Posts Tagged ‘US 101 Coastal Oregon’

We’ve had two whopper storms to kick off the winter rainy season.

The first, October 25, brought sheeting rain, unbelievable wind and waves. The Port of Port Orford, which we visited in the morning, had, by afternoon, sustained heavy damage, in the end estimated at over $1 million.

The Port 10/25 courtesy of Melissa Campbell

The Port 10/25
courtesy of Melissa Campbell

No people or fishing vessels were lost but a fish processing building went over the edge taking numerous fish storage tanks along, the Port office had 18” of water, waves topped the rock jetty damaging it, and one side of Griff’s, a seafood restaurant on the dock, was pushed out.

Griff's, two days later

Griff’s, two days later

Port, 10/28

Port, 10/28

The surf was amazing, totally covering the port beach and the wind was so strong our 10-year-old grandson had to run to stay in place at the overlook. The pelicans and seagulls came onshore en masse and hunkered down to wait it out on the headlands.



Gulls and Pelicans

Gulls and Pelicans

The second storm, which hit Port Orford Friday managed to tip over half a trailer home on Highway 101 just where it enters Port Orford from the south. (I guess those high profile vehicle warnings on the weather went unheard or were ignored. They were predicting 70 mph gusts!) The wind and rain was hard enough to wake me up Friday night but by Saturday all was just a passing memory.

Today, the sun is shining. And the streets are dry. No one can say the weather around here isn’t dramatic.

blown over trailer house

blown over trailer house

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Wondering what that outsized filling-station-looking tank is on the west side the Seacoast Center parking lot? It’s another sign of Port Orford’s exciting movement forward as a community—we’ve now got our very own electric vehicle charging station!

This station has been provided compliments of Oregon Department of Transportation, and there’s only one more station to go in Brookings to make it possible to drive an electric vehicle (EV) along the entire Oregon US 101 Coast! This is great news and a potential major new attraction for folks to visit our deep south coast. And for now, it’s fast and free!

Thanks to ODOT, the US Department of Energy and Oregon’s Chief EV Officer Ashley Horvat. It’s been a long time in the making but now you can travel EV along the entire length of I-5 in Oregon. And soon, along the coast as well.

Here are some pictures:IMG_2487


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New River ACEC

New River ACEC

We’ve visited the New River (a river which runs north behind the foredunes and tidal zone along about ten miles of the Coos/Curry coast) many times before, both at Floras Lake near where the river begins and at Storm Ranch about five miles north.

Recently we decided to try the other two entrances to this 1100 acre Bureau of Land Management Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC). The New River area has been set aside because of its biodiversity. (It includes sand dunes, pine forest, wetlands, meadows and shrubland as well as an abandoned cranberry bog!) Portions of the foredunes are off limits from March 15 through September 15 to protect nesting snowy plovers. We’ve spotted bald and golden eagles, Aleutian cackling geese, terns and otters.

This time we took the Lost Lake Trail which is accessed just south of Bandon in Laurel Grove. The trail leads to a quiet small lake dotted with lilies and snags and in shallow areas, contains a wetland. The lake is edged with spruce. Beyond the lake the trail continues through steep dunes to the New River.

The second trail we followed was a short one (only one-quarter mile), on the northern side of Four Mile Creek. It passes among large beach homes, through a shrubby archway and a meadow, covered in yellow composites. In winter this can often turn to an impassible wetland. There are huge pieces of redwood driftwood on the eastern side of the river at Four Mile Creek. Perhaps they were stranded when the New River was formed after the Great Flood of 1890.

There are many freshwater lakes separated from the ocean by foredunes and a steep beach around here. Most are the result of migrating sand dunes which close off creeks or valleys, impounding and collecting fresh water behind them. While fairly common on the southern coast, it is always a surprise to come on a lake from whose shore I can hear and often see the ocean.


