Saturday, October 4, 2014

Paddling Beaver Creek: Peaceful Water

Our photographer, paddling under the South Beaver Creek Road bridge. Photo by Sally.

On the Water

The wind drops abruptly and the sky opens. My kayak slips silently among thousands of raindrops. The distant grumble of the ocean is drowned by the music of rain on the still creek. A marsh wren dangles from a sedge stem, quizzically eyeing this soggy middle-aged mom in a skinny plastic boat. I can't stop smiling.

This is just one of countless Beaver Creeks. It is where we learned to canoe, our small son ineffectually wielding his little paddle; he now takes the stern with his powerful J-stroke. Whether in canoes or kayaks, we always paddle quietly and alertly, as this beautiful area is a refuge for a wide variety of wildlife.

The resident otters often appear, as well as muskrats, nutria, deer, mink, and sometimes even beavers. I watch the skies for ospreys, kingfishers, great blue herons, egrets, and marsh hawks. Sometimes I catch a quick glimpse of a pied-billed grebe just before it submerges. 

Part of this marsh was once home to a herd of cattle. They would watch us in mild bovine surprise as we paddled through their field. Now the cows have moved on to drier pastures and the area is owned by Oregon State Parks, officially designated as the Beaver Creek State Natural Area. The creek is friendly water, easy to access and easy to paddle.

I head back downstream and notice a smooth path down the center of the creek. It appears as though I have left a trail, but I know that it is just a trick of the breeze. The water is always moving, making its leisurely way to the sea. This is different water now; it doesn't remember. I will remember. At the boat ramp I meet Vinny, a visitor from New York. He helps me load my boat. I turn onto Highway 101 in the pouring rain. I am still smiling.

More About Beaver Creek

The Beaver Creek State Natural Area consists of approximately 375 acres of marshland and fields. It is located south of Newport, Oregon, near Ona Beach and Brian Booth State Parks. Instead of turning west into the Ona Beach parking lot , turn east onto Beaver Creek Road. The boat ramp is immediately on your right. There is a vault toilet and parking here.

It is a short, pleasant paddle to the beach, but the real joy is the journey upstream. The area is only mildly affected by tides, so the creek can be paddled any time. Wind is a factor during the summer months; save a little extra energy for the paddle back. Morning paddles usually have less wind and will reward early risers with more wildlife sightings. The current is usually not a factor except during the late winter and early spring.

The State Parks Department offers guided tours during the summer months, meeting at South Beach Campground. It is easy enough to go by yourself, though. Bring your own boat (or rent one) and put in at the boat ramp. There is currently no fee. Be aware that jet skis are prohibited, but not other motorized craft. These rarely appear, though, due to the many snags in this wandering creek.

You may want to visit the official Visitor's Center, which is located just up the road. Continue on Beaver Creek Road to a Y, where you will turn left onto North Beaver Creek Road. The Center is just ahead on your right.
The author watches for grebes. Photo by Austen.

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