Monday, January 4, 2010

The Oregon Coast

Time to get started on some of my Oregon trips. Since we've taken so many trips there, this blog will just be about some of the places we've been to along the Oregon coast. My parents and brother's family moved back to the Wilamette Valley (Dallas, Oregon) when I got married and left me in St. Louis. For the next 33 years, my husband and I (and our kids) made this our main vacation every year. Although we stayed with my parents most of the time, we would venture off for a few days each year and see different parts of Oregon. Quite often we headed 30 miles due west of Dallas to the mid-coast area of Lincoln City. We would usually stay somewhere between Lincoln City and Depoe Bay, but we did travel the whole length of the Oregon coast a few times. For this blog, I'll start in the far north and work my way south.

Astoria--This charming little town is full of historic Victorian homes overlooking the coast and mouth of the Columbia River. Just north of the town is the 4.1 mile long Astoria Bridge which goes over the Columbia River to Washington. Fishing for salmon, sturgeon, and crab are very popular here as well as exploring the shops and galleries along the Riverwalk area.

Just south of Astoria is Fort Clatsop State Park. Fort Clatsop was the winter encampment for the Corps of discovery from December 1805 to March 1806, led by Lewis and Clark. Because of all the pacific northwest rain, the original camp quickly decayed after they left. The National Park Service now maintains a replica fort within the Lewis and Clark National Historical Park that is believed to sit on or near the site of the original fort. It was interesting walking among the small buildings and seeing the small quarters in which the explorers lived. Average height of men back then was about 5'4", although both Lewis and Clark were both over 6' tall. The quarters were definately built for the smaller in stature. The center now features ranger-led programs, re-enactors in the fort and trailheads for the Fort To Sea Trail and Netul River Trail as well as restrooms and a picnic area. Admission is only about $3 @ and is good for a week. It was an interesting way to learn a little history.

A little farther south in Hugs Point State Recreation Site. We did stop here a time or 2 and explored the caves and beach associated with it. Before the highway was built, stagecoaches traveled on the beach. North of the parking area you can still walk along the original trail carved into the point by the stagecoaches. The wayside was named after this trail because it hugs the point. We weren't there at high tide so we were able to get around the point and explore, but when the tide comes in, the trail can be underwater.

Just another view at Hugs Point. There was no fee for this park.

The "road" carved into the rocks for stagecoaches and cars back in the early 1900's.

Not far from Hugs Point is the town of Seaside. This is a popular tourist town with it's 1.8-mile long ocean front Promenade, carousel, arcades, miniature golf, bumper cars and boats, tilt-a-twirl, paddle boats, canoes, eateries, .... and even---surfing.

Yes, Angie talked us into letting her take a surfing lesson here one time. The surf shop provided the wet suit and the instructor went out with her for a couple of hours while we watched from the shore. She even made it up to a standing position on the board a couple of times and didn't even get eatten by any great white sharks!

A little farther south the highway heads up and up. Not too far from Tillimook is Three Capes Scenic Drive. Along the route are some lookouts and hiking trails. This is just one of the views along this drive.

Tillamook Cheese!---the best cheddar cheese in the world. The Tillamook County Creamery Association is a 101 year old farmer-owned dairy cooperative. In 1979, an expanded Visitor's Center was opened to the public, offering an observation area, an educational slide show, a museum, a deli and fudge counter, and an ice cream counter. We use to make a point of bringing Tillimook cheddar cheese back to St. Louis with us everytime we vacationed in Oregon.

The first time we went there, the cheese was made manually. It was really interesting watching from the viewing platform and seeing all the stages that go into making cheese. As their popularity gained, it became necessary for them to go with automation. In 1990, they made a new cheesemaking room and transitioned to a new, fully automated cheddaring system, known as the “Cheddarmaster.”

