Waterfalls, shopping and tours, oh my! Oregon's Southern Coast offers a wide variety of activities for everyone.
The South Coast offers some spectacular waterfalls that are a little off the beaten path, but worth the drive.
A maintained hiking trail allows parkgoers to reach the top of Golden Falls, where they can see old-growth trees and watch from above as the water cascades down to the rocks.
Elk Creek Falls, about 6 miles south of Powers, is a short hike from U.S. Forest Service Road 33 (the name for the Powers Highway when it reaches the Ranger District).
The secluded Coquille Falls, about 10 miles further up the South Fork of the Coquille River from Elk Creek Falls, offers hikers more of a challenge.
The trailhead is located about 1 mile off Forest Service Road 33 on Forest Service Road 3348. The falls are about one-half mile from the trailhead, down a winding trail through an old-growth forest.
Both Elk Creek Falls and Coquille Falls are within the Powers Ranger District, and a day-use fee applies.
When the rainy season arrives, expect to see waterfalls along U.S. Highway 101, especially around Humbug Mountain.
Golden and Silver Falls State Park (24 miles east of Coos Bay up the Coos River Highway past Allegany) offers two waterfalls within easy hiking distance of the parking area.
For those who want to spend a day with nature outside the hustle and bustle of the city, Golden and Silver Falls State Park might be the place for a little peace and quiet. Visitors will have to do a little hiking to get to the falls, but it is an easy climb.
Looking for that perfect place to propose? Looking for somewhere the two of you can go to get away from the hustle and bustle of the daily grind?
Coastal overlooks are ideal places to watch the sun set and steal a kiss. Simpson Reef Overlook on Cape Arago Road south of Charleston is a popular destination for Bay Area visitors and residents. So is Face Rock State Park south of Bandon, or Bailey Beach at Wedderburn. Full-moon nights are ideal to make a fire on the beach and a blanket snuggle special.
Surprise the sweetie in your life with a spontaneous trip - take a break from the television and listen to the coastal symphony of surf, sea lions and gulls under a starry sky instead.
Grab your buckets, shovels and creative ideas, kick off your shoes and take a stroll on the beach at Seven Devils Wayside. Along the way pick up shells, small pieces of driftwood and ocean-polished pebbles.
When you find a good spot, stop and start to work building your own sand castle or other creation, be it a sea dragon or some fantastical construction. Seven Devils Wayside is located off U.S. Highway 101. Look for the turn-off sign that indicates Seven Devils Road roughly half-way between Coos Bay and Bandon. This is a remote beach and it's wise to be sure you don't leave valuables in your car while hiking this fun beach.
There are many shops up and down the South Coast that sell, and some even rent, kites for visitors. Several communities , such as Bandon shown here, hold kite festivals on the beach from early Spring through the Fall months.
South Coast beaches are good for kite-flying on windy summer days. Specialty shops can be found in Florence, Winchester Bay, Bandon and Brookings-Harbor for those who want to purchase or learn to fly fancy kites. Some shops also have information about summer kite competitions.
Get close to Butterflies
Numerous kinds of insects make their home on the South Coast and some of the more spectacular - or pretty, if you will - are butterflies and moths.
The North American Butterfly Association sponsors a butterfly count in the weeks before and after the Fourth of July, an insect equivalent to the Christmas bird count.
The NABA Butterfly Count attempts to census the butterfly populations across North America. Volunteers select a count area with a 15-mile diameter and conduct a one-day census of all butterflies sighted within that circle. The NABA organizes the counts and publishes the annual reports. Comparisons of the results over the years monitor changes in butterfly populations and reveal effects of weather and habitat change on the different species.
But if counting butterflies doesn't sound like the ideal way to spend a day, you can make watching butterflies a year-round pastime by designing a garden to attract them.
A number of books can help get you started on gardening. The Xerces Society Web site has some information and book recommendations. One thing to remember: If a garden does not eventually show some damage from caterpillar activity, something is wrong. The garden should support the adult butterflies - active, pretty pollinators - and their juvenile stage counterparts (caterpillars) that are often voracious herbivores. The large butterflies such as the swallowtails are often seen, but there are a number of small ones, also very pretty, such as skippers and blues.
Several nearby parks, such as Shore Acres State Park or Choshi Gardens at Mingus Park, have flowers and plants that attract butterflies as well. At least five kinds of lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) have been sighted at the South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve.
Here are some field guides: Jeffrey Glassberg's "Butterflies Through Binoculars: The West" and "Butterflies of Cascadia," by photographers Robert Michael Pyle, Idie Ulsh and David Nunnallee.
Another option - and an almost guaranteed success at seeing butterflies in all stages of their life cycles at the peak of summer - is the Oregon Butterfly Pavilion in Elkton. The pavilion is the only one of its kind in Douglas County and has enclosed garden areas for viewing and a courtyard area. It is open to the public from Memorial Day to Labor Day, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Visitors can stop and smell the roses at the botanical gardens at Shore Acres State Park near Charleston.
The park long has been a favorite destination for locals and visitors. In the summer, the roses are spectacular in the formal English garden and thousands of flowering and exotic plants can be seen in the Japanese gardens.
Once the private property of Louis Simpson, son of Coos Bay lumber and shipping baron Asa Simpson, the park also boasts spectacular views of the coastline.
Louis Simpson and his wife, Cassie, made Shore Acres their home for many years. Their beautiful mansion was destroyed by fire in 1921. Another fire razed the estate in 1936. The state of Oregon initially purchased the grounds for a state park in 1942, acquiring additional sections in 1956 and 1980.
To reach Shore Acres, turn off U.S. Highway 101 on Newmark or Commercial avenues in Coos Bay and go to Empire. Turn left on Cape Arago Highway and follow it through Charleston and past Sunset Bay State Park. Shore Acres is open daily from 8 a.m. to sunset. A required $3 day-use fee is available at the park's entrance. The park is handicapped accessible.
Flowers aren't only in bloom in people's gardens this time of year. Wildflowers can be found just about everywhere in the woods and marshes. Bleeding hearts, which are most often found in shady areas, and irises are some of the season's first bloomers.
Wild poppies grow in the most unlikely places along the coast. Sometimes you'll see them next to a road, growing in gravel or they can be found in open fields. Tiger lilies also are harbingers of summer. They can be found in bright yellow or orange and in rare occasions, red.
For flower enthusiasts, a hike along the trail between Sunset Bay State Park and Cape Arago near Charleston is a perfect opportunity to enjoy the scenic coast and find wildflowers to photograph. Varieties can include flowers in the orchid and lily families, kittens ears and more.
Wildflowers are abundant along the Rogue River trail in Curry County. For those who might not be able to hike some of the trails, driving tours in late spring and summer between Powers, Agness and Gold Beach offer excellent opportunities.
These are the places where freshwater mixes into the sea that sport an amazing variety of life. And the South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve in Charleston offers an up-close look locally at the unique habitat, with an interpretive center and a number of hikes into the area around South Slough.
A 3-mile trail from the reserve's interpretive center (4.5 miles from Charleston on Seven Devils Road) leads hikers down to the estuary, where they can see a variety of plant and wildlife.
The Wasson Creek trail, off Hinch Road one mile past the interpretive center, is a shorter (.75-mile) trail through the land of pioneer George Wasson.
The interpretive center is open Monday through Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and can be reached at 888-5558.
The Oregon Coast offers a wide array of environments for amateur and professional nature photographers. In Charleston, just west of Coos Bay, photographers can focus on the large Steller sea lions laying on the docks in the boat basin. Also known as the Northern sea lion, this is the largest of the sea lions. But don't get too close as they will warn you by showing you their rather large teeth.
Common egrets and great blue herons sometimes line the shores at low tide, foraging for fish, frogs and small rodents. They nest in treetop rookeries around Coos Bay. Toward the beaches at Simpson Reef, more skilled and outfitted photographers can try to capture the flukes and tails of migrating gray whales.
At low tide, people careful not to damage the marine life clinging to the exposed rocks can find dozens of species of plants and tidepool critters to photograph, including sea stars, sea anemones, sea cucumbers, chitons and sea urchins.
For the sharp-eyed, lucky photographers also might have the opportunity to snap shots of elephant seals, black oystercatchers, harbor seals, pelagic cormorants, pelicans and the more daring - surfers and kayakers riding the waves.
Point your camera at a historic structure
Photographers can focus their lenses on several historic and lesser-known bridges along the South Coast. However, people should make sure they have plenty of gas in their cars as many of these trips require some travel off U.S. Highway 101.
The Chandler Bridge, up the Coos River, is a good place to start. The drive there also will provide a good excursion around the bay to allow for several other photo opportunities without having to worry about crossing private property. Follow North Bay Drive around through Cooston to the small town of Glasgow, then continue on to McCullough Bridge. Not only is McCullough Bridge beautiful from the topside, a short hike down the stairs on the south end of the bridge will take photographers underneath for a view of the bridge's spectacular understructure.
