For a couple of years now, as we’ve driven Highway 101 between Florence and Reedsport, we’ve passed the signs for the “Oregon Dunes Day Use Area.” Frankly, I’ve never been tempted to stop there. There are a lot of interesting sounding places along Highway 101, but this is not one of them.
I’ve been doing a lot of reading about the Oregon coast, lately, and I have come across several descriptions and mentions for the Oregon Dunes Overlook — now that sounds interesting! This weekend we went in search of the Overlook and discovered that technically this does not exist, but is in fact the “Day Use” area.What will you find at the Day Use Area? Several wooden platforms looking out over the dunes to the beach and ocean, about a mile away. The overlook areas and several picnic tables are wheelchair accessible.
While the view out over the dunes is a nice one — and probably a great introduction for visitors and others who are not familiar with our Oregon dunes — even better is the trail that goes from the overlook through the dunes to the beach, about a mile away. This trail is easy to follow, just keep your eye out for wooden posts topped with blue as you walk through the dunes, and the brown hiker signs elsewhere. Most of the path is through what is known as a “deflation plane.” This is an area of the dunes where the dry sand has been swept away to the summer water level, over time small plants begin to grow there and then larger ones also take hold. Here you’ll find lots of evergreen huckleberry and salal, along with small trees and other vegetation.
At the end of the trail is, of course, the beach — wide spans of sand to the north and south as far as your eye can see — and the pacific ocean. The day we were there we were the only ones on the beach, just us and a flock of western snowy plover.
Things to know:
This beach is habitat for the western snowy plover, a small shore bird listed as a threatened species. From March 15 to September 15 the dry sand area above the beach is off-limits to protect the snowy plover nesting and brooding sites.
Parking fees are $5.00 and can be left at a self-pay station.
The trail to the beach will fork midway through the dunes. The most direct route — the route we took — heads right to the beach, a second route heads south for 1.7 miles following along Tahkenitch Creek for a while before reaching the beach.