A mixture of dairy cow breeds, starting with Holstein-Friesians and complemented by Jerseys, Brown Swiss and Guernseys, gives the blend of butterfat and protein components that is perfect for making the best cheeses in the world. The fresh, cold milk passes through the heat-exchanging pasteurizer. The milk is then sent on to the cooking vats. Starter culture is added to produce lactic acid. For cheddar cheese, a natural coloring from the Annatto seed is added. Then a material is added to coagulate the milk into curds. After about 30 minutes, the vat of milk is ready. A soft curd, made up of casein, a naturally occurring milk protein, forms. Large stainless-steel knives are used to cut the soft curd mass into ¼-inch pieces. The temperature in the cooking vat is then raised to about 100° F to aid in firming the curd and releasing liquid from the curd particles. This liquid, called “whey,” contains milk sugar, minerals and water-soluble milk proteins. When the curd has reached a satisfactory texture, the curds and whey are pumped to the Cheddarmaster unit where the whey is drained. The curd is matted on a six-foot-wide belt inside the Cheddarmaster. When the proper acidity is reached in the curd, the cheddar mat is forced through the curd mill, which chops the large slabs into small, three-inch-long bits. These loose curd chunks are then passed through a salting chamber inside of which each curd is dusted with a thin layer of crystalline salt. After 30 minutes in the pressing towers, 40-pound cheese blocks are cut from the base of the towers and placed in laminated plastic bags where they are then cured for a minimum of 60 days.

Although this is all done automatically now, they still have an area where they do it manually so visitors can see how it use to be done.

Also in Tillamook is a unique air museum. In 1942, the U.S. Navy began construction of 17 wooden hangars to house the K-class blimps being used for anti-submarine coast patrol and convoy escort. Two of these hangars were built at the Naval Air Station Tilllamook, commissioned in December 1942 to serve the Oregon-Washington coastal area. 8 K-ships, 252 feet long and filled with 425,000 cu. ft. of helium, were stationed there until it was decommissioned in 1948. One hanger burned down in 1992, the remaining hangar was made into one of the top five privately owned aircraft collections in the nation.

They have accumulated quite a collection of old airplanes with over 30 War Birds, including a P-38 Lightning, F4U-Corsair, P51-Mustang, PBY Catalina and SBD Dauntless dive bomber, as well as other aviation artifacts. This car and trailer gives a little perspective of just how big this hanger is.

From Tillamook the coastal highway goes inland for quite aways. That's why we usually went south from Lincoln City where highway 101 stayed within view of the ocean most of the way. There are a couple of interesting places inland between Tillamook and Lincoln City, though. There's a large dunes area with recreational ATV rentals, as well as the neat little town of Pacific City. On occassion we did go play on the sand dunes there.
On to Lincoln City. It is nestled between seven miles of sandy beaches and a 680 acre scenic lake, Devil's Lake, right at the center of the Oregon Coast. With it's fifteen public beach accesses, a huge outlet mall, a casino, galleries, boutiques, ... , it's a great place to base an Oregon coast vacation.

Lincoln City was voted the "Kite Capital of the World" because of it's steady winds unique to it's location on the 45th parallel. Kite companies use to bring huge kites to the beach for display and we would watch them fly for hours. Here Angie is about to try her luck with the typical basic kite that every kid had at one time or another.

Although the beaches and scenary are beautiful, it certainly isn't the sunbathing, water enjoying kind of place that Hawaii or Florida is. Even in summer we usually had coats or sweatshirts on. But the varied scenary all along the coast made it a great place to explore over and over again.

Just east of Lincoln City is Devil's Lake. They even had a bumper boat place on one side of the lake. The kids had a blast doing that a couple of times. I'm not sure if that is still there.

Devils Lake is 1/3 mile wide, 3 miles long, and only reaches a depth of about 22 feet. There are nine species of freshwater fish there. Ken and the kids tried their luck fishing there a few times, but never seemed to have any luck. Flowing from Devils Lake is the "D" River, which holds the title of the "World's Shortest River". From its source at Devils Lake, the river reaches its destination of the Pacific in a mere 120 feet.

Entering into Lincoln City, you can try your luck at Chinook Winds Casino, Oregon's premier Casino. Owned and operated by the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians of Oregon, the spirit of the Tribe is captured in the decor of the facility. It opened in 1995. The casino is a Las Vegas-style facility with more than 1,100 slot machines, along with keno, bingo, craps, roulette, blackjack and poker.  There are also convention venues and 3 dining areas within the complex. 

