Every weekend you can see the trucks, vans and RVs pulling trailers filled to the brim with quad-bikes, motorcycles and sand rails, heading for the Oregon Dunes. While there are many areas to jump, spin and ride over at the national recreation area, the 40 miles of beach and dunes also offers areas dedicated to many other activities.
“The first thing people think of when you say the Oregon Dunes is ATVs, but it is so much more than that,” said Sharon Stewart, district recreation manager for the Siuslaw National Forest. “The dunes really do provide a range of experiences for people.”
The Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area is part of the Siuslaw National Forest and it is the largest expanse of coastal sand dunes in North America. The Oregon Dunes are open 365 days a year, and the area they are in on the Oregon coast rarely gets snow, so the area facilities, trails and viewpoints can be enjoyed year round. Stewart pointed out that there are 32 lakes in the recreational area, providing fishing, canoeing and boating.
Fishing is in abundance at the dunes, believe it or not, with just an Oregon fishing license, available at many stores along the coast, and in season you can fish for everything from Oregon’s Chinook Salmon to largemouth bass in one of the warm-water lakes.
Stewart said people fish for everything from bluegill to steelhead to surf perch to regularly stocked rainbow trout. In addition several of the lakes have docks you can fish off, or simply fish from the bank.
“Fall is a very pleasant time to visit the dunes,” she said. “We have all types of hikes in the area, from short 1-mile hikes to longer day hikes that are 4 to 5 miles long.”
In fact, there are more than 18 different hikes and trailheads in the recreation area and for a complete list, including the difficulty of the hikes, visit dunes web site. Areas where there are hiking trails are off-limits to motorize vehicles, so you don’t have to worry about dodging ATVs while trying to take in the wildlife.
“There are a lot of things to see besides dunes,” Stewart said. “There are streams and rivers, lakes, coastal forests and many different types of wildlife.”
Stewart said hikers could see many migrating birds as well as osprey, eagles, deer, bobcats and signs of black bear and in the area.
“If you want to experience the dunes, you really need to get out of your car and hike and explore,” she said. “You can’t appreciate the beauty of the area while you are driving down Highway 101.”
Which is why the first place you should start if you want to get the most out of your experience to the Oregon Dunes is the Dunes Visitor’s Center along Highway 101 in Reedsport. There National Forest Service employees can help you plan your trip – whether you want to take several hikes, or fish for the elusive sturgeon.
In addition while there, you can also learn about the natural and human history of the area and take in the 11-minute video that shows some incredible shots of the dunes.
“You can have a ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ type experience if you want,” Stewart said. “But the dunes are more than just the dunes. The entire area has something to offer just about everyone.”
About the Oregon Dunes Recreational Area: From Florence to Coos Bay, the Oregon Dunes NRA extends for 40 miles along the Oregon Coast. Formed by the ancient forces of wind, water and time, these dunes are like no others in the world. These are the largest expanse of coastal sand dunes in North America and they hold numerous opportunities for adventure and solitude.
What to bring: With the wide range of activities that people can undertake at the Oregon Dunes Recreational Area, common sense should prevail when deciding what the bring. As with all outdoor activities, a quick check of the weather forecast and appropriate clothing is always a good idea.
Season: The recreation area is open all year long, however there are summer and winter hours for the Oregon Dunes Visitor Center.
Getting there: The Oregon Dunes Recreation Area is located along Highway 101 from Florence to Coos Bay in the southern Oregon coast. The Oregon Dunes Visitor Center is located at 855 Highway 101 in Reedsport.
By Patrick Johnson