dunes are not made of just sand. There is water, coming
down from the mountains, emptying into the ocean and
creating marshy estuaries which harbor waterbirds and
amphibians, among many other animals. The snowy plover,
an endangered shorebird, counts on the availability of
ocean debris, including driftwood, on sand spits near the
river mouths, in order to breed. The osprey, found along
the length of the dunes, rests on dead trees buried by
the dunes. The great egret lives along banks, where the
rivers meet the ocean.
host of native plants grow on the dunes, now in threat of
being overshadowed by the imported beach grass. Trees
include the little shorepine, a type of lodgepole pine,
that grows on windy knolls of sand. In more sheltered
places, you'll find Douglas-fir, Sitka spruce, western
hemlock and western red cedar. The abundant Scotch broom,
seen in many places along the coastal highway, is not a
native. It too was brought into Oregon to stabilize the
sand during roadbuilding.
is clearly not a wilderness preserve. There are too many
people around for that, and the entire dunes area is,
after all, a national recreation area. But there are
sections of the dunes where a person may climb to the top
of a high dune, look around, and see no one else, with
the sea and mountains providing stirring backdrops. In
this coastal area of Oregon -- a much touristed region,
where the primeval wilderness disappeared before 1900 --
this is as good as it gets, and it's a fine
to Get There
dunes are found south of Florence and north of the
neighboring communities of Coos Bay, Charleston and North
Bend. The Siuslaw River marks the northern boundary of
the dunes, at Florence. The Umpqua River flows into
Winchester Bay and the ocean, at the town of Reedsport,
halfway along the stretch of dunes.
find the recreation area headquarters and information
center located west of Highway 101, in Reedsport. For
information on dunes facilities and recreational
opportunities, contact: Oregon Dunes National Recreation
Area, 855 Highway Avenue, Reedsport OR 97467, or call
(541) 271-3611. Off-road vehicle permits can be obtained
at this office.
Highway 101, the coastal highway leading north from
California, provides the main link to the National
Recreation Area trails, viewpoints, campgrounds, and
of the dune area are open to off-road vehicles. Rental
shops are located at several points along the highway,
and in the towns. South Jetty Road, across the river from
Florence, leads to a popular off-road staging area.
Campgrounds in the stretch between Florence and Coos Bay
(on and off the dunes) are operated by the recreation
area, the state parks department, and the Siuslaw
National Forest, which manages the dunes area. Many
campgrounds are open year round.
of Florence, the mountains move inland. The dunes lie
along the coast, with the estuaries of three major river
valleys connected by two long stretches of sand. This 40
miles of dunescape is made accessible at many points
along Highway 101. To provide some organization for a
tour of the dunes, the following attractions are listed
from north to south, including several commercial
attractions which appeal to families.
101 leads south across the Siuslaw River Bridge. Less
than a mile from the bridge, South Jetty Road runs west
to the foredune area. This is a popular place for
off-road vehicles (ORV), and windsurfers are fond of
testing the winds off the south jetty.
miles south of the Siuslaw bridge, Sandland offers
four-wheel ORV rentals, or a guide will take you on a
tour of the dunes. You'll find other amusements here,
including bumper boats, go-carts, and miniature
Honeyman State Park
year-round, this 522-acre park includes three lakes:
Woahink (on the east side of the highway), Cleawox, and
Lilly. There is a large year-round camping operation,
suitable for tents, trailers and RVs, and it includes
several yurts. Day-use facilities are based on Cleawox
lake, including rental boats, a store, picnic areas and
swimming beaches. A trail around this lake is wheelchair
accessible. There are boat ramps, as well as picnic areas
and swimming at Woahink Lake.
is another commercial "theme park," offering open-air bus
tours of the dunes, dune buggy rides, and ORV rentals.
Also included are miniature golf, a shooting gallery, a
nature trail, and the usual refreshment stand.
small lake lies east of the highway, with camping at Tyee
Campground. This small facility is operated by the
national recreation area. The short road leads on to the
Westlake Post Office and boat ramp.
is part of the national recreation area. On the east side
of the highway, you'll find hiking trails leading to
Siltcoos Lake. There are six walk-in campsites beside the
lake. On the west side, the road runs past four
campgrounds: Lagoon, Waxmyrtle, Lodgepole, and Driftwood.
This is off-road vehicle country and the campgrounds are
popular with the dune buggy crowd, but there are dune
trails where only walkers are allowed. The road comes to
an end near the beach.
is another Oregon Dunes NRA campground, more primitive
than the state park campgrounds, but suitable for cars
and RVs. As with the other NRA campgrounds, this one has
trails leading through the dunes. Many people just take
off on their own cross-country explorations.
find the overlook nine miles south of Florence. A park
road leads .25 mile to a parking lot. Viewing from the
overlook is one of the best ways to get a feel for this
vast area. Stairs, and an 80-foot wheelchair ramp, lead
to the high viewing platform for a panoramic look at
miles of dunes. A marked one-mile trail across the dunes
leads through a shorepine grove to the beach.
Lake -- Boat Ramp and Landing
boat ramp is found along the highway, three miles south
of the overlook. A half-mile farther south is a
medium-size campground and another boat ramp. This is a
popular stop for anglers, but there is no drinking water
at the campground. A larger campground is located across
Highway 101, operated by the Oregon Dunes NRA, including
a wheelchair-accessible fishing pier.