Near the south end of Lincoln City is the Tanger Outlet Mall for the shoppers.

Built in 1914 just south of Lincoln City and only 1.5 miles from the coast, this bridge was considered the oldest remaining covered bridge in Oregon until excessive rot and insect damage had weakened the bridge to a dangerous level and it had to be taken down in 1997. I always enjoyed going to it and wandering around the creek bed.

Jan. 2012--- I was just told that it was moved to a home near Bear Creek.

Siletz Bay National Wildlife Refuge is located just south of Lincoln City along US Highway 101.
The estuary was made when the salt marsh was diked to provide pasture for dairy cows. This 100-acre tidal marsh was later turned into a refuge with the primary ecological goal to allow the salt marsh to return to its natural tidally influenced state. This is along the north edge of the bay right behind one of our favorite coastal restaurants, Mo's.

Mo's! Mohava Marie Niemi opened her first Mo's in 1940. Now there are 6 locations. Demand for Mo’s Clam Chowder resulted in The Chowder Factory which produces about 500,000 pounds of clam chowder a year, some packaged and shipped to grocery stores and the rest delivered fresh to all the Mo’s Restaurants. Although the restaurant does have a reputation for it's chowder and
seafoods, it serves a whole range of foods from ribs, burgers, chicken, hotdogs, ... , to a large selection of beverages and desserts. A big part of the charm for me of this particular Mo's on the south end of Lincoln City is the location on the bay and the huge beach area to wander around on.
Continuing south on 101 takes you back up and off the beach. But the scenary is still outstanding. One of our favorite places to stay now on the Oregon coast is the Worldmark Resort just north of Depoe Bay. Set up on a cliff, it's a great place to watch the resident whales, or gaze out at the ocean, or just sit back and read a book.

Depoe Bay is a quaint little ocean town with a small marina and lots of tourist shops and restaurants. We've taken a few whale watching tours our of the marina there, but haven't been too impressed. Our whale viewing from the Worldmark resort has been much better and we didn't have to put up with crazy boat captains who seem more interested in trying to make passengers sick then looking for whales. But the town of Depoe Bay is a neat little town to wander around in. A huge sea wall runs the length of the downtown area allowing visitors to shop or dine always within view of the ocean. One of the really nice restaurants there is Tidal Raves with this fantastic view of the ocean from it's diningroom. We also really enjoy the Sea Hag and the Chowder Bowl across 101 from the ocean.

One of our favorite places to grab a bite to eat in Depoe Bay is the Chowder Bowl. 

Another of the many wayside parks along 101 is Boiler Bay. In 1910, an explosion sank the J. Marhoffer, and you can suposedly see the ship's boiler at low-tide, although we've never seen it. As with most of the parks in Oregon, there are hiking trails here. This is easy access from 101, so we frequently stop here on our way down the coast. Sometimes we even see whales or surfers in the waters here.

A few miles south of Depoe Bay 101 descends back down to the ocean. There are lots of places to pull off and get to the beach. Many times we have enjoyed playing on the Oregon beaches and even dipping our feet in the COLD ocean.

Another of our favorite stops along the central Oregon coast is just north of Newport, at Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area. The 93 foot tower was built in 1872 and is Oregon's tallest lighthouse. Today, it is fully automated running on commercial power and flashing its unique pattern of 2 seconds on, 2 seconds off, 2 seconds on, 14 seconds off, 24 hours a day. When we first started going here, it was just another free wayside park. Now it has an interpretive center, a tide pool area, hikes up the hill by the lighthouse, a walkway to the rocky "beach" by the lighthouse, and a Natural Area with coastal sea birds such as cormorants, murres, and guillemots, as well as harbor seals, sea lions and grey whales. There is now a $7/car 3 day pass fee to enter the area, but it's well worth it. On a couple occassions, we were there when the lighthouse was opened and we were able to go up in it.

Here is the tide pool area. At low tide it's fun to walk along the pathways and look in the tide pools. Along with lots of little fish, we often saw different colored star fish, anemones, and crabs in the tide pools.

