I have been eying the South Slough Estuary in Charleston, Oregon for quite some time now. It always looks like a great place to take a nice walk, do some birding, or maybe launch our canoe and enjoy a quiet paddle. However, since Charleston is a two hour drive from Cottage Grove, I figured it might always be on my “maybe” list. Two hours often feels like too far away for a day trip but not far enough for an over-nighter. That was, until we got the “tuna bug” and I found us planning a trip to Charleston to buy fresh tuna off the docks. Suddenly it seemed like exploring the South Slough Estuary might really happen. And it did.
Labor Day weekend, after purchasing our tuna at the Charleston Marina and packing it in our cooler with lots of ice, we set out in search of Seven Devils Road and the South Slough Estuary. An estuary is a place where a river meets the ocean and fresh water mixes with salty sea water. It is impacted by the tide and often supports an abundance of wildlife. South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve consists of 5,000 acres and is part of the larger Coos Bay estuary. It turned 40 years old this year and is one of 28 research reserves around the country.
For us, the slough’s maze of walking paths provided a great place to enjoy a coastal forest environment, stretch our legs while walking our dogs, and catch sight of some birds as we walked – notably on this trip a large flock of egrets. The rhododendrons were the size of trees and are probably beautiful in the spring.
Like our trip to Finley National Wildlife Refuge last winter, I feel like we just scratched the surface with this visit. Our time there definitely felt exploratory as we wandered the walking paths just to see what we could see. Another trip at another time to explore further and hopefully launch our canoe for a good paddle would be a treat.
If you have been able to enjoy the South Slough Estuary, I’d love to know what you experienced and what your favorite parts are.