Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area

Wednesday I traveled about 40 miles north of where I had been staying in Glasgow (North Bend), Oregon to the town of Florence.  In that distance I only saw the ocean twice, briefly.  Not because of coastal fog.  Because of sand.

That 40 mile stretch comprises most of the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, part of the Siuslaw National Forest.  Huge sand dunes, some as high as 500 feet, stretch along the coast as far as the eye can see – and they block the view of the ocean from Highway 101.  I saw the ocean when I stopped to visit the Umpqua River Lighthouse and I saw it again when I climbed a wooden staircase to a viewing platform at the Oregon Dunes Day Use Observation Area.  After that I didn’t see it until I was well north of Florence at the Heceta Head Lighthouse.

Here is a 4-part view of a map covering the 40-mile stretch.





Some areas of the dunes are for people only – no OHV’s (Off Highway Vehicles) are permitted, but there are several large areas (with red dots) where people (with recreation permits) can take their own OHV’s, or they can rent them from several vendors in the area.  There are also companies which will take you on a ride, or will take large groups in huge dune buggy-type vehicles.



Parts of the dunes are temporarily off-limits to everyone to help protect the Snowy Plover while it is nesting:

Snowy_Plover audubon.org mike baird

(Photo credit: Mike Baird  audubon.org)

Here was what I saw from the Ocean Dunes Day Use Area.  This is a 3-shot panorama, looking left to right.  The people in the second photo are two adults running down the hill.  In the third photo there are several people of all ages.





When I left the Airbnb I was staying at on Thursday I noticed that there was a huge sand dune where the road I was on met Highway 101:


And here are two photos I found online:

Alottasand DinaPavlis

(Photo credit: Dina Pavlis  alottasand.com)

Oregon Sand thewandererschuckandkate blogspot

(Photo credit: thewandererschuckandkate.blogspot.com)


Umpqua River Lighthouse

Can you spot the lighthouse in this photo?


It isn’t where you’d expect it to be.  Need help?  About a third of the way in from the right, look straight down from the end of the rock jetty which extends out into the ocean.  There you’ll see the top of the Umpqua River Lighthouse.  And by the way, inside the “triangle” in the ocean at the center of the photo they farm mussels and oysters.


This lighthouse stands 61 feet tall and is located at a Coast Guard housing complex about a mile inland near the mouth of Winchester Bay, Oregon.  It is 165 feet above sea level. This is actually the second lighthouse near this location.  The first was built in 1857 but was destroyed by a flood in 1864, hence the decision to built the replacement further inland and on higher ground.  This one was commissioned in 1894 and is still operational.

A unique feature of this lighthouse is the light it emits.  Instead of a standard white beacon it has a partially colored lens and emits two white bursts of light, followed by a red one.




Here are photos I found online:

umpqua_rb lighthousefriends

(Photo credit:  lighthousefriends.com)

Here is the inside of the lens:

Umpqua-Lighthouse DennisSkogsbergh

(Photo credit & copyright: Dennis Skogsbergh)



Reedsport & Gardiner, Oregon

Wednesday on my way north from Glasgow to Florence I passed through these two towns which are located on opposite sides of the Umpqua River.

These were taken at a shipyard in Reedsport.  This appears to be a tugboat which is probably here for repairs or upgrades.




And I was told by someone who works here that this is a new ship being built for a customer:




Further up the road is the little town of Gardiner.  According to a sign along the highway a ship from Boston (owned by a man named Gardiner) ran aground near here in 1850.  Much of the cargo was successfully unloaded and this became known as “Gardiner’s town”.  A sawmill was built in 1864 and another was added in 1877, making Gardiner a very successful lumber port.  A major fire destroyed much of the town in 1880.  The town was rebuilt and from 1885-1916 was one of the busiest towns on the Oregon coast.  There is no longer a sawmill or lumber factory here but here is the town of Gardiner today:




And here is the view looking out at the river.  Off to the right the railroad tracks lead to  large fields and a few buildings where the lumber mills once stood.


Heceta Head Lighthouse

Wednesday I drove about 16 miles beyond the town of Florence, Oregon to get to this historic lighthouse.  The Heceta (pronounced ha-SEE-ta) Head Lighthouse was commissioned in 1894 and is still operational.  It is 56 feet tall and sits approximately 205 feet above sea level.

Here is an image from the highway as I approached the lighthouse from the south (Highway 101 rose several hundred feet above the ocean a few miles before I got to the exit but had dropped back down as you will see shortly):


Once I got off the highway I drove to the parking area at a small beach.



From this vantage point I could see the assistant lightkeeper’s house but not the lighthouse itself.  I had to walk up a half-mile path to get to the lighthouse.  Along the way was a map which shows the overlapping “coverage” area several of the lighthouses in Oregon I have shown you provides.


This lighthouse’s beam is the brightest in the state and can be seen 21 miles offshore.

Further up the path I had a nice view looking down at the beach area where I had parked.  You can see the highway bridge I crossed and then drove under to get to the parking area.


There was another sign with a photo of the lighthouse and both lightkeeper houses taken years ago before the trees got so tall.


The big house on the left is no longer standing but the smaller structure behind it is a gift shop.  Here is a closer look at the house which is still standing (now a Bed & Breakfast).



I continued walking up the hill and finally made it to the lighthouse, which is similar in design to the Umpqua River lighthouse I had seen earlier in the day..


Here is the view looking south towards the coast.


And when I left I was able to stop at a second overlook on the highway (there were tour buses there when I was driving north):