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Oregon South Coast

The southern 150 miles of Highway 101 covers an amazing range of coastal features, in addition to the Siskiyou National Forest, which is found to the east of the highway for 80 miles. Coos Bay is the largest ocean port in Oregon, a shipping way-station for lumber and other resource materials. The city is located on Coos Bay, with North Bend and Charleston to the north and south respectively. Charleston is the historic community, looking like a typical New England seaport village, only it's here on the Pacific Coast. The communities are just south of the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area.

Headlands & Beaches

As Highway 101 leads south from Coos Bay, the Cape Arago Highway (State Route 240) provides a loop drive to the coast and several natural attractions. The route passes the Charleston Boat Basin and the historic downtown area, before the junction with Seven Devil's Road, which leads south to the South Slough Estuarine Reserve. The reserve is probably the Oregon Coast's best point to observe waterfowl in great numbers. Ten miles from Highway 101, Bastendorff County Park has a large campground plus day-use facilities, including picnic areas perched overlooking the ocean. Sunset Bay State Park also features camping and picnicking. The large campground is one of the facilities using the state parks reservations during the summer months: 800-452-5687 (in-state and out of Portland), or (503) 731-3411 (in Portland and out of state).

Shore Acres Botanical Gardens State Park is a memorial and tribute to Louis Simpson, a real-life timber baron who built an estate on the property. The mansions are gone (one burned, the other was torn down), but the extensive gardens remain and are open to the public, ablaze during evening hours with a multitide of more than 150,000 lights twinkling during the winter holidays. The park has a storm shelter on a scenic ocean viewpoint, and you can pick up a portion of the Oregon Coast Trail in the park.

Cape Arago State Park -- on the same loop road -- has a trail which leads north along a ridge where sea lions and seals are seen on the rocks that comprise the Oregon Island National Wildlife Refuge. This portion of the shoreline is noted for its fierce winter winds and ranging surf, and this park is probably the best place to see winter storms. Storm-watching has become an important annual event for many visitors, who come to experience the brutal effects of the wildest of Pacific seasons. The park has picnic areas.

The Cape Arago Highway returns to join Highway 101. Bullard's Beach State Park has a large campground with full and electrical hookups for RVs and trailers, plus tenting sites, and a few yurts in which to stay. The park also has hiker-biker and horse campsites, and includes four miles of beach with dunes and forest, with access to the Coquille River north jetty and lighthouse. The campground is open year-round and reservations are not required.

The town of Bandon is another cheese-lovers' haven, with a factory producing distinctive cheddars. There is a retail store on Highway 101. South of town is the Beach Loop Drive, passing Bandon Rocks, a small wayside picnic park, and Bandon State Park. There is no camping along this road but the beaches are fine and generally uncrowded, with an impressive display of offshore rocks.

Other, smaller, parks lie to the south along Highway 101. The road to Cape Blanco is found 26.5 miles south of Bandon. Located five miles west of Highway 101, Cape Blanco State Park has a campground, and a lighthouse located at the westernmost point in Oregon. The campground has electrical hookups, hiker-biker areas, and a horse camp. Inside the park is the historic Hughes House, built for a pioneer family in 1898. Tours of the home are available from May to September: Thursday to Monday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and on Sundays from noon to 4 p.m.

South of the small town of Port Orford, Humbug Mountain State Park offers a three-mile hiking trail to the summit of the mountain, at an elevation of 1,750 feet. Another trail links the park campground (no reservations necessary) and picnic areas. Rogue River Country

The southern end of the Oregon Coast is a combination of Oregon and California landscape. The Siskiyou Mountains touch the sea for much of the last 40 miles, with the Klamath Range slightly inland. In the center of this forest area is the small town of Gold River. This is where the Rogue River reaches the sea, after tumbling down the mountain slopes from its source, a series of springs near Crater Lake. Brookings and Harbor, two towns on either side of the mouth of the Chetco River, are close to the California border.

There's a unique mix of vegetation found in southwestern Oregon, including redwoods which have sneaked into the state from nearby California, myrtle, and huge Douglas-firs. You can experience this ecosystem by visiting Loeb State Park, located inland from the town of Brookings. The park was created to preserve a grove of virgin myrtle trees. A short trail follows the Chetco River through the extremely dense grove, and leads to a Forest Service trail that climbs through a grove of tall Douglas-firs and then into a coast redwood forest. These trees are at the north end of their range. It's easy to see why early explorers of this region dreamed of the legendary Sasquatch, or Bigfoot, living in these incredibly dense and moist forests.

The town of Gold Beach is named for the gold discovered here in the mid-1800s. The town offers camping, ocean and river fishing, and the famous jet boats which take visitors up the Rogue for an unforgettable trip. They are successors to the early mail boats which ran mail and supplies to mining and lumber camps along the river. Today, the Wild and Scenic Rogue is protected, from Lobster Creek, about ten miles upriver, to Grants Pass. The Illinois River, which flows into the Rogue just downstream from the wilderness reserve, is also part of the Wild and Scenic River system. It is classified as wild for 30 miles, and another 18 miles is classed as scenic. Both rivers are descended by rafters and kayakers.

Rogue River Trail

The Rogue is a prime rafting river, and the Siskiyou National Forest's Rogue River Trail is one of the best ways to experience the Oregon wilderness, while catching the historical flavor of the area, as it parallels the river from near Grants Pass to a point about 31 miles from Gold Beach. The trail is 40 miles long.

To get there, drive along U.S. Highway 101 to the town of Gold Beach. Take Jerry's Flat Road (also known as Forest Road 33), along the south side of the Rogue River for 31 miles, past the little river resort community of Agness, and onward past a river crossing. After crossing the bridge, turn right and continue upriver for another four miles. The trailhead is located at Illahe, near Illahe Lodge.


Oregon Destinations

Crater Lake National Park

Oregon North Coast

Oregon South Coast

Oregon Dunes



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