Florence, Reedsport and Gold Beach also boast bridges popular with photographers. For those who travel state Highway 42, the covered bridge near Bridge also is a good place to have a picnic and take photos.
The Charleston Bridge also can make an interesting photo, especially if you happen to snap it while it is open to allow fishing boats to pass through. Typically fishermen are early risers and move their boats according to the tide. Photographers also can keep an eye out for boats exiting the shipyards and heading toward the marina.
Farther south, the Coquille River Bridge just north of Bandon overlooks the popular Bandon Marsh, though it's hard to get a panoramic view of the bridge.
At Gold Beach, the newly restored Patterson Memorial Bridge offers shots from afar or walk across the bridge for upclose structural shots. The bridge also is lighted at night, offering more advanced photographers a chance to challenge themselves.
- Identify a point of interest before taking a photo, then snap the shot to emphasize that point. Don't just shoot one photo.
- Use the sun, capitalizing on shadows in structural shots.
- Try different angles. Sometimes walking a few feet in either direction will give you a different perspective.
Fishing & Crabbing on the Southern Coast
Fish without penalty
Want to relax? Go fishing.
The Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife offers the perfect opportunity to go fishing with your family and friends June 10-11. Licenses or tags are not required in Oregon on Free Fishing Weekend. However, all other regulations including bag limits still apply.
Approximately 48 sites across the state will be offering events for children. Some locations have loaner rods and reels available and volunteers are on hand to help with tackle and bait. More information may be found at the ODFW Web site at http://www.dfw.state.or.us or by calling local ODFW offices.
Prime spots for budding anglers include Loon Lake, a few miles outside of Reedsport; Eel Lake, just north of Lakeside; and Jon Topits Park in Coos Bay.
Go fish on the beach
Warm, sunny days are perfect for jetty or surf fishing. Live sand shrimp makes good bait for catching surf perch or striped bass from the beach. It also works well for hooking lingcod or rockfish from the jetty. Shrimp, clams and mussels are also effective, as are a jig head and rubber worm.
Some fishermen prefer to use a surf pole, which is usually between nine and 12 feet long, and 15- to 20-pound test line when fishing from rocks, jetties or the beach. Stop in at local bait shops for licensing information and tips on hauling in a day's catch.
It's a good idea to bring warm clothes. There's often a brisk wind at the height of summer. The only other things necessary are a bucket or other container for your catch, a fishing license, a little bit of patience and a lot of common sense. Also, sneaker waves didn't get their name from being predictable. Watch your step and watch the ocean. Wave surges can be dangerous.
Catch and cook a crab
Mmmm... Dungeness crab is a local favorite for visitors and residents on the South Coast.
Catching and cooking your own crab is easy: Bait a trap, catch a crab, cook it and eat.
First, you need a recreational shellfish license and a crab ring or crab trap; several local businesses rent or sell them and also have the licenses, tide books and regulations.
Crabbing is legal year-round, but at Winchester Bay, the crab are most abundant in August and September. October and November can be even better if the rains hold off. The best time to try your luck is an hour or two before or after high tide. Some ports also have dedicated fishing and crabbing piers from which to try your luck.
You also need bait: Frozen fish carcasses are usually cheap and sold at several outlets. Frozen turkey thighs also work.
Once you've found a spot, be sure to tie off the free end of the line; a few crab traps have been lost because the loose end of the rope escaped the owner's fingers.
You won't have to wait long before some of the Dungeness or red rock crab find your bait. When hauling back the trap, pull the rope quickly. The critters in the ring will try to escape.
Only male crab are legal to keep and they must be at least 53’ÅÑ4 inches across the back - and watch out for the claws. Crab can really pinch!
To cook the crab at home, boil a deep pot of water. Add three or four tablespoons of salt. Many people also add a splash of vinegar and/or a handful of pickling spices to the bath. Toss the crab in live and cook them for 20 minutes. Take the big shell, the back, off the crab and clean out the gills and guts, then use a nutcracker to crack the shells of the body meat and legs. Enjoy!
Museums on the Southern Coast
The best way to get to know communities - secrets and all - is to explore their museums. The following is a list of museums. Many have changing exhibits and hours.
- Chetco Valley Historical Society Museum, located at 15461 Museum Road in Harbor. For more information, those interested can call (541) 469-6651.
- Coos Art Museum is located at 235 W. Anderson Ave., Coos Bay. The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday through Friday; and from 1 to 4 p.m. on Saturday. For more information, those interested can call 267-3901.
- Coos Historical & Maritime Museum, located at 1220 Sherman Ave. at Simpson Park in North Bend, gives visitors a look at the region's diverse industries and lifestyles. The museum is open year round from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. In July and August, the museum is to be open from noon to 4 p.m. For more information about changing exhibits, those interested can call 756-6320.
- Coquille Valley Art Center is studio to a community of artists. Located 1.5 miles south of Coquille on Highway 42, the Art Center features year-round displays of works by local artists. Displays are changed regularly. For more information, those interested can call the museum at 396-3294.
- Curry County Historical Society Museum, located at the Curry County fairgrounds in Gold Beach, the museum is operated by the Curry County Historical Society. The museum has expanded into an annex and enlarged displays and interpretation of Native American history. The society also has a wealth of genealogical information on Curry families, a research department and a bookstore. Hours are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. For more information, those interested can call 247-6396.
- The Pioneer House: This community museum features exhibits of Coos County's early settlement days. Hours vary throughout the summer. The museum is open year-round by appointment only. For more information about museum hours and activities, those interested can call 439-3331.
- Port Orford Lifeboat Station: This museum and maritime interpretive center, located at the former U.S. Coast Guard station at Port Orford Heads State Park, features memorabilia from the Coast Guard station (1934-70) as well as the Navy years (1939-45). Exhibits include photographs, and a 36-foot motor lifeboat formerly assigned to the station. The museum is open April through October, Thursday through Monday, 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. People also can visit the station online at http://www.portorfordlifeboatstation.org.
- Siuslaw Pioneer Museum, at the corner of Maple and Second streets in Old Town Florence, showcases early pioneer life in western Lane County, as well as Siuslaw Indian and other Native American artifacts. The museum also has compiled historical information about more than 500 families who lived in the area. The information is accessible on computers. The research library features pictures, family information and documents. The museum is open year-round except the month of January, Easter Sunday, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Hours are from noon to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. For more information, those interested can call 997-7884 or e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Agness-Illahe Museum is located up the Rogue River from Gold Beach at 34470 Agness-Illahe Road, Agness. For more information about displays and seasonal hours, those interested can call 247-2014. Those who want to visit should call ahead for museum hours and display information.
- Coos County Logging Museum in Myrtle Point brings to life the county's rich history in logging with displays about the people, equipment and boom times of the 1900s. An exhibit of myrtlewood panels carved by Alexander Benjamin Warnock, depicting "The Glory Days of Logging" also is on display. The museum at the corner of Seventh and Maple streets is hard to miss with its distinctive architecture. The museum is closed during the winter and early spring. The museum's summer season begins May 27. Hours are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m Monday through Saturday, and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. For more information, those interested can call 572-2352 or 572-3376.
- Coquille River Museum is located at 270 Filmore and U.S. Highway 101 in Bandon. The museum houses 40 exhibits and more than 1,000 historic photographs. Operated mostly through volunteer efforts, the museum's hours are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Special tours also can be arranged. Cost is $2 for adults; members and children under 12 are free. For more information, those interested can call 347-2164.
- Marshfield Sun: This pioneer printing museum offers a turn-of-the-century collection of well maintained presses, type and historic newspapers, as well as a display of photographs of pioneer Marshfield and the Mosquito Fleet. The Marshfield Sun Building is located on Coos Bay's historic Front Street (U.S. Highway 101 North), across from the Timber Inn restaurant. Hours are from 1 to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, Memorial Day through Labor Day; or by appointment. During the month of May, the museum only will be open Saturdays from 1 to 4 p.m. For more information, those interested can call Marshfield Sun Association President Lionel Youst at 267-3762.
- Remote Store Museum is located off Highway 42 on Remote Lane, a 42-mile drive from Coos Bay, Bandon or Roseburg. For schedule information or to make arrangements for the museum to be opened, call 572-2163.
- Umpqua Discovery Center: This Reedsport museum is located at 409 Riverfront Way. The Discovery Center has natural and cutltural history exhibits. This is a good place for children and adults to explore Native American and early explorer history through real life displays. Hours are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. between Oct. 1 and May 31, and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from June 1 to Sept. 30. For more information, those interested can call 271-4816.
See nature indoors
The Umpqua Discovery Center in Reedsport brings visitors a taste of the natural and cultural history of the Oregon tidewater region.
Located at 409 Riverfront Way on the Umpqua River Waterfront, the center is divided into two wings - one focusing on the cultural history of the Oregon Coast and the other devoted to the area's natural history and ecosystem.
