I have been intrigued by the Siltcoos Canoe Trail ever since I first heard about it. There is something about canoeing all the way to the ocean that fascinates me — I’m not exactly sure why — and experiencing the Canoe Trail has been on my mind for a couple of years. Of course, I was delighted when I discovered that my surprise birthday outing this summer was a trip to the coast so we could canoe the trail.
Located just south of Florence, the Siltcoos Canoe Trail follows the Siltcoos River out of Siltcoos Lake, through the Oregon Dunes all the way to the ocean — a total distance of about 3 miles, one way. Since it had been a while since we had operated the paddles, we chose instead to put in at a rugged boat launch at Lodgepole Picnic Area/Wayside on the road to the Siltcoos Campgrounds. This shortened our trip and took out the need to portage the canoe and our picnic supplies around a small dam. (Please note, though, using this launch site requires a National Forest Service parking pass.)
The trip down river was pretty leisurely as we drifted toward the ocean. On the water all of the usual noises of Highway 101 died out, and we let the current do most of the work while we watched the scenery drift by. Kingfishers flew overhead, river otters feasted on small fish along the shore, and a deer made a river crossing in front of us. We knew we were getting close to the ocean because we could hear the surf pounding on the beach long before we could see it. I never knew which bend in the river would finally reveal our final destination.
On this trip, I finally got to see Western Snowy Plovers! The Siltcoos Canoe Trail crosses through Snowy Plover habitat and from March 15 through September 15, for the last quarter mile of the trail — until you reach the hard-packed high tide line — it is unlawful to get out of the boat, so as to not disturb the nesting Plovers. However, that didn’t stop the Plovers from standing near the water and observing us as we floated by. We stayed in the middle of the river and were quiet and respectful; they didn’t seem to mind us at all. [Update: to further protect the Western Snowy Plovers all parts of the beach along the Siltcoos Canoe Trail are now off limits from March 15 to September 15].
I’ve read recommendations that you should float down the Siltcoos River as the tide is going out, then head back up as the tide is going in, letting it help you up the river. This is what we did, and I’ll admit that with the tide going out we hit bottom more than once as we got close to the beach. Next time, we might do that a little differently, or at least make sure that the low tide isn’t really that low.
Once we got close to the ocean, we pulled ashore on the wet sand beach. After unloading our supplies, we picnicked on the beach, watching the fog roll in and out, and the ocean break on shore. Finally, full and satisfied, we launched the canoe back into the Siltcoos and headed up river.
I am excited to get back out to the Canoe Trail and explore the whole 3 miles. Unfortunately, earlier this fall the flu made us cancel a trip out there with family, but my fingers are crossed that we’ll be out there again, soon. If you want to experience the whole Canoe Trail, head to the boat launch in Dunes City (at the end of Pacific Avenue). At the launch they have signs about the history of the trail as well as how to navigate along the shore of the lake to reach the river opening.