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Oregon Dunes
National Recreation Area

For nearly fifty miles, from the mouth of the Siuslaw, to Cape Blanco at Coos Bay, the largest area of dunes in the country lies between the Pacific Ocean and the Coast Mountains. In places, the dunes extend 2.5 miles inland, and some are as high as 500 feet. In 1972, 32,186 acres of dunes, forest, streams, and lakes were set aside as the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area.

The 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.

A 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.

This 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 experience.

How to Get There

The 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.

You'll 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.

U.S. Highway 101, the coastal highway leading north from California, provides the main link to the National Recreation Area trails, viewpoints, campgrounds, and other facilities.

Parts 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.

Exploring the Dunes

South 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.

Foredunes and South Jetty Road

Highway 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.

Sandland Adventures

Two 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 golf.

Jessie Honeyman State Park

Open 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.

Sand Dunes Frontier

This 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.

Siltcoos Lake

The 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.

Siltcoos Recreation Area

This 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.

Carter Lake Campground

This 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.

Oregon Dunes Overlook

You'll 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.

Tahkenitch Lake -- Boat Ramp and Landing

The 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.

Oregon South Coast Hotels

 In Agness

Lucas Pioneer Lodge
3904 Cougar Lane,, Agness, 541-247-7443
This old country inn is known for its relaxing atmosphere in the little river-side town along the Rogue River, in the midst of the Siskiyou National Forest. This is mainly a cabin operation, with a few rooms in the lodge building. Some cabins have kitchen facilities. There is a dining room which is noted for its tasty and filling down-home meals and its informal ambience. Agness is east of the town of Gold River, via Jerry's Flat Road and Agness Road.

In Bandon

Best Western Inn at Face Rock
3225 Beach Loop Road,
Bandon OR 97411, 541-347-9441 or 800-638-3092
This seaside resort is located on the beach, near Bandon's golf course. The large resort motel has ocean-view suites with kitchens and fireplaces, as well as standard rooms, a restaurant, whirlpool and horseback riding.

Bandon Beach Motel
1090 Portland Ave., Bandon
541-347-9451 or to9ll-free at 866-945-0133
A two-storey motel, at Coquille Point, it is perched atop a headland, looking down on a rugged beach and haystack rocks. There is access to the seashore. Rooms have fireplaces, and whirlpool baths.
This used to be the Goranm Motel, and now has new owners and a new name. It still has the same terrific view.

Sunset Oceanside Accommodations
1755 Beach Loop Drive, Bandon,
541-347-2453 or toll-free at 800-842-2407
When you call the Densmores, you'll be able to book motel units, cabins or condos, with a wide range of accommodations and prices. The buildings are perched just above a beach, and many rooms have oceran views. Facilities includea restaurant and lounge, microwave ovens, and whirlpool.

Sea Star Guesthouse
370 First Street, Bandon, 541-347-9632
This hostel-like guiesthouse is the place for those who desire basic accommodations and prefer a communal atmosphere. It's open to all ages, with a three family suites and three standard rooms, all with bath.

Bandon RV Park
935 2nd Street South East, Bandon, 541-347-4122
Bandon OR 97411, (541) 347-4122
This medium-sized RV and trailer park is on Highway 101, with 45 full hookup spaces and showers, 1/4 mile to Bandon's Old Town. Restaurants are nearby.

Robbins Nest RV Park
40934 Highway 101, Bandon, 541-347-2175
Lpocated three miles south of Bandon at Hwy. 101 and beach Loop Drive, with large pull-through sites and full hookups, plus a clubhouse, rest rooms and showers.

In Brookings-Harbor

Best Western Plus Beachfront Inn
16008 Boat Basin Road, P.O. Box 2729, Harbor OR 97415
541-469-7779 or toll-free reservations at 800-468-4081
This Best Western motor hotel is (as the name suggests) on the beach (in the fishing port area) with rooms, suites (with whirlpool baths) and kitchens. All rooms have refrigerators and microwave ovens. There is a swimming pool, whirlpool, and sundeck with a view.

Brookings Inn
1143 Chetco Avenue, Brookings, 542-813-1444
This medium-sized motel has standard units, suites, and a restaurant with lounge, also an indoor pool and whirlpool, a fitrness center/workout room. Located on Highway 101
.

Mt. Emily Ranch, Bed & Breakfast
99847 South Bank Chetco Road, Brookings, 541
-661-2134
This large log ranch house has two very large rooms, with baths, Free WiFi and satellite TV, Breakfasts are made fromm local produce and fresh farm eggs. This is a great placeto view a passing parade of wildlife. the ranch has 135 acres, ready for exploring.

In Gold Beach

Inn of the Beachcomber
29266 Ellensburg Ave. Gold Beach
541-247-6691 or toll-free at 888-690-2378
This medium-sized motel is on the beach, with good views, an indoor pool, and hot tub, with restaurants nearby.
The rates here are modest, as is the motel. Free breakfast.

Gold Beach Resort & Condominiums
1130 South Ellensburg,
Gold Beach OR 97444, (541) 247-7066 or 800-541-0947
This full-service, medium-sized resort operation has ocean-front units with balconies, plus condo-style accommodations. The rooms have queen and king beds, and refrigerators. VCRs and movies are available. There is a restaurant, an indoor swimming pool and whirlpool.

Ireland's Rustic Cottages & Gold Beach Inn
29346 Ellensburg Ave., Gold Beach
(541) 247-7718 or 877-447-3526
Located on the forest road which leads to Agness and Rogue RIver attractions, this is the side-by side operation of two quite different lodging operations. On the same property is a modern 50-room motel overlooking the river, with whirlpools and free coffee, and Ireland's Rustic Cottages, also beside the river, and offering private beach cabins, and vacation homes. the motel rooms and rustic cottages have great views of the woods and the river.
The motel and cabins have complimentary breakfast (French toast, etc.). Both have free WiFi available.

In Port Orford

Shoreline Motel
206 6th Street, Port Orford, 541-332-2903
This small motel is located at Battle Rock Beach, with standard rooms (microwave ovens), restaurant, and lounge.

Castaway-by-the-Sea Motel
545 West 5th Street, Port Orford, 541-332-4502
This resort sits on a bluff, above the sea, with standard rooms and also a one-bedroom suite and a condo-style suite. The standard rooms have two queen beds. The hotel is located one short block off Highway 101. It's pet friendly and you can walk your dog on the adjacent beach.

 

Oregon Destinations

Crater Lake National Park

Oregon North Coast

Oregon South Coast

Oregon Dunes


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