Both interactive exhibits were designed by WOW Arts and Exhibits of North Bend and feature lush, elaborate and enormous murals by Peggy O'Neal.
"Tidewaters and Time," the cultural history exhibit, is drawn largely from interviews with older Reedsport area residents, and sound clips from those oral histories are included in the exhibit.
"Pathways to Discovery - Exploring Tidewater Country," the natural history exhibit was completed earlier this year.
Though the two wings are identical in size, the new exhibit was designed to seem deceptively large in the small building.
There's also a lot to learn about the local environment in the exhibit, both in the reading and listening materials and the sights, sounds and sensations, from the texture of the tree bark to the droplets that appear on the leaves.
Center staff say repeat trips are necessary to see all of the exhibit - even after a visit that stretches several hours.
The exhibit aims to encompass the biological diversity of the Oregon Coast. Starting in the estuary on a fall morning, the trail moves into the forest and mountains in winter midday, through mountain meadows on a spring afternoon, to the dunes and beach on a summer evening.
With so much information, it's easy to see how a visitor could miss something. But one thing you won't miss are the constant animal sounds.
There is, however, one element of nature the exhibit's designers conspicuously left out - bugs.
The Umpqua Discovery Center is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. between Oct. 1 and May 31, and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from June 1 to Sept. 30. Admission is $8 for adults, $7 for seniors 65 and older, $4 for children ages 6 to 15 and free for children under 6. Families including up to three children pay $20. Special rates are available for groups of 10 or more.
For more information, those interested can call (541) 271-4816.
New museum in Coquille houses antique tools
An extensive antique tool collection donated to the city of Coquille now has a new home in the Coquille Valley Museum.
The latest museum in Coos County opened for a few days in December organized by the Coquille Valley Historical Society. The society started in June 2005 and now operates the small museum in a former sporting goods store on the corner of North Central Avenue and Second Street in Coquille.
Lee Petersen gave the extensive collection to the city and the collection joins others donations for the displays.
Joining the tools are hundreds of old photographs, printing press, fishing reels, mining artifacts and a small collection of antique bottles "mined" by Daisy the dog.
The museum is open between Memorial Day through Labor Day on Tuesday through Saturdays 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. When the nearby Sawduster Theater is performing in the evenings, the museum will be open.
It is closed in January, February and holidays, otherwise it is open Saturdays 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
More information can be found on the Coquille Valley Historical Society's Web site.
Learn about native people
For visitors wanting to learn more about the South Coast's native American history, the Coos Bay area is a rich place to start.
The offices of the Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians are home to a newly developed cultural interpretive exhibit.
The exhibit includes painted murals by Lower Umpqua tribal member Pam Stoehsler, of Klamath Falls. The murals depict each of the three tribes in their ancestral surroundings in daily life routines.
Other items featured include artifacts, basketry and tool replicas.
The museum is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday and is located in the tribal offices at 1245 Fulton Ave., Coos Bay. There is no admission charge. For more information, those interested can call the tribes at 888-9577.
Delve into timber past
The South Coast's history is rich with stories of hardy men who earned a living in the woods.
After the Great Depression, the timber industry on Oregon's South Coast boomed and the woods echoed with the whining of chain saws and the roar of "Timber!" as loggers felled giant conifers.
Jobs were plentiful in those woods and the logging for Douglas fir and, secondarily, Port Orford cedar, stimulated new jobs in plywood mills and later, pulp and paper production. Deep, safe harbors provided outlets for the lumber and the waterfronts provided jobs to longshoremen.
The boom lasted through the 1940s, '50s and '60s before winding down in the late 1970s. Today, remnants of that busy time can be found at the Coos County Logging Museum in Myrtle Point. Open during the summer season from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays, and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Sundays, the museum offers visitors a glimpse of those heady days of the past. The summer season runs from May 27 through Myrtle Point Harvest Festival.
The Coos County Logging Museum at 705 Maple St. is housed in a pioneer replica of the Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City. Erected in 1910, it is now on the National Register of Historical Places. Those interested can call 572-2352 or 572-3376 for more information.
On The Water
Charter your next adventure
Taking a trip on a charter boat can be a great way to experience the ocean and its inhabitants without having to buy your own boat.
Several charter boat operators offer packages that include bottom fishing for rockfish and lingcod, or tuna, halibut or salmon fishing. Some even offer whale-watching trips during the gray whales' annual migrations in the spring and fall.
Fishing boats often make two trips a day for bottom fish, the first trip leaving port in the early morning and returning around noon. For tuna and halibut, fish that are farther offshore, a trip lasts a whole day.
Most companies can supply all the equipment necessary for a good day's worth of fishing and also have one-day fishing licenses available. Many of the vessels are also handicapped-accessible.
Regulations change periodically and the skippers and deckhands will let you know how many fish you can keep, what kinds and what sizes.
For the adventurous, some companies offer jet boat trips up the Rogue River. Scuba diving instruction and excursions also can be arranged through local companies.
To take advantage of a charter boat trip, set the alarm clock for the early morning hours, dress in layers, bring the camera and be ready for some great ocean scenery.
For information on charter boat operators, those interested can call the local chambers of commerce.
Catch a wave, ride
Though cold, the South Coast surf is plentiful and ideal for many.
It's nothing a wet suit can't remedy and they are readily available for rent or purchase at local shops.
Well-known by advanced surfers near the Bay Area is Bastendorff Beach. The waves are good, with smooth swells when the wind is light. For beginners, Lighthouse Beach, south of Bastendorff Beach, is the place to be. It requires a short hike to the ocean from Cape Arago Highway.
For medium difficulty, Sunset Beach is easily accessed from Cape Arago Highway by way of a parking lot.
Expect a two-hour time frame for the good surf, as tide and wind conditions constantly change.
Another popular location on the South Coast is Bullards Beach just outside Bandon.
Find Coquille River Lighthouse on U.S. Highway 101 and you're on the beach.
South, at Port Orford and Gold Beach, are other attractive spots. Pistol River, south of Gold Beach, is a hot spot and hosts a contest during the summer.
For more information, call Rocky Point Surf and Sport at (541) 266-9020 or Sessions Surf Co. at (541) 412-0810.
Windsurfing: Feel the rush of wind and water
The South Coast is home to one of the best windsurfing spots in Oregon. Floras Lake, located at Boice-Cope Park just south of Langlois and west of U.S. Highway 101, provides consistent wind and smooth water for experts and beginners. Its geographical location makes it ideal for windsurfing. Only 150 feet from the ocean, the lake is exposed to the consistent, prevailing northwest winds common during the summer months. Water temperature remains in the low 60s throughout the sailing season, making it a relatively comfortable place to windsurf.
One interesting facet of the lake, and favorable to beginners, is the depth of the lake: It averages only 5 to 6 feet deep across the entire lake!
Floras Lake Windsurfing is located at the lake. Specializing in instruction, the business offers lessons for the beginner or the advanced windsurfer. Equipment rentals also are available. Those interested can call Floras Lake Windsurfing at (541) 348-9912.
Scuba Diving: Dive into an underwater adventure
Some of the South Coast's richest treasures are under the sea: giant sea anemones that resemble overgrown chrysanthemums, brightly colored rock-dwelling China rockfish and jungles of kelp that rival the beauty of a South American rainforest. Beyond the beauty, catching fish and shellfish for dinner can be an adventure in itself.
Getting there can be a problem. Sunset Sports in the Pony Village Mall in North Bend (756-3483) is a popular starting point. The store carries the gear necessary for an underwater adventure and can help arrange for lessons and an undersea trip. Central Coast Watersports in Florence also can guide you in the direction of a new dive park that is being developed. That business can be reached at (541) 997-1812.
Local destinations such as Orford Reef and Cape Arago are popular, but the boat operator and divers must remember it's dangerous around reefs. "Wash rocks" are hidden right below the surface and currents can run strong between the pinnacles and rock walls under water. There are several marine gardens and marine reserves along the coast, and regulations vary for taking home fish and shellfish. Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife fishing regulations identify areas in which and how many animals can be taken.
Swimming: Splash into area pools
Sea lions aren't the only mammals who enjoy making a splash. While wave dodging is not for everyone, there still are plenty of warmwater places for humans to swim on the South Coast.
North Bend High School has the largest public swimming facility in the Bay Area. The North Bend Pool is located next to the high school at 1600 Pacific Ave. Call 756-4915 for more information on pool hours.
Two major options for the serious swimmer in Coos Bay can be found at Mingus Park near downtown and the Bay Area Athletic Club. Mingus Park has an outdoor pool while the athletic club has an indoor pool, and both are equipped for lap swimming. For information about summer swimming hours at the Mingus Park pool, those interested can call Coos Bay City Hall at 269-1181.
Another public pool on the South Coast is Highland Pool in Reedsport, located at 2605 Longwood Drive. Swimmers can call 271-9111 for more information.