© SR Euston

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It’s about a four hour drive from our place on the southern Oregon coast to Eureka, California, where our daughter, son-in-law and three grandchildren (Boys 14, 11 and 8) live with a dog, a cat, five chickens and a duck, all on a kind of urban farm. We are spending Thanksgiving in Eureka this year, a “To Grandmother’s house we go” in reverse. As we leave on Wednesday, the weather in Oregon has just opened up after a storm. By the time we reach our daughter’s place in Eureka the skies have cleared. This holiday weekend has materialized the kind of weather residents of the wet and green northwest coast  take solace in.  Afternoons in the 60s, the evenings a bit chilly but the air full of remembrances of harbor and sea and winds and douglas fir and redwood forest. This wonderful weather imparts a holidayish patina, a warm autumnal mood  as we sit down to fresh turkey, fresh cranberries from our own Curry County,  and about ninety accoutrements of a good Thanksgiving feast.


This slide show is a sort of travel log of this Thanksgiving weekend,  beginning with shots of the rugged Curry County coast, then down Highway 101, the Redwood Highway, to Eureka. It includes a few family pictures, but features lots of photos of a picture packed place called the “North Jetty”.


The Humboldt South and North jetties, massive linear rock filled projections into the ocean,  protect vessels entering Humboldt Bay from notoriously dangerous Pacific storms. But more to the point for our son-in-law Tim, the North Jetty is a favorite surfing destination, and rolling long period waves are out the afternoon of our visit, as were wet-suited surfers out for a sporting chance at some pretty decent waves, peaking at 15′ or more. Tim has brought us here to find what we will.


The North Jetty is an a photographic puzzle.  Several other photographers were out, kneeling, craning necks, searching for a certain angle. But many who were carrying cameras seemed uninspired. For me, it  was my first real opportunity to shoot large waves from a side angle, as opposed from straight on from shore, opening up possibilities especially for B/W, emphasizing  the sinuous, emergent power of the long period swells. But equally interesting is the jetty itself. To exploit this subject, one must like geometry.

Contrasted with the oceanic rolls and swells and wave crashes, the jetty is one solid piece of Corps of Engineers construction, including seemingly randomly placed hulking concrete structures looking a bit like giant jacks—like the kind kids once and maybe still do play with. The camera sees shapes and forms and lines and mass in all this. And that is just the beginning, because all this solidity frames a churning kinetic sea.

On our return trip, we stopped in Arcata, and while Ann and Dawn shopped, I came across a couple of urban shots that ratcheted down the drama of waves into in a quiet mood of a dwindling late November day.   SR Euston  All Photos Copyrighted

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After weeks of unusual mostly dry weather, winter rain finally arrived on the Southern Oregon Coast. Storms began to roll in last week and by Tuesday, a day we had to travel north, rain began to fall in earnest.

Thursday, Port © AME

Wednesday weather’s was a nightmare forecast—slashing rain, storm force winds with gusts to 100 mph (!) at Cape Blanco, worst where we would heading—into a south wind down oceanside US 101. Areas of particular concern? Ours: Bandon, Port Orford and Gold Beach. The national weather service’s computerized robovoice warned: Don’t drive, Watch for road debris, Stay off area beaches (high surf, 25+ foot breakers) and jetties. Oh and BTW, surfing and swimming not recommended. (No joke, the computer said that too.)

Flooded Dunes © AME

Taking a chance, we returned. And yes, there were gale force winds on US 101. At Reedsport, we saw half a trailer house in transit, blown over on its side off the road, plastic sheeting waving, tires in the air. By the Sixes River valley the rain was sheeting toward the car as we headed directly into the wind. Cresting the next hill (at the Cape Blanco turnoff) it wasn’t at all hard to imagine 100 mph gusts just six miles west. Entering Port Orford, the Hazardous Winds Next 27 Miles if Flashing sign’s lights were definitely blinking. Stan couldn’t feel his hands for clutching the steering wheel.

Griffs Sandbagged © AME

We headed directly to the port to see if the parking lot was underwater, another of the worst-case predictions. Nope, but all was dark and quiet. Turns out all the dock businesses had sandbagged and left, literally turning off the lights (the electricity had been disconnected) behind them.

Once home, the County Sheriff’s Wednesday morning robomessage phone alert (a first) underscored the storm’s potential. All told we got close to nine inches of rain, over seven of it Wednesday.

Today, we hit the beach to view another high surf event, 25-30 foot breakers. Right now it’s sunny. But we’re just between the acts. We’re supposed to get rain for the next seven days.