This is the rocky "beach" area which has always intriqued us. We would sit for hours tossing the ocean tumbled rocks and watching them bounce in different directions on their way to the ocean. It was also interesting listening to the tide recede through the rocks with a clanking sound. Quite often there are even seals to watch off shore near the outcroppings of rocks.

Just south of Yaquina Head lighthouse is Newport. Newport is located on the central Oregon coast and has been a favorite tourist destination since the 1860s. Along with the rather large marina, there is a great beach, another lighthouse, a 29 Acre Oregon Coast Aquarium, Hatfield Marine Science Center, and Bay Boulevard tourist area, where restaurants, galleries, shops, and attractions such as Ripley's Believe it or Not,

 the Waxworks Museum

and the Undersea Gardens are side by side with working canneries and fish-packing plants.  Many of which are painted with fabulous murals on their outside walls.

I also enjoy wandering along the walkways of the marina looking at all the boats.

As well as fishing trips, crabbing trips are available, and many of the charter boats have facilities for cooking the crabs back at the docks, for an additional fee. Or you can rent crab traps from one of the bait shops and crab along the piers.

This bridge across the Yaquina River allows traffic on US Highway 101 to cross. To me it's a great photo-op.

Even from the other side of the bridge.

USA Today and Coastal Living Online have ranked the Oregon Coast Aquarium among the top ten aquariums in the United States. It's big claim to fame is that it housed Keiko, the orca from the movie Free Willy, from January 1996 until 9 September 1998. Admission is about $15/person, but is an interesting place to go.

Just down the street from the Oregon Coast Aquarium is the Hatfield Marine Science Center. At $0 admission, this is where we usually went instead of the Oregon Coast Aquarium. Located on Yaquina Bay in Newport, Oregon, the Visitor Center is the public wing of Oregon State University's Mark O. Hatfield Marine Science Center and is managed by Oregon Sea Grant. Exhibits feature live marine animals, interactive puzzles and games that demonstrate marine science concepts and other aspects of our amazing ocean planet. They even offer estuary guided tours.

Historic Yaquina Bay Lighthouse in Newport was built in 1871 and decommissioned in 1874. It was officially restored as a privately maintained aid to navigation on December 7, 1996. It is believed to be the oldest structure in Newport. It is also the only existing Oregon lighthouse with the living quarters attached and the only historic wooden Oregon lighthouse still standing. The Yaquina Bay Lighthouse is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Entrance is free with donations excepted. Being a period furnished building, it is well a donation to see it.

I was reminded that I didn't have the Rogue Brewery on here---so here it is!

 Now whenever I go to the Oregon coast, I have to bring back beer, cheese and t-shirts from the brewery.  The food is very good, too!

We haven't traveled south of Newport too much. Not that it isn't worth it, but when we're basing a 2 or 3 day stay out of the Lincoln City area, Newport is about as far south as we get on daytrips. But there are a couple of times we did travel south even though it wasn't too thoroughly.

Seal Rock is between Newport and Waldport and has a couple beautiful beaches associated with it. 

Another town with an estuary and wide beaches is Yachats. 
One of my favorite little waysides is north of the town of Florence on the Southern Oregon Coast and called Darlingtonia Wayside. The tiny park is centered on a peat bog that hosts an unusual concentration of the carnivorous California pitcher plant, or cobra lily - known by the botanical name Darlingtonia Californica. The 18-acre preserve is the only Oregon state park dedicated to the protection of a single plant species. The rare Darlingtonia plant is the only member of the pitcher plant family in Oregon. The tiny park also has picnic tables, water and restrooms. There is a short trail and boardwalk to the Darlingtonia colonies.
Florence is located on the Oregon Coast at the mouth of the Siuslaw River about the same latitude as Eugene, Oregon, and is approximately midway between the other major central Oregon coastal cities of Newport and Coos Bay. The few times we got this far south we didn't take the time to explore Florence---maybe next time.
Three miles south of Florence on scenic Highway 101 is the second largest overnight camp in the state, Jesse M Honeyman Memorial State Park. There are two miles of sand dunes between the park and the ocean. It is just north of the 40 miles stretch of dunes knows as the Oregon Dunes Nationalal Recreation Area. Two natural freshwater lakes are within the park. Cleawox -- which is great for swimming -- and Woahink, which has a public boat ramp, is used for all water sports. We rented a paddle boat one time and enjoyed paddling around the lake. There is a dayuse fee for this park but it's well worth it at $5. Camping and yurt rentals are also available here.