In Coquille, the community pool is scheduled to open during the summer. The pool is located behind the community building at 115 N. Birch.
For the more adventurous cold-blooded swimmers, there are swimming holes scattered everywhere. For example, check out Loon Lake northeast of Reedsport off Highway 38, which also is known as a great place to water ski; Tenmile Lakes in Lakeside; the Coos and Millicoma rivers; and, of course, the Pacific Ocean.
Explore marine biology in a tidepool
On a trip to the coast's rocky shore, it's impossible for most visitors to stay away from the tidepools. Tide-pooling can be fun and educational, but should be approached with some caution in mind.
There are all kind of plants and animals to be seen at low tide in the pools of saltwater left behind in rocky areas. It's a harsh environment for the plants and little critters surviving the crashing waves, blasting wind and baking sun.
Sunset Beach offers one of the many favorite spots in the area to explore. The Coast to Crest Interpreters League leads many tidepool tours throughout the year, especially for schoolchildren.
Tidepools are best viewed at low tide. Those who visit the tidepools are asked to walk carefully on the tops of the rocks. It's best to avoid stepping in pools or on covered rocks. Besides being slippery, it can harm the tidepool inhabitants. It's OK to lift an occasional rock to see what lives underneath, but be sure to replace the rock precisely as you found it.
Tide-poolers also should not ignore the ocean or the tide and be aware of sneaker waves. These large waves are responsible for drownings on the coast each year.
For more information about tide-pooling and other programs offered at Sunset Bay State Park, those interested can call 888-3778.
Waterskiing: Get behind a boat and hang on
Slather on the waterproof sunscreen and get ready to ride.
Boating and skiing enthusiasts can show off their water skiing skills at a couple different lakes in the area, including Tenmile Lakes in Lakeside, Loon Lake east of Reedsport and Woahink Lake south of Florence.
The Coos County Parks Department operates a boat ramp at Tenmile Lakes, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management has a boat ramp on Loon Lake and the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department has a boat ramp at Woahink Lake State Park.
Those who ski will need to bring along their boats and gear.
Kayaking: Row and relax
In a land where water flows and wildlife flourishes, much can be observed from the middle of a lake, especially paddling down a river. Kayakers have found the South Coast has an abundance of places to relax in kayak.
Surf jetty kayaking at Winchester Bay's south jetty may be the best in the state, but strong currents and riptides present dangers and boaters should be cautious.
Seeking some flatwater? Try paddling on Eel Lake, near Lakeside in Tugman State Park. Boat traffic is minimal.
The lazy waterway of the Siltcoos River Trail provides the opportunity for kayakers to experience lakes, rivers and oceans.
This trip begins at the Tyee campground, 13 miles north of Reedsport on the east side of U.S. Highway 101. You will travel 2 and a half miles, about an hour, passing under the main highway, then to a portage. Otters frequent the area, as do mink, beaver, raccoon and an occasional black bear.
The river winds through sand banks, with ample opportunity to pull out and find a trail heading northward to the Siltcoos Beach Access Road.
River rules require life jackets or personal flotation devices for each person, with PFDs worn at all times by children 12 and younger. Be sure to scout all waterways before putting in.
Cruise wild Rogue on a mail boat
Visitors to the South Coast can experience a unique excursion on a mail boat up the Rogue River. The jet boat trips first started in 1895 out of a need for mail delivery service into the river canyon. Now they are a six-month tourist event into the wilderness back country of Curry County.
Thousands of passengers a year take a ride into the wild and scenic areas of the Rogue River where everything from black bears upriver to sea lions at the mouth of the river can be spotted as the boats speed over shallow waters.
Jerry's Rogue Jets and Rogue River Mail Boats both offer rides up the river. Trip opportunities include shorter scenic trips to view plant and wildlife, as well as longer trips through rugged canyon scenery and whitewater rapids. All trips include a break and a meal stop.
The mail boats run seven days a week from the beginning of May through October. Morning and afternoon departures are available in July and August. Plan for a full day of fun. For more information, those interested can call Jerry's Rogue Jets at (800) 451-3645 or Rogue River Mail Boats at (800) 458-3511 for full schedules and pricing.
Spending a day looking through shops for old and rare "treasures" can be an enjoyable activity.
By taking a drive up, or down, U.S. Highway 101, visitors will notice nearly each town they pass through has at least a few antique shops open year-round lining the busy road. Those towns include North Bend, Coos Bay, even Langlois and Port Orford.
The old towns of Florence and Bandon, also located just off the highway, host a handful of these old trinket stops as well.
Whether it's old memorabilia, decorative home accents or just something out of the ordinary, visitors just might dig-up something truly special.
Pony Village Mall
Everyone thinks of the Pony Village Mall in North Bend for shopping, dining in the restaurants and cafes and entertainment at the four-screen cinema. But for those eager to get some exercise during a rainy or windy day, head for the mall. Walkers can be found there at all hours, quietly huffing and puffing their way up and down the long arms of the mall.
Too tuckered to walk? The cinema features the latest movie releases, or check out a play on the three-quarter-round stage at the Waterfront Playhouse.
Pony Village Mall is located at 1611 Virginia Ave. For those unfamiliar with the area, take U.S. Highway 101 into North Bend from the north or south, stopping at Virginia Avenue. Head west and stay on the road until you see the mall on the left.
A farmer's market is being held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Saturday throughout the summer and fall in the east wing of the Pony Village Mall, and portions of the east parking lot, in North Bend. The market will run through October.
The market features fresh produce, farm fresh eggs, plants, outdoor furniture, handcrafted jewelry, soaps, aprons, rugs and pet clothing.
For more information, those interested can call 756-0433.
Shop at myrtlewood stores
The South Coast is the place to be for those who like to indulge in myrtlewood. Many gift shops in Reedsport, North Bend, Coos Bay, Bandon, Langlois, Port Orford and Gold Beach feature gifts carved from the unique, fine-grained hardwood.
A member of the bay and laurel family, myrtlewood is found growing between northern Douglas County and Northern California. A tough hardwood, each piece of myrtlewood is unique, both in grain pattern and coloring, which can range from a sedate, satiny gray to red, yellow and brown. So many shops and factories on the South Coast specialize in myrtlewood products that "Myrtlewood" has its own heading in the Yellow Pages, with approximately a dozen businesses listed.
The myrtlewood supply remains steady because of the tree's self-propagating nature. New trees grow out of the nut of the tree, which falls to the ground in late autumn.
New trees also can grow from cut stumps or even from the root system that remains in the ground. It takes between 80 and 110 years for a tree to reach commercial size, which is roughly 16 inches in diameter.
Visitors to the South Coast who would like to see a myrtlewood factory in operation can stop by The Oregon Connection, 1125 S. First St. in Coos Bay; the Myrtlewood Factory in North Bend; and the Myrtlewood Gallery in Reedsport - and at other factories on the coast - where they can take a free, self-guided tour and watch the operations.
Disc Golf: Toss a Frisbee into a hole
For Frisbee fans, there are ample opportunities at one of two Frisbee golf courses in the Bay Area. The fairly flat and open Ferry Road Park near the McCullough Bridge in North Bend features a challenging course. All enthusiasts need is a disc and an hour or two to spend either with friends or in solitude enjoying this relaxing activity.
For veteran Frisbee chuckers, Mingus Park, just off North 10th Street in Coos Bay, offers a hillier, more wooded course where hikers can get a good cardiovascular workout while playing 18 holes. This course provides forest-like privacy in the middle of town, but be careful not to lose your disc in the thick brush.
Located just off U.S. Highway 101 a little south of Coos Bay, the Family Four Stables are just minutes away from mountain trails that show off the Southern Oregon Coast's beauty.
Owner Peg Henrickson said people can indulge their love of horses and the outdoors on a variety of trails. She said views of the Coos Bay estuaries and sloughs, along with other beautiful scenery, are part of the trail rides.
The stables' quarterhorses are professionally trained and rent for $25 an hour.
Henrickson said horses can be rented for up to three hours, but most people usually rent for one hour.
Family Four Stables is located at 61675 Family Four Drive, just beyond the turnoff to state Highway 42. The phone number is 267-5301.
Other local stables offer trail and beach rides, too.
In Bandon, those interested can visit the Bandon Beach Riding Stables at 54629 Beach Loop Road. For hours or reservations, those interested can call 347-3423.
C & M Stables at 90241 Highway 101 in North Florence offers out-of-towners and locals an opportunity to ride. For details and reservations, those interested can call (541) 997-7540.
Both the Bandon and Florence stables have horses for beginning and expert equestrians.
If you've always pictured yourself riding a galloping horse down a beach but want to bring your own horse, then you might consider staying at the Wild Mare Horse Camp, part of the Horsfall Beach recreation area located on the dunes next to the Pacific Ocean, just north of North Bend. The facilities are open all year and include 12 campsites (which require a fee) with corrals, as well as a day-use area.
