June 6 -9, 2011 – Southern Oregon Coast

We left Klamath on Monday morning, again in the rain.  We are heading up Hwy 101 to Oregon.  It is not legal to tow the Jeep behind the 5th wheel in Oregon so Nancy will drive the Jeep while we are traveling in Oregon.  Not our favorite way to travel but we will manage.  We drove to Coos Bay, OR and are staying at Sunset Bay State Park.  The state parks in Oregon are really nice and this campground is beautiful – lots of grass, trees and hedges between the sites and rhododendrons in bloom.

We did not have cell service or internet access in Klamath and still no service here.  Consequently, we have not been on-line for a while so Tuesday morning we went to Starbucks in Coos Bay and spent most of the morning on-line catching up with e-mail, posting to the blog, etc.  The afternoon was spent grocery shopping and Nancy got a haircut.  Of course, it rained most of the day.

Wednesday morning we took the Charleston to Bandon Scenic drive.  We saw our first cranberry bogs by Bandon.  Bandon is the unofficial cranberry capital of the Pacific Northwest.


Our first stop was at Coquille River Lighthouse at the mouth of the Coquille River.  Of the eight lighthouses remaining on the Oregon coast, the Coquille River Lighthouse was the last one constructed, in 1896.  Unfortunately, the lighthouse was closed so we were not able to tour it.  Rex took this picture looking through a large piece of driftwood.

We stopped in old town Bandon and did some shopping.  We bought the essentials, cranberry wine from Sea Mist Winery, chocolate covered dried cranberries, fudge and cranberry jam.  We should be set for a while.  We were walking on the pier and saw a harbor seal but she dove and swam away before we could get a picture.

We took the Bandon Beach Loop scenic drive and stopped at Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint.

We walked along the beach and looked in the tide pools and saw these Ochre Sea Stars. 


As the tide came in, we enjoyed watching the waves crashing against the rocks.

We traveled down the coast and stopped at Cape Blanco State Park where we toured the Cape Blanco Lighthouse.  This is the western most point in the lower 48 states.  We were given a great tour of the lighthouse by volunteers.  It was very windy and when Nancy asked our tour guide if it was always this windy he said “no, it is usually worse!”   Unlike the Battery Point Lighthouse, the living quarters for the lighthouse keepers here were not attached to the tower but were separate buildings (which are no longer standing).

The lighthouse sits 245 feet above the ocean so the views were spectacular.

Just down the road from the lighthouse was the Historic Hughes House & Ranch.   Patrick and Jane Hughes arrived here in the early 1860’s and eventually owned over 1800 acres.  They established a dairy and shipped butter to San Francisco.  They also maintained an orchard and large garden and harvested salmon from the Sixes River.  One of their sons was a lighthouse keeper at the Cape Blanco Lighthouse.  We were given a tour of this great 3,000 sq ft home.  We also were lucky to be there for a living history demonstration where Mrs. Hughes was entertaining the local priest.  They drank tea and chatted about the family.

We had a great day – a little windy but no rain.

Thursday was a nice, calm, sunny day – Yeah!  We drove up the road from the campground to a viewpoint where we could see the Cape Arago Lighthouse.   This lighthouse is owned by area tribes and, unfortunately, is not open to the public.

Another beautiful view of the coastline

Our next stop was Shore Acres State Park.  This previously was the private estate and gardens of lumberman and shipbuilder Louis J. Simpson.  The first house here was a three story mansion complete with a heated, indoor swimming pool and a large ballroom.  The grounds contained five acres of formal gardens, including a Japanese-style garden built around a 100-foot lily pond.  Fire destroyed the mansion in 1921 and Simpson built an even larger home – two stories high and 224 feet long.  Financial losses during the Depression caused both house and grounds to fall into disrepair.  In 1942 Shore Acres was purchased by the state of Oregon for use as a public park.  The mansion eventually had to be razed because of structural deterioration but the gardens were restored.  We took a relaxing stroll through the beautiful gardens.

We didn’t see any fish in the pond but did find this little salamander

There was also a large rose garden but it was not blooming yet.  The grounds were beautiful and you could imagine the large mansion sitting on a high cliff overlooking the ocean.

Further down the beach was Simpson Reef and Shell Island where we saw California Sea Lions, Steller Sea Lions, Northern Elephant Seals and Harbor Seals.  You could hear them before you could see them – they were a noisy bunch.  The dark ones here are California Sea Lions and the lighter ones are Steller Sea Lions.

This is Shell Island with a very crowded beach scene.  While we were watching we think something spooked them because most of the sea lions and seals left the beach in a hurry.

At the end of this road is Cape Arago State Park.  We took a Ranger led tidal pool hike.  We learned a lot about tidal pools and got to see lots of sea life – barnacles, Purple Shore Crabs, Black Turban Snails, California Mussels, Ochre Sea Stars, Hermit Crabs, Giant Pacific Chiton, Giant Green Anemone, Purple Sea Urchins, and a Sunflower Sea Star.  We also saw a variety of sea weeds and plants, pelicans and Pigeon Guillemots. 

Can you see the Hermit Crab that has taken over the Black Turban Snail shell in the center of this picture?

This is a Purple Shore Crab hiding in the rocks.

We did all of this within two miles of our campground.

To end our day we drove north on Hwy 101 to the Umpqua River Lighthouse.  The original lighthouse was built in 1857 and was the first lighthouse in the Oregon Territory.  This lighthouse was undermined by floods in 1861 and 1863 and subsequently fell into the river in 1864. The present lighthouse was built in 1894.  It now sits on an active Coast Guard Base.

We toured the lighthouse and took this picture of the lens that has 616 hand crafted glass prisms.  The lens, built in 1890, is 6 ft in diameter, 10 ft  high and weighs 2 tons.

The weather was great all day – even got warm enough to wear short sleeves until we got back to the campground.  It clouded over and got windy and cool.


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