Yurts! They're round, filled with comfy furniture, and pointy on top. They're a quickly-growing national phenomenon that broke in to the public camping scene right here in Oregon. With 14 coastal parks with yurts and 4 inland parks with yurts, they're a great alternative to camping. You bring your own bedding and dishes, but at $27-$30/night including electricity, they're a pretty good bargain. But they fill up fast so make reservations early.
Heceta Head lighthouse has the brightest light on the Oregon coast. It is also said to be the most photographed lighthouse in the United States. This picture is taken from the Sealion Caves. Built in 1894, it stands 205' above sea level. The Queen Anne style Heceta Head Keeper’s House has been restored to its original splendor and now serves as an Interpretive Center by day and a Bed and Breakfast by night. From the Keeper's house there are trails to the lighthouse and to the beach.
Just north of Florence or 38 Miles South of Newport are the Sealion Cave. The Sea Lion Cave is a natural home for wild sea lions and a variety of sea birds. The cave roars with the sound of the great Steller sea lions, the cries of the wailing birds, and the surge of the ocean. Admission is fairly steep at $12@, but when you consider it's a one of a kind place, it's worth going there at least once---at least when the sealions are in the cave.
Formation of the cavern began about 25 million years ago. It soars 12- stories high and stretches the length of a football field. Sea lions gather here during fall and winter. In spring and summer they breed and have their young on rock ledges just outside the cave.
Coos Bay is the largest city on the Oregon coast. The Coos Bay area is known for a variety of outdoor recreation opportunities, including a stepping off point for exploring the 6,000-acre Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area.

Shore Acres State Park is located on the Cape Arago Highway, 13 miles southwest of Coos Bay/North Bend and U. S. Highway 101. It began as a private estate with luxurious gardens featuring trees, shrubs, and flowering plants brought from around the world aboard the sailing ships of pioneer lumberman and shipbuilder Louis J. Simpson. In 1942, Simpson's beloved Shore Acres was purchased by the state of Oregon for use as a public park. A fully enclosed observation building now occupies the site where Simpson's mansion had been, offering spectacular views of rugged seascapes, towering storm waves, and glimpses of migrating whales from December through June.

Shore Acres has been designed to take advantage of the area's mild climate. They have created a "garden for all seasons" - with showy "peaks" of different kinds of flowers every time of the year. there is an admission fee, but I think it's only about $3---well worth the cost.

Located on the Southern Oregon Coast where the Coquille River meets the Pacific Ocean, Bandon, Oregon is 90 miles north of the California border, about a 90 minute drive to Interstate 5 at Roseburg, five hours by car from Portland and about nine hours from San Francisco. On one occassion we did spend a night here and would love to go back.

We were fortunate enough to have a beautiful sunset that night and I spent quite some time on the beach.

The monoliths on Bandon beach are quite impressive!

I've found that along the coast the sun often just disappears behind a bank of clouds and sunset isn't that spectacular. When you do happen upon an outstanding sunset, consider yourself fortunate!

OK, enough of the sunsets! You get the idea.

One more picture of one of the Bandon monoliths before continuing south.

A couple things I found really fascinating along the southern coast are the fields of Easter Lilies and the cranberry bogs. Unfortunately I didn't get pictures of them.
We did stop near the border of California and Oregon a couple of times and this is one of the waysides there.
I would love to spend more time on the southern Oregon coast, but since the whole Oregon coast stretches approximately 362 miles, it takes several trips to really experience all of it. There are over 80 state parks and recreation areas along the Oregon Coast. With 2 and 3-day trips from Dallas, that's not enough time to do it justice.

1 comment:

  1. What a great post. I love Oregon so much! But you forgot to tell everyone how amazing Rouge is! :) This is making me really excited for our trip this summer.