The horse trails meander through the sand from the dunes down to the beach. The camp is located three miles west of U.S. Highway 101 on the Horsfall Dune and Beach Access Road, just north of North Bend.
Skateboarding: Test your skills at skate parks
Skaters need not leave their boards at home. The South Coast is home to several highly rated skateboard parks.
Myrtle Point is home to one of the South Coast's prime skateboarding venues - as well as its leading skateboard competition.
Opened in 2001, the skating facility at Lehnherr Park, located at the intersection of Spruce and Second streets, features both a facility for beginning and intermediate skateboarders and inline skaters as well as its showcase, a 10,000-square-foot concrete bowl.
Port Orford, Reedsport and Brookings also have skateboard parks to challenge even the best "sk8ers."
Port Orford's park, located at 13th and Arizona streets in Buffington Park, has some skateboarders believing it's the best thing since the wheel.
There is one word skateboarders and designers use when describing it - modern. It's designed to embrace the sport and provide a challenge and it does. High speeds and a special 13-foot-tall cradle allow skaters to go past vertical - get upside-down in a hurry. The rules? Full padding is required at all times. And sorry, no bikes.
In Reedsport, the Funnel Tunnel is the main attraction at the 11,000-square-foot facility. Airspeed Skateparks designed and built the park in four months in 2003. It's located at Lions Park, across U.S. Highway 101 from several small stores and a 7-Eleven.
At Florence, there's 12,000 square feet of fun, at the corner of 18th and Oak streets.
Brookings' skate park, at Bud Cross Park at the north end of the city on Third and Hasset streets, was built in 2001. The 8,000-square-foot Dreamland Skateparks facility is open from sunrise to sunset and helmets are a must. According to one Web site, it has a "giant, tasty donut" and a "wild design."
At Coos Bay, there's a small skating area in Mingus Park near the ballfield. It's hardly a challenge, but a local group has formed and is fund-raising to build a 30,000-square-foot-plus facility. So, mark your calendars for a Coos Bay vacation for future summers, too.
South Coast Golf
Golf aficionados will want to do their research before setting off for a course on the South Coast. There are so many that visitors might want to make a monthlong excursion of it.
Most of the region's courses are picturesque. They can be very challenging and demanding, yet offer unique styles.
Kentuck Golf Course in North Bend is located off East Bay Drive, near the Kentuck Inlet. The 18-hole course is especially popular with beginning golfers because of its wide-open fairways and a number of par-3 holes that don't require Tiger Woods-like skill. For information on the course, those interested can call 756-4464.
Another popular place to play in the Bay Area is Sunset Bay Golf Course, near the Charleston state parks, on Cape Arago Highway. There are camping and yurts nearby for an overnight stay with reservations. Sunset begins with an open par-5 on the first hole, then follows with a scenic par-3, featuring an elevated tee and water to the right of the green that sucks up its share of errant shots. The remainder of the course is narrower, with trees, water and plenty of brush coming into play. For information, call 888-9301.
Coos Country Club caters to its members, but also allows play by the public. The 18-hole course is scenic, with several wetlands on the back nine, and requires a variety of shot-making skills. The club also has a putting green and driving range open to the public. For more information, call 267-7257.
One of the best-kept secrets is Forest Hills Country Club in Reedsport. The nine-hole, public course is scenic, located not far from downtown Reedsport. The course also has a driving range for players to work on their game. For information, call (541) 271-2626.
The Scottish-links style Bandon Face Rock Golf Course nine-hole course (par-32) can prove a daunting challenge. The wind frequently comes into play and a creek that meanders through the course is a magnet for balls. For information, call 347-3818.
There might be just nine greens at the Cedar Bend Golf Course, just north of Gold Beach, but the greens each have two pins providing an 18-hole feel. The course also has a driving range. For more information, call (541) 247-6911.
Further south is one of the coast's newest courses, Salmon Run Golf and Wilderness Preserve, located three miles east of Brookings. The scenic 18-hole layout demands accurate shot-making more than length. For more information, call (541) 469-4888.
The Florence area features two nice courses, including 18-hole Ocean Dunes Golf Links. A step above many of the public courses on the Oregon coast, Ocean Dunes has a challenging layout that includes several narrow holes in the dunes where the wind comes into play and a couple of spectacular par-3s. For more information, call (541) 997-3232.
Florence also features the famous Sandpines Golf on the Oregon Dunes. The course has some holes along the dunes and a couple of ponds that make for challenging and interesting shots on holes. For more information, call (800) 917-4653.
Three courses that are quickly gaining the most national attention are Bandon Dunes, Pacific Dunes and Bandon Trails, resort courses located two miles north of Bandon. Bandon Dunes, the original course, includes 18 holes with views of the ocean. Several holes run along the bluff above the water. Pacific Dunes is another challenging 18-hole layout with narrower fairways and a more rugged feel. Bandon Trails is not close to the ocean, but offers holes in the dunes, a meadow and the forest. The resort also features a world-class practice facility that is open to the public. For information, call 347-4380.
Fill a bucket with sweet seasonal berries
Spring rains make way for summer sun and berries. And it indeed is a long tasty season on the South Coast once the berries ripen.
The brilliant orange salmon berries are the season's first, ripening in late May and well into June. These raspberry-like treats are sweet and watery - perfect thirst quenchers for hikers.
Ruby red thimble berries are next. Shaped like a small cap, these raspberry family members are a summer treat that last into mid-summer when salal berries begin their sweet purple appearance. But be quick. Thimble berries are a preferred snack for busy songbirds.
The salal berries are a member of the heath family, closely related to huckleberries and blueberries, and they taste best cooked into jam, jelly, pie or cobbler. Only eat these sweet berries around your family and closest friends who would still find you attractive with purple teeth and a black tongue. A nutritious berry with a long season, salal berries were favored by the Indians of the South Coast.
The most popular berries on the South Coast today are the several varieties of juicy blackberries. These versatile berries can be picked with the risk of encounters with prickly thorns, but many consider the chance of bloodletting worth it. Watch for these jewels in late summer and early fall, although the tiny, sweet blackcaps often ripen earlier in the summer.
To collect your own native coastal berries, take an empty coffee can or other container on your rambles. Every hike may result in sweet rewards other than fresh air and magnificent vistas.
Come fall, red and purple huckleberries dot bushes along sloughs on hilltops. These tart treats require focused dedication to pick enough for a pie or other delicacy, but the work is worth the effort.
Scavenge for mushrooms after a rain
It takes a keen eye and a hankering to hike.
Deep in the moss, under logs, on fallen timber and even in plain sight, mushrooms can be a pleasant bounty on the South Coast for the experienced gatherer.
To those with a keen eye, and a knowledge of what to look for, fleshy fungus can be seen sprouting just about anywhere in the forests around Coos County and on the South Coast.
Granted, that doesn't leave the beginning mushroom picker much to work with. Mushrooms come in thousands of varieties - some poisonous, others delicious - and the South Coast is home to hundreds of types. Common varieties found on the coast include the candy cap, oyster, bolete, blacks, morels and hedgehog mushrooms. The Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area can be a competitive field to find prized matsutake mushrooms and the Japanese pine mushroom, considered by some a delicacy for their peppery flavor. But be sure to check regulations and permitting issues if hunting mushrooms on the Oregon Dunes.
One of the most prevalent mushrooms on the South Coast is chanterelles. Easily identifiable, with a golden or orange color, chanterelles are an exquisite find, although even they can be confused with a poisonous type.
Mushroom experts recommend buying a field guide with photos and a brief description of mushrooms before going on a hunt. Books written by professional mycologists can be the most handy, but the simplest way to find safe mushrooms to eat is to go with an experienced hunter. Professionals also suggest using a knife to cut the stalk at the base - instead of pulling mushrooms straight from the ground - may help a patch grow in the future.
For those venturing deep in the forests, keeping within talking distance of a partner can help avoid getting separated and lost. Carry a compass or GPS and know how to use it.
Wearing a whistle also can help in case of injury and letting a relative or neighbor know where one is headed also is important.
Fungus enthusiasts can pick up to a gallon of mushrooms per day in the Coos County Forest or on state and U.S. Bureau of Land Management land without purchasing permits. Those who wish to pick mushrooms on U.S. Forest Service land must contact the nearest ranger station for permits. On state and county land, the Coos County Forestry Department or the Oregon Department of Forestry doles out permits.
When's the best time to go? Two weeks after a rain.
Sea Lion Caves
For more than 70 years, Sea Lion Caves has attracted hundreds of thousands of people to gaze at the sea lions and rare birds. The caves have attracted hundreds of the barking visitors, too.
These pinnipeds gather in large colonies in caves or more typically just about on any rocky outcroppings, but Sea Lion Caves is the most dramatic setting.
