Exploring the Oregon Coast With a Kayak and a Camera
Typical for the coast, unsettled weather and wind dictated our kayaking choices for much of our 10 day trip. Several places I had earmarked for paddling were out of the question due to rough conditions. Still, we managed to paddle 7 out of 10 days. Unlike our typical kayak trips, this one was car based so we had lots of options besides kayaking. One bad weather day was spent touristing in Newport and another rough day we spent hiking the shoreline and photographing the storm waves at Sunset Bay (Coos Bay). We started off in Seaside, Oregon and worked our way south to Port Orford, not far from the California border.
Having spent much of my youth at Manzanita, I was eager to go back and paddle some of my old haunts in Nehalem Bay. Brian Schulz of Manzanita caught up with us on the bay and led us through the marsh backwaters that I would have had a hard time finding on my own. Cool. The following day the bay was whipped into a mass of whitecaps, but luckily we had already planned to explore the upper reaches of the bay which are reasonably sheltered. In two days we covered the estuary from the jetty mouth all the way back to the top of tidewater.
In the evening we watched board and kayak surfers working the waves at Indian Beach (Ecola State Park). The guy in the sit-on-top caught every wave he wanted and was in complete control. Oh what a bad case of the "I wants" I had then.
Further down the coast Cape Kiwanda looked doable even though the surfers were there (meaning bigger waves). There looked to be a good slot next to the cliff for getting in and out. But how long would it stay that way once the tide rose? Holly was worn out from the long miles the previous two days, so we passed on to do something tamer. A short way back up the road we messed around at Sand Lake, a small sandy estuary with pelicans feeding at the mouth.
While in the Newport area we thought about paddling around Yaquina Bay, but with wet blustery weather and heavy boat traffic we decided to drive around and check out more options. Passing over the Beaver Creek bridge (Ono Beach Wayside) the water looked inviting. Even though only ankle deep as it runs out onto the beach, it provided protected and remote water for several miles with plenty of depth before narrowing down into a creek among dairy farms. It's not unknown either. We ran into a few local people in rec boats. It's a nice place for sheltered paddling.
We tried the Siltcoos river that runs from the lake to the ocean. We made it as far as the dam, but could not negotiate the portage ramp. Perhaps the preceding weeks unseasonable heavy rain and low tide conspired to make more current at the ramp than normal. Oh well. It was a nice and unique paddle regardless.
While camping at Sunset Bay State Park we checked out the highly promoted South Slough reserve (Charleston, Oregon), but the wind was scouring right down the length of it. After a fresh crab dinner we instead had a perfect sunset paddle in Joe Ney Slough that was well protected, completely empty of people, and full of Great Egrets, Blue Herons and otters.
We drove by the wildlife refuge at Bandon, but it looked flat and uninteresting. We continued on south to Port Orford to find a paddle among stupendous scenery with several hundred foot cliffs and stacks. With a strong surge running, the numerous deep caves snorted and growled like wild animals. Like most other places, we had the place ourselves. While we were out a nasty shore-dumping surf developed either due to high tide or the strong storm packing 60 mph winds that was only a few hours away. Putting ashore behind an offshore rock still wasn't enough and Holly's boat got royally dumped and filled with sand.
It's been a long time since I have spent much time on the Oregon coast and there were some pleasant changes. Whales used to be scarce and I don't ever remember seeing pelicans, terns, and harbor seals. Now these are common. Once we got south of Yaquina Head we saw gray whales every where we pulled over to look. In some parts of the central coast they were very close to shore. There is a lot more surfing going on.
The coast had a huge jellyfish problem during our trip, several inches deep in places, for the whole length of Oregon. The only non-smelly place was at the water's edge at low tide, upwind of the fetid mass. Even in the towns it smelled like something nasty was stuck to your shoe. And sometimes it was. Is this global warming and fish stock depletion? I've seen this before, but never to this degree.
Would I do this trip again? You bet, but with a few changes. First, I missed out on some important photography south of Sunset Bay because the road was closed for repair. That was a major bummer. So I feel like I need to go back. I would skip the coastal dunes area (Haceta Head to Coos Bay) and split the extra time between the more appealing offshore paddling north of Newport and the stunning scenery of Cape Arago (south of Coos Bay). Oh yeah, one more thing. It would be nice to come back with a more specialized rough water kayak.
For more detailed info about some of the photos be sure and click on the link at the bottom of some of the pages.