each drive holds something different. For example, on the first day of summer last year, we chased the sunset out to Frenchman’s Bar. This time, we saw an osprey making its way back to a large nest, heard and saw duck hunters shooting at their prey, and viewed several Great Egrets foraging in the grass near the entrance.

While the quality is not pristine, I attempt not to use stock photos. Notice how close this Great Egret is to the entrance, as shown by the fence.
A view of Mt. Hood awaits even in the parking lot of Frenchman’s Bar, Vancouver, Washington.

The Park Itself

What things can you do at Frenchman’s Bar? Sightseeing, birdwatching, playing in the water, building sandcastles, picnicking, playing volleyball, sunbathing, barbequing, and watching ships just to name a few. We took my son when a toddler and he played in the sand while we practiced volleyball. As I brought a 3-year-old and my 5-year-old son this day, I made sure to bring a picnic lunch and a ton of sand toys. We ate a bit, then headed to the sand to build our own sandy kingdoms and view the boats.

The children (and ok, me too) were mesmerized by the massive ships in the river. The kids soaked up the day, jumping from location to location when they felt they had worn out the fresh sand in one area. It was shortly after we relocated for the first or second time that I saw a massive sea lion somersault about six feet from the shore and sat dumbfounded. To confirm my eyes were not playing tricks on me, I asked a young mom nearby. She confirmed she had seen it too.

A massive ship in the water with children playing volleyball nearby at Frenchman’s Bar.
A giant barge hauling gravel and its adjoining pusher tug in the Columbia River, Frenchman’s Bar

The Ride Home

While the ride home didn’t hold the anticipation of what we would see, it held its own wonder. We drove over a bridge that overlooks the railyard in Vancouver with scores of trains. Waterfowl populated the sky and nearby marshlands and we drove past Fruit Valley Park, where we played a game of “Remember when we were there last summer?” Both the “to and from” of the trip always hold unique pleasures.

Trip Tips

The Northwest has unpredictable weather but one thing I’ve found to be true is this: chances are Frenchman’s Bar will be windy. Please bring at least a windbreaker. I’ve been downright cold even in the summer months before! Also, sunscreen is a must regardless of the time of year. The river reflects the sun’s rays, as do the sand and concrete.

Wear comfortable shoes with closed toes. Although I’ve never found needles in the sand, I have seen broken glass. Things wash ashore, and bottles from picnicking are forgotten. I don’t necessarily believe this is intentional or malicious but it does warrant caution.

Pack a lunch or snacks, but definitely drinks. There are no vending machines or food trucks on or near the Bar.

Parking is $3 a car, with variations given to size (motorcycle vs motorhome, etc). However, you can obtain a pass for this and 3 other parks, Klineline, Vancouver Lake, and Lewisville Park, for $30 (which pays for itself in 10 trips). Find out more here:

Looking for more amenities? Find them at

I dedicate this blog to the lady who so graciously helped me get my passes at Clark County Parks and Lands (one for me and one as a present for my friends). I believe your name was Joann, but I do not recall.

Reader, dream fearlessly, travel locally, buy locally, and remember, just because it’s in your backyard doesn’t mean it’s not worth a visit.

Published by nearvancouver

Dreaming big and traveling locally in or near Vancouver, WA.

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