A descent into the cave is an adventure unlike many others on the South Coast. Visitors may ride an elevator into the cave 208 feet below the surface of the seaside cliffs, but don't just focus on the wildlife. The cave itself deserves close attention.
The sea cave is 310 feet long, 165 feet wide and about 50 feet high. The wave-cut passage to the sea is 1,315 feet long. Its main chamber, where the sea lions congregate, covers nearly 1 acre and the total cave floor area is 1.8 acres.
The cave, discovered in 1880, was formed by a river of molten rock from erupting volcanoes about 23 million years ago. Over time, fractures that developed on the north and south ends of the rock became connected. Ocean action loosened and washed away rock, creating the cave.
Sea Lion Caves is 11 miles north of Florence along U.S. Highway 101. Parking is available on both sides of the highway.
More information about Sea Lion Caves can be obtained by calling (541) 547-3111.
Look for birds on the beach
Birdwatchers don't have to limit themselves to the South Coast's sloughs and marshes. Beaches can be prime bird viewing spots, too. Sanderlings are easy picks for those toting binoculars. Watch for flocks of little birds dipping their beaks into the sand along the waterline.
If hiking where there are rocky outcroppings watch for black oystercatchers with their pink legs, and bright red bills.
Other bird species you might see include plovers, sandpipers, gulls, kittewakes, crows, pelicans, scoters, guillemots and more. You might even be lucky enough to see a peregrine falcon dive-bombing ducks below the rocks at the Simpson Reef Overlook near Cape Arago State Park at Charleston.
For beach birdwatching, the best time to hike the sand in the summer months is early. Not only will you see more birds, you won't have to push against gusty north winds. It's best to carry a small backpack with water, snacks, sunscreen and a birder's field guide.
Here's a legal caution. In beaches designated as Western snowy plover breeding areas, be sure to stay out of the dry sand or upper beach area, for example south of Horsfall Beach just outside of the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. Most any beach is worth a look, including the beaches around jetties and near rocky outcroppings. They tend to attract a wider range of species.
Want to see a Roosevelt elk up close?
A herd of the large mammals lounges at the Dean Creek Elk Viewing Area, operated by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. Interpretive signs telling about the elk are found at a wayside a few miles east of Reedsport, but the animals are most apparent as they spend their time in pastureland adjacent to several miles of Highway 38.
Take binoculars or a spotting scope. There also are a variety of wading birds and songbirds that visit and live in the area.
Tour Coos Bay
Take a walking tour of downtown Coos Bay
Coos Bay offers a host of historical buildings just waiting to be discovered, some built as early as 1884. Each of them offers a different style of architecture.
Buildings that can be seen on a walking tour through Coos Bay include:
- Elks Temple - 170 S. Second St. (1920 National Register). The building served as the Elks Club from 1920 to 1980. After extensive exterior restoration and interior remodeling, the building was reopened in 1985.
- Chandler Hotel and Annex - 187 W. Central (1909 and 1913 National Register). The Chandler Hotel served as a focal point for downtown development. The restoration of the building and renovation was begun in the summer of 1985.
- Tioga Hotel - 275 N. Broadway (1925 and 1928, completed in 1948 National Register). The Depression and World War II halted completion of the tallest building on the Oregon Coast. The building has been remodeled to provide low-cost housing for seniors.
- Joseph W. Bennett House - 202 Alder St. (1898) Joseph Bennett emigrated from Ireland in 1873 with his father, George Bennett, the founder of Bandon. The younger Bennett established the Flanagan and Bennett Bank of Coos Bay. The house was originally located at the present site of the Tioga Hotel.
- Nels Rasmussen House - 276 Birch St. (1893). Nels Rasmussen, a saloon owner, had this house built as a present for his bride, Jennie Larson.
- Andrew Nasburg House - 687 N. Third St., (1884 National Register nomination). The Nasburg House was the home of a Swedish immigrant who became a local merchant and the first postmaster.
- Henry Sengstacken House - 682 N. Third St. (1904 National Register). A German immigrant, Henry Sengstacken was a local businessman and landowner who became the mayor of Marshfield in 1903.
- Siglin/Flanagan House - 474 Park, (1889). A major in the Union Army during the Civil War, J.M. Siglin was an attorney and the editor of the first weekly newspaper in Coos County, The Coos Bay News. James H. Flanagan was a banker, owned the Marshfield Water Company and was involved with logging and coal mining.
- Carnegie Library - 515 Market St. (1915). One of many Carnegie libraries located throughout the United States. Marshfield's (Coos Bay's) Progress Club began efforts to secure a library in 1906. Funds were obtained from lectures, socials and a donation from Andrew Carnegie.
- Coos Bay National Bank - 245 Central Ave. (1923). Designed by Portland architect John E. Tourtellotte, the building was designed in a simplified Renaissance revival style. It is frequently referred to as the "Bugge Bank."
- Myrtle Arms Apartments - Sixth and Central (1914 National Register nomination). A rare Oregon example of the Mission and Pueblo styles of architecture. One of the first large apartment buildings in Coos Bay, it retains many of its original exterior and interior features. A major restoration and renovation was begun on the site in 1985.
- R.F. Williams House - 936 Central Ave. (1896). Built for a local banker, the stones in the foundation arrived in the area as ballast aboard sailing ships.
- Wesley Methodist Hospital - 790 Commercial St. (1925). Originally a Methodist hospital, the building was taken over by the Sisters of Mercy in 1939 and became known as McAuley Hospital. In 1982, the building was remodeled and opened as the Ken Keyes College and has changed ownership several times since.
- Luse House - 487 N. Fourth St. (1885). Built for newspaper owner and editor Jesse Luse.
- Marshfield Sun Building - 1049 N. Front St. (1895). Jesse Luse published the Marshfield Sun Newspaper from 1891 to 1944 and was the building's sole tenant. The newspaper was the longest continuously published paper under a single owner operator in Oregon. The original equipment and many artifacts remain at the site. Tours are available.
For more information on the buildings and tours of Coos Bay's historic downtown and neighborhoods, those interested can contact the Bay Area Chamber of Commerce at 269-0215 or (800) 824-8486.
See oysters get shucked
Take a tour of Clausen Oysters and see the shucking process first-hand. All visitors are welcome to a free oyster sample, cooked or raw.
Lilli and Max Clausen own the oyster processing facility and grow many of the oysters on the tides flats of Coos Bay. At low tide, oyster beds can be seen in the water on both sides of the McCullough Bridge, where white sticks mark their sites. Huge piles of oyster shells also can be seen at the facility, located at 66234 North Bay Road, one mile east of U.S. Highway 101 and two miles north of the McCullough Bridge.
Clausen is happy to give tours for groups of at least 15 people during weekdays by appointment. Tour-goers will be taken to the pier to see where the oyster barges dock, taught about oyster culture and history and given a free sample. The tour takes 45 minutes to an hour.
To arrange a tour, those interested can call Lilli Clausen at 756-3600.
Old Bridge Winery
Visit Coos County first commercial winery. Follow Highway 42 east from Myrtle Point, just past the tiny community of Bridge, at the covered bridge to the newly opened Old Bridge Winery.
George Clarno and his wife, Angie, make a variety of wines, including pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, marechal foch and concord and whites, pinot gris, gewurztraminer, chardonnay and a late-harvest blend. Fruit wines include blackberry and cranberry, in both sweet and light dry, rhubarb, apple, cherry and strawberry.
Old Bridge Winery is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. While there, don't miss the county's only historic covered bridge.
Go back in time
Prehistoric Gardens, located on U.S. Highway 101 between Port Orford and Gold Beach, features life-size replicas of dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals. It is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., seven days a week. A gift and souvenir shop is located just outside the gardens.
Visit site of storied Indian massacre
The Geisel Monument, seven miles north of Gold Beach off U.S. Highway 101, is an interesting, albeit somewhat macabre, historical site to visit.
The Geisel family lived at the site and operated a motel and store there until they were killed by local Rogue River "Too-toot-nas" tribal members in 1856, one of whom worked for the family. Historians surmise the Indians were upset over land takeovers and the introduction of diseases by the white settlers. The day the Geisels were killed, 25 other residents along the Rogue River also were massacred.
According to local historical lore, tribal members killed John Geisel and his three sons, sparing his wife, Christina, and two daughters, who were taken up the Rogue and held captive for 14 days. There is quite a story behind the incident, and the monument consists of a small graveyard, where Geisel family members are buried.
Visit historic house
For a nostalgic and informative historical experience, visit the Hughes House, located off U.S. Highway 101 near Cape Blanco State Park, just north of Port Orford.
Volunteers from the Cape Blanco Management Unit of Oregon State Parks lead tours of the Hughes family home on Thursday through Monday from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., April to Oct. 31.
Visitors also should visit the gift shop, with jewelry, tea cups and kitchen implements much like the items visitors see on the tour, as well as books, crafts and toys of the 1898-1923 period.
Those interested can call (541) 332-9002 for more information.
