Oregon Coast

June, 2009

We spent several days exploring the area around Coos Bay, Oregon. The weather was generally cool, rainy and overcast, with the sun burning through the clouds on some afternoons. With many interesting places to visit, we limited ourselves to the following:

— Charleston, Oregon

Heading south from the town of Charleston on the Cape Arago Highway, there are a series of small State Parks that provide access to the sights along the coast. One sight that is barely visible in the distance is the Cape Arago Lighthouse (see photo #1, at left). It has long since been taken out of service, and the bridge that once provided access to it is in dangerous disrepair. Long distance views are are the only thing available.

Farther along, we came to the Shore Acres State Park, which provided access to some interesting sandstone formations that are eroding in a beautiful pattern. Some of the sandstone is very easily eroded, while other parts of the rock are much harder. The net effect, with the ocean in the background, can be quite stunning. We had a lot of fun climbing around the ocean-side cliffs.

Farther still, we came to Simpson Reef, which is home to a variety of seals and sea lions. The animals were present in huge numbers and could be heard long before we could see them. We were there during the pupping season and the beach adjacent to the reef was closed. Here is Jamie watching through her binoculars. Just past Simpson Reef, we came to the end of the road, and a great view of the coastline to the south.

— Bandon, Oregon

Bandon, Oregon is a picturesque small town on the coast. We arrived on a misty, rainy morning, so we stopped for a cup of coffee at a great little café on the main street and waited for the weather to clear a bit. It didn't take long and we were out exploring along the beach (see photo #2). The scenery along the Beach Loop Drive is phenominal. There are several spots where you can stop and look out at the beaches from the cliff, or walk down to the beach on paved paths.

We also drove north of town along Highway 101 to Bullards Beach State Park, where we visited the Coquille River Lighthouse. The lighthouse is no longer in service; it is now used as a gift shop. They offer tours of the lighthouse, but we were too early. The lighthouse has now been replaced by an automated light, the fate of most lighthouses along the coasts of the United States.

Finally, we found that just behind the dunes, there were often small freshwater ponds covered with waterlillies. They were very pretty, and reminded us of our childhoods growing up in the midwest.

— Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area

The next day, we traveled north to see the sand dunes (photo #3). Highway 101 travels along the inland side of the dunes, about 2-3 miles from the beach. We stopped several times to climb the dunes and see the views. At Eel Creek, we hiked the John Dellenback Dunes Trail into a maze of sand dunes and forests. Climbing the dunes and walking in the sand were both strenuous and tiring. We were surprised at how well we both held up to the challenge. Once on top, the beautiful views made the effort worthwhile.

Again we found freshwater ponds behind the dunes. The water in the ponds supports a rich riparian ecosystem. We had a great time exploring the area.

— Umpqua River Lighthouse

The Umpqua River Lighthouse sits about 100 feet above the Pacific Ocean. The lighthouse itself is 65 feet tall. It is currently still in operation, one of the few old lighthouses still in use. The light (photo #4) flashes two white and one red light, and can be seen for many miles out to sea.

Douglas County maintains a museum at the site and provides tours of the lighthouse. We climbed the 65 feet of spiral staircase to the top. We learned about the operation of the lighthouse during its early history, and got a great view of the interior of the light. Much of the power of the light comes from the fresnel lenses that constantly rotate around the lamp. The lenses concentrate the light into a coherent beam that can be seen much further than would be possible without them.

— return to the 2009 Journal Archive.