It’s beginning to look like winter in Oregon.

Thursday Mists at the Port © AME

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In Part 1 (posted July 14) Stan laid out the terrain as we understand it regarding the Curry County Commission’s eyeing Floras Lake State Natural Area (FLNA) for private development. Here’s the next chapter:

At the July 20th Oregon Recreation and Parks Department (ORPD) Commission meeting in Bandon, lots of concerned folks showed up, voicing their desire that State Parks NOT give up this priceless piece of our coastal wildland. Others (including us) sent in written comments. In mine I pointed out that ORPD’s own plan for Floras Lake includes this: “One of the most highly desired and growing recreational opportunities statewide and along the southern coast is remote, natural areas with relatively low usage and few facilities.  This park provides that setting and should continue to do so.” (From: Recreation Needs – Floras Lake State Natural Area, P. 56 of ORPD Master Plan for Curry County Parks, Floras Lake Natural Area, 2003).

I was glad to receive written reassurance from Chris Havel, ORPD’s Assistant Director, that the process was just beginning and that, “We’re a long way from making a decision on this.” Phew.

Still…it seems the topic hasn’t moved to the Commission’s back burner. Commissioner Rhodes continues, as we understand it, to pursue his unilateral request, made with little or no Commission discussion much less public input, to transfer Cape Blanco Airport (embedded in FLNA) from FAA to County management. And he has scheduled three “town hall” style meetings to present his idea: At 5:30 pm Monday August 15 in Gold Beach at the Fairgrounds’ Showcase Building; at the Port Orford Public Library 5:30 pm August 16; and at the Chetco Library in Brookings the following Monday, August 22 at 5:30 pm. At least, the whole scheme may finally face the light of day.

It’s critical that the Commissioners hear loud and clear that local residents from Brookings to Langlois do not want to lose this priceless piece of coastal wildland. So, please attend and present your opinions at your local town hall.

It’s also important that ORPD continue to hear our voices. You can send comments directly to Chris Havel at ORPD: chris.havel at state.or.us.

If you haven’t been to Floras Lake/Blacklock Point recently I’ve repasted this slideshow to remind you of what’s at stake:

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Saturday afternoon brings a wonderful surprise: a visit to the Connie Hansen Garden. Barely a block off US 101, we enter a far-from-the-madding-crowd acre of magnificent botanica, the culmination of one woman’s gardening dreams.

In 1973, Connie Hansen moved north from California (her home place was being converted to a BART station) to Lincoln City. Over the next 20 years she capitalized on the area’s cool damp climate to convert her original property (as well adjacent land she purchased) on a then-quiet beach town’s residential street into her own little piece of paradise—filling it with her particular favorites: specimen rhododendron, azalea, Japanese iris and maples, and primula, aka primroses.

Rhododendron Bloom © SR Euston

The day we visit this free public garden, it’s a glorious window of warm, bright, high spring June weather. It feels like everything is in bloom: purple and white lupine, azaleas of every hue (there’s one that’s a brilliant, profusely red-flowered ground cover in a rock garden), azure forget-me-nots, buttercups, columbine (two shades of purple/blue and a very unusual triple), pink Dutchman’s breeches, foxglove, and a positively bizarre primrose called “candelabra primrose” which my friend describes as “discs of flowers on a stalk.” The rhododendrons are in full glory. Their colors run the gamut from the merest hint of pink, through scarlet, rouge to magenta, to downright purple. There’s even one that’s white with a remarkable purple bleed. Miniature to towering, their colors burst across the winding grass paths and stream which meanders through the property, framing the miniature vistas for which artfully planned and designed gardens are so well known. Scattered in strategic locations are stone and teak benches where a visitor can sit for a moment or more, soaking in the remarkable scene.

Connie Hansen Garden

The Garden is now the work of  a nonprofit Conservancy, who run a small gift shop and bookstore, offer plants cultivated onsite, and maintain an extensive botanical library. They welcome small parties, including weddings, in the old main house. Volunteers lead guided tours on Tuesdays and Saturdays from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm. Every other day any visitor is invited to wander the garden, at 1931 NW 33rd Street, from dawn until dusk. It’s free but donations are gratefully accepted.