Get up close to many of nature's critters
Lions and tigers and bears. Oh yes!
For the past 38 years, West Coast Game Park Safari, America's largest wild animal petting park, has been one of the most popular tourist attractions in Oregon. Seven miles south of Bandon, the park specializes in hand-raising wildlife.
For youngsters and parents who have never experienced the fun of walking among free-roaming wildlife (many of which are eager for a handout and love the attention), it's the thrill of a lifetime.
The park covers almost 21 natural, wooded acres where more than 450 exotic animals and birds live. In addition to the hundreds of free-roaming critters, numerous exhibits of large predators and big-hooved wildlife bring visitors closer than many have ever been before. Visitors can mingle, touch, hand-feed and be entertained by wild creatures from around the world.
There are more than 75 species spread over the park grounds, including tigers, cougars, lynx, antelope, bison, deer, elk, African lions, llamas and bighorn sheep.
Park staff schedule special events and visitors have the chance to meet and hold the latest babies born into the park family. Visitors are allowed to pet the animals and film their personal adventures.
Animals likely to be seen include African lions, tiger cubs, bear cubs, panther and leopard cubs, cougar cubs, snow leopards, wolves, lynx, chimps and many other youngsters of the wild. Wildlife at the park is constantly changing.
The park is open all year. Hours are from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Summer hours begin June 15 and are from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.
Those interested can call 347-3106 for additional information, or write to the park at 46914 Highway 101, Bandon, OR 97411.
Dig into agriculture at a cranberry bog
For many years, cranberries have been one of the South Coast's top agricultural crops, and Bandon has long been known as the "Cranberry Capital of Oregon."
Bandon's cranberry industry began in the 1920s with vines from Massachusetts. Cranberries require a specialized growing environment, and Bandon's acidic, sandy soil is the main ingredient. Planted vines send runners out, taking four to five years to reach full yield as dense mats of vines form over the sand.
Many of the growers are members of the Ocean Spray cooperative, which buys the berries and markets products worldwide. Bandon's berries, known for their deep red hue, are used by Ocean Spray mostly to add color to its juices. Other growers sell independently or market it themselves as fresh cranberries.
Bogs, usually referred to by growers as cranberry beds, line the highway north and south of town, while others are hidden in the woods. They look like low, brushy marshes, and when ripe in the fall, the bright red berries shine through from the thicket of vines. Volunteers at the visitor information center can guide you to bogs in which owners will show you around and answer questions.
There are 170 cranberry growers in Coos and Curry counties, who comprise 98 percent of Oregon's growers.
There are independent growers, also, who produce for distribution to other buyers. Along the coast from North Bend to Port Orford, some 2,400 acres are devoted to growing the plump, tart berries, with the largest concentration of bogs in the Bandon area.
Most growers use the water method of harvesting to avoid damaging berries. Wet harvesting involves flooding the bogs at harvest, then using a special machine called a "beater" to agitate vines and loosen berries so they can float to the surface.
The Ocean Spray plant is busy during harvest in the fall. Berries are cleaned and sorted there, then trucked to freezers in the Eugene and Albany areas. Some also are trucked to an Ocean Spray facility in Washington to be made into juice concentrate.
The Bandon Historical Society Museum, located at U.S. Highway 101 and Fillmore, has a display on the history of cranberry culture in Bandon, with vintage equipment and many old photographs.
Each fall, Bandon celebrates its annual Cranberry Festival, including a parade and food fair featuring cranberry recipes - cakes, pies, sauces and breads.
Explore Coast Guard history
On the headlands overlooking the Pacific Ocean and Port Orford, U.S. Coast Guard lifeboat station No. 318 still stands 280 feet above the water.
For 36 years, crews manned the motor lifeboats, helping mariners plying the waters of the Southern Oregon Coast.
Built in 1934, the station featured Cape Cod and Craftsman style buildings, residences, storage buildings and a pump house. Now, it's maintained as a museum and interpretive center by the Port Orford Heritage Society.
The boats were docked in Nellie's Cove, a 532-step decent from the station to the water's edge.
Crews carried supplies and fuel for the boats by hand up and down the stairs.
The station was decommissioned by the Coast Guard in 1970. It was used by Oregon State University for six years, being dedicated to the Oregon State Parks Department and the Port Orford Heads State Park was created.
In 1995, the Point Orford Heritage Society and State Parks worked together to restore the station and create the museum. The site is on the National Register of Historic Places and was opened to the public on June 3, 2000.
On the grounds is a project the society is tackling, the restoration of lifeboat No. 36498, a 36-foot motor lifeboat that worked from 1946 through 1979.
Besides the museum grounds, there is a trail system that takes visitors to various points along the headlands.
The road leading to the museum is well marked on U.S. Highway 101 in Port Orford. The museum is open April through October, Thursday through Monday, 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Spend time amid shifting sands
The Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area offers a variety of hiking trails, campgrounds and picnic areas for visitors to spend a couple hours, an entire day or a weekend near the shifting sands.
Off-road vehicle enthusiasts also will find Oregon's finest sand-racing area offers more stomach-lurching thrills than any theme park.
At several dune entrances, trail markers point the way through the dunes to the beach. Hikers can bring along a lunch and take a break at one of the dune lakes or "islands" on the way to watch the waves. And don't forget a camera to capture the ever-changing sandscapes.
A list of the trails and campgrounds in the 40-mile area between the North Spit and Florence can be found on the Internet at .
The visitors center is located on the north end of Reedsport - it shares a building with the Reedsport/Winchester Bay Chamber of Commerce - and can be reached by calling (541) 271-3611.
Check out the races
The popular dunes-racing events attract thousands of visitors to the South Coast. The event, in its fifth year at this tiny coastal community, features drag racing organized by the American Sand Drag Association.
Races are set up for pee-wees and juniors, sportsmen and, of course, pros. For more about the event, those interested would be remiss not to check the Web site.
Slide down on a board
Dunes are great for climbing to a view, but who hasn't thought about sliding down?
Forget that ragged piece of cardboard. Get with it! Rent a board and jam it right!
Sandboarding is a lot like snowboarding in heavy powder. The board is waxed and feet are secured with toe and heel straps. Dunes closed to motorized use provide an ever-changing challenge of height, sand density and condition.
The stretch of the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area at Lakeside offers choice, untouched cliffs and sand-ramps to board. Sneak off and find the perfect ride of solitude and sand.
Go for a thrill ride in an ATV
Salivating for a spin in the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area without an all-terrain vehicle can be a drag, but don't let it.
For ATV permits, locations and general information, wanna-be riders can call the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area office in Reedsport at (541) 271-3611.
ATVs may be rented in Hauser at Spinreel Dune Buggy Rentals Inc. or Pacific Coast Recreation, further north at Winchester Bay, Dune Buggy Adventures and Discovery Point ATV rental, and south of Florence at Sand Dunes Frontier and Theme Park. The ODNRA has a complete list of area outfitters. Some companies also offer group tours of the dunes in large off-road vehicles.
Hike a trail through the dunes
Get lost in the dunes.
Well, don't actually get lost, but do hike out into the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area at Lakeside. The day-use side of the Eel Creek Campground offers visitors a place to park and walk to the beach.
There, hike off onto the John Dellenback Dunes Trail. It's a 3-mile round-trip tromp with elevation varying from 100 to 1,500 feet, depending on shifting dunes. Expect a workout as you meander across Eel Creek, through a shore pine forest and out onto the rugged dunes. This trail is rate moderate to most difficult.
The trek crosses an area of the dunes closed to off-road vehicles. It's well worth the hiking effort. Posts mark the trail out toward the beach, but take note: Expect to work up a sweat. Few people wander the trail that leads to the remote beach north of Tenmile Creek.
Take sunscreen, a windbreaker, snack, water and plan to do some wading in the early summer. This spring's heavy rains likely have covered the trail through the "rough," the trees and brush that separate the dunes from the beach.
This is a fee area, with the daily fee set at $5. At the trailhead, there are water, toilet and picnic table amenities available, but out on the dunes, you're on your own.
Watch the ships come and go at four port terminals
There are few things as awe inspiring as watching a 700-foot-long ship sail in front of your eyes. But you can from many spots along the shipping channel in Coos Bay.
Established in 1990, this deep-draft port still claims a worldwide market in wood products. Ships and barges call on local docks weekly to pick up or drop off cargo loads of wood chips, logs and lumber.
Unlike largely inaccessible ports in other cities, there are many places to watch ship traffic and dock operations on Coos Bay.
While ship arrival and departure dates are hard to predict, due to ocean weather and other factors, those lucky enough to visit the South Jetty when a vessel arrives will be treated to an exciting display as towboats assist these huge vessels in crossing the bar.
Four terminals attract vessels to Coos Bay, including:
- Roseburg Forest Products wood chip facility is located on the North Spit, just west of the Coos Bay Railroad Bridge. The dock is located across the bay from the airport.
- After sailing up the channel, through the railroad bridge, under the McCullough Bridge and into North Bend, ships and barges can stop at Ocean Terminals off the foot of California Street. People can watch loading and offloading operations from downtown or from the North Bend Waterfront.
- Wood chip ships sailing farther into the bay may stop at the Oregon Chip Terminal, which borders U.S. Highway 101 at the city line between the North Bend and Coos Bay.
- From the Coos Bay Boardwalk, people can watch barges on their way to the Georgia-Pacific docks and beyond.
Visitors might wonder how 600- to 700-foot-long vessels can turn around in the bay. It takes teamwork with captains piloting seemingly tiny towboats. There are two turning areas in the bay - one in front of The Mill Casino-Hotel and another in the upper bay past the boardwalk. During the undertaking, the towboats actually push an idle ship 180 degrees to prepare it, once loaded, to sail from the bay at high tide.
Remember, ship loading is dangerous work and docks are not public places. People hoping for close views of the magnificent vessels should not trespass. Use a camera lens or binoculars instead.
Coos Bay Boardwalk
Go bay watching on the Coos Bay Boardwalk. The boardwalk parallels North Bayshore Drive (U.S. Highway 101 North) downtown, offering an interesting - and short - tour of the bay, joining with a trail along the waterfront that meanders for roughly half a mile.
Pleasure and fishing boats and yachts are moored along the docks and sometimes, tall ships such as the Lady Washington pay the Bay Area a visit.
A Boardwalk visit also can be a local history lesson. A pavilion area features an old tug boat that used to work the bay, as well as historical kiosks and pictures revealing much about the community's history. There also is a paved trail that takes off from the Boardwalk and continues along the bay.
Check with the visitor center across the street for information about tours of the bay.
Visit Old Towns in Bandon, Florence and Reedsport
Old towns at Florence, Reedsport and Bandon are favorites with visitors. Slide into some comfortable shoes and head for a Southern Oregon Coast old town for some serious fun. Browsers find a touch of local history mingled with bargains, treasures and recreational opportunities.
Indians once paddled their canoes along the banks of the Siuslaw River, a major path of commerce where the town of Florence had its beginnings. Today, Old Town Florence retains its historical atmosphere with the salty flavor of a genuine coastal river town where there is much to see and do. More than 60 businesses flourish within the four or five blocks that make up Old Town. A sprinkling of antique shops, restaurants, specialty shops, galleries, boutiques and gift shops for kids and adults alike delight visitors staying for the day or spending the night in one of several bed and breakfasts or motels. Visitors looking for fun on the water can take a cruise on a sternwheeler or rent a kayak, surfboard or scuba equipment.
Old Town Reedsport still exists and offers a different experience from some of the more touristy towns. Located near the middle of the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, visitors can view the ever-changing dunes landscape, then head to Reedsport's historic waterfront. The popular Umpqua Discovery Center can take visitors back in time to learn about the pioneer citizens who manned the canneries, fisheries and timber operations that shaped the community.
A sampling of more than 100 unique businesses in an area overlooking the Coquille River can be found in Old Town Bandon. Old Town is the home of the Second Street Art Gallery, one of Oregon's largest galleries, featuring art work in oil, acrylic and watercolor; sculptures of stone, bronze, wood and steel; glassware; wearable art; and gold, silver and beaded jewelry.
The Coquille River Museum also is nearby, operated by the Bandon Historical Society. It offers locals and visitors alike an opportunity to learn about history along the Coquille River. Fine dining is available in and around Old Town, as well as many types of lodging including bed and breakfasts and motels.
Tour museums, trails, shops of Port Orford
Some of the most spectacular hiking paths along the Oregon Coast can be found in Port Orford, located 52 miles south of Coos Bay, in headlands along an oceanside bluff above the town.
Port Orford is the westernmost incorporated city in the 48 contiguous states and offers some of the most scenic views along the coast. Port Orford Heads is the site of the U.S. Coast Guard lifesaving station, decommissioned in 1970, but opened by volunteers as a museum. Volunteers also have built easy trails through the headland's meadows.
To get to the station, turn west off U.S. Highway 101 in Port Orford at milepost 301 at Ninth Street. The street and signs will direct you to the museum, which is open from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Thursday through Monday.
Behind the museum, a concrete path leads across a picnic area and to the Cove Trail trailhead. The easy quarter-mile trail, which leads to where the former lookout tower was located, offers magnificent views of the ocean. From the tower site, a path leads up and forks to the left, exposing a meadow, full of wildflowers in the summer. Stay to the left to the end of the trail, which offers a view of offshore rocks where harbor seals bask in the sun.
While you're in the area, don't forget to take a stroll through the art galleries and visit the shops of local artisans, some of which will allow you to watch them at work on their latest creation.
This self-guided walk takes visitors through the watershed stretching from the shore of Coos Bay, meandering through downtown to Blossom Gulch.
This underground waterway is part of a small watershed, an area of land that collects rainwater from the surrounding uplands. The Mill Slough Watershed is a tiny but important piece of the much larger Coos Watershed.
To make a watershed connection from the bay to Blossom Gulch, start on the Coos Bay Boardwalk and follow the map available at the Bay Area Visitor Center. At the waterfront, explorers can start with a stroll along the interpretive walk and tour a working harbor. Through town, walkers can discover some of the buildings that were here before the Mill Slough tunnel and search for four bronze plaques that highlight Mill Slough history. At Blossom Gulch, there is a short hike along an elevated boardwalk through wetlands and uplands. Or visitors can just enjoy nature from the covered viewing area.
Rivers & Lakes
Tenmile Lakes: Set sail for lakes and enjoy water activities
Tenmile Lakes in Lakeside are a big draw for sailboat enthusiasts whose slim vessels and brightly colored sails are fixtures on the waters season to season.
The lakes offer other distractions as well. Hiking, fishing, camping, picnicking and water-skiing activities lure visitors from near and far.
For anglers, the lakes offer up large-mouth and striped bass, yellow perch, rainbow and cutthroat trout and brown bullhead. At times, the lake also provides natural habitat for coho salmon and steelhead.
For those with a need for speed, the Neil Donegan Classic Drag Boat Race takes place each year on the last weekend in August.
Visitors will find day-use areas with covered picnic shelters, as well as marinas and boat launches and rentals.
To get there, follow U.S. Highway 101 north from North Bend to the Lakeside Junction.
New River: Tour marshy, young stream
Plan to spend an afternoon at New River. This stream was formed only 120 years ago in a low-lying marshy area. Much of the area was pastureland that flooded and formed the river that meanders parallel to the beach.
An afternoon's jaunt is required to see the river. The gravel road that leads to the river's edge is closed during the summer months. It's not a trek for people in wheelchairs. People with toddlers should plan to carry or pack them. To get there, drive about 8 miles south of Bandon, turn right on Croft Road. For those traveling north from Langlois, go about 4.5 miles and turn left onto Croft Road. There is a site host stationed at the parking lot.
Sixes River: Camp at Edson Creek
Visit the Sixes Store on your way to Edson Creek, up the Sixes River, for a day of river fun. Don't forget the sunblock, inner tubes, picnic lunch and lots of drinking water. Where the creek flows into the Sixes River is a favorite swimming area, and the campground across the road is well-maintained and inexpensive, with an on-site host, large campsites, fire pits with grills, picnic tables and regularly cleaned outhouses.
What's even nicer is the campsite is just far enough east to be out of the wind so prevalent on the coast, but close enough to get there within 20 minutes after leaving U.S. Highway 101. Those visiting can spend a day at the river or a few days camping and enjoying the area.
Bandon Marsh: See multitudes at refuge
Visitors to the South Coast have the unique opportunity to view an abundance of wildlife in its natural habitat at the Bandon Marsh National Wildlife Refuge and the Oregon Islands NWR.
Managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bandon Marsh NWR was established in 1983.
It includes approximately 900 acres that were set aside to provide habitat for diverse wildlife, including shorebirds, waterfowl, salmon and other estuarine-dependent species.
The refuge is divided into two units. The Bandon Marsh Unit includes approximately 300 acres of tidally influenced estuary west of U.S. Highway 101 near the mouth of the Coquille River. Access and parking are available at an overlook on the west side of Riverside Drive. It includes an accessible boardwalk and deck, a bench and a stairway leading to the marsh.
Public uses at the marsh include photography, hunting, fishing, clamming, birdwatching, educational activities and more. Marsh visitors will find a unique year-round opportunity to observe diverse bird species.
An accessible observation deck allows the public to view the refuge. To visit the overlook, turn east onto North Bank Lane just north of Bullards Bridge, which is located about two miles north of Bandon on U.S. Highway 101.
Coquille Point and its associated rocks, reefs and islands, located at the west end of 11th Street Southwest in the city, is part of the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge, which encompasses nearly 2,000 structures along the coast.