So be sure to check out the Hansen Garden. It’s a true gift from Connie and her friends. For more information visit: www.conniehansengarden.com/

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On the map, Lincoln City looks like an extended, skinny strip, bordered on the west by the ocean, on the east by Devil’s Lake.

Lincoln City Map Courtesy of visittheoregoncoast.com

On the ground, that turns out to be true. As in many a beach town, US 101 (the main drag) spools out in a dizzying array of Mexican fast food, chowder houses, pizzerias, motels, salt water taffy, teeshirt, souvenir, and other beach paraphernalia shops.  There’s even an outlet mall.

It’s the sunset end to a long, lovely Friday. The best weekend weather forecast so far this year beckons. The town is beginning to fill with excited beach goers. There’s too much traffic; my head hurts.

After about six miles of this tourism writ large, we turn west into Lincoln City’s northern most section, “Road’s End”, where the cottage we’ve rented is located. Less than a block later we enter a dense hillside village of crowded together, mostly very large, homes. At the top of the hill the houses are the tallest, climbing into the sky in multistoried splendor, reaching for an ocean view. As we head down toward the beach the houses lessen in stories, but not much in scale. We fly right by our own dirt road turnoff as we gawk at the sheer mass of housing around us.

The road dead ends into Road’s End Wayside Park, a beach access point. There are SUVs, cars, vans, motorcycles and three school buses parked: The buses’ back seats are filled with sleeping bags and luggage. There are a lot of folks on the beach itself.

We head back up the hill, slowly scanning the numbered homes. Finally we find ours, undoubtedly the district’s very very very smallest. It’s a blue, oddly shaped single room with tiny bath. It used to be a studio we’re told later by our host. It’s charming, in a slightly dated, completely beachy sort of way.

“Is this how the Jersey shore looked in the 60s?” Stan asks later.

I think of the packed beach. Yup. Our place reminds me of Avon’s little wooden cottages. The salt water taffy and beach blanket emporiums? Oh yeah. Still…those giant second homes? An outlet mall? Not so much. “Sorta,” I reply. “Only more so.”

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Last week we took a trip north to Lincoln City. Just 200 miles, with only three large towns along the way, we managed to take ten hours getting there.

Carter Lake Rhododendrons © SR Euston

We don’t screech to a halt at every roadside tourist attraction though there are plenty. Instead, our weakness is the natural places—parks and waysides. And there are plenty of them too from Port Orford to Lincoln City.

Muriel Ponsler SSV © SR Euston

On other trips we’ve stopped at every wayside from Cape Blanco to Oregon Sand Dunes National Recreation Area just north of Florence. Today we made only a brief visit to Carter Lake to take an up-close look at the Dunes and the ocean.

Neptune SSV © SR Euston

It was a gorgeous day, warm and sunny. Rhododendrons bloomed in a wild profusion of purple and pink and white. Foxgloves, lupine, iris, and tansies lined the roadsides. And of course in so many places the central Oregon coast line itself is spectacular and beach accessible.

To give you a sense of our choices: There are 22 public recreation areas between Florence and Lincoln City, including three lighthouses (Heceta Head, just north of Florence, is said to be the West Coast’s most photographed lighthouse), four interpretive centers (including the spanking new Beaver Pond State Natural Area), multiple campgrounds, and pullouts too numerous to count.

Bob Creek © SR Euston

We stopped at six separate areas between mileposts 175.4 and 166.9 (mileposts head north to south). Each offered a separate experience of the Oregon Coast’s wild beauty.

Capt. Cook Trail, Cape Perpetua © SR Euston

At Muriel Ponsler State Scenic View we walked a long sand and cobble beach. At Rock Creek Campground we meandered up a damp creekside trail among magnificent old Douglas firs.  At Bob Creek Beach Access we ate lunch at a grassy overlook we shared with other sun-seeking diners. At Cummins Ridge, we took a short hike on the only trail through the Cummins Ridge wilderness. At Neptune we walked down steep wood stairs to the beach below. And at Cape Perpetua we toured the interpretative center, hiked down the bluff and checked out some tide pools.

All this, mind you, in less than ten miles. So much to see, so little time.

For maps and more information see: www.visittheoregoncoast.com

Tidepools, Cape Perpetua

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