Friday, April 8, 2016

Honeyman's Dunes and Lakes

Lying south of Florence on the central Oregon coast, Honeyman State Park is a beautiful forested area bounded by rolling dunes and graced with two freshwater lakes. This is a great vacation destination, offering something for every member of the family.

Driving into the park, you will be immediately confronted with a small, simple boat ramp into Cleawox Lake. This is a perfect spot to launch kayaks, canoes, and rowboats. While motorboats aren't prohibited here, they are uncommon, possibly due to the uneven lake bottom and many snags. This part of the lake is bounded by dunes to the south and forest to the north. It is frequently stocked with rainbow trout, and two small eastern arms are home to largemouth bass. When you have finished exploring this wide, windy part of the lake, look for a small channel next to a private wooden dock. Paddle through this narrow slot and you will find the rest of the lake. Somewhat sheltered by dunes, this long, thin arm is a wonderful spot for birdwatching; on my last trip, I watched an osprey fighting with a bald eagle for quite some time. I don't know what the squabble was about, but the comparatively small osprey seemed to be winning. Perhaps they were arguing over fishing rights; this part of the lake is known for its bass and panfish, so be sure to check it out if you brought your pole.

Back on the park road, a right turn near the boat ramp leads to a day use area with a single-story lodge built in the 1930s by the CCC. The lodge is closed for most of the year, but from Memorial Day through Labor Day it is open to the public and kayaks and canoes are offered for rent. The small swimming beach is available year-round, though, and picnic tables are liberally scattered among the trees. Be aware that, while dogs are welcome in the park, they are not allowed on the swimming beach.

Take a left at that same intersection to find another day-use area. This one has a large, accessible fishing dock, as well as restrooms and a short path to the dunes that tumble into Cleawox Lake. This is a great spot to learn sandboarding; in fact, the park rents boards during the summer season. If the park's rentals aren't available, boards are available from several retailers along Highway 101.

From here the park road leads to the campground, passing tiny Lily Lake, a pretty but snag-filled pond. Honeyman Campground is a full-service state campground, with RV and tent sites, yurts, showers, a playground, an amphitheater, and an RV dump. There is also a nice, private hiker-biker camp. The Welcome Center is staffed with friendly and knowledgeable volunteers who will even serve you coffee or tea. Look for a trail into the dunes near the Center if you would like to get a taste of dune hiking. Honeyman can fill up quickly in the summer months, but sites are often available even on the weekends during the rest of the year. Campers can use either of the day-use areas without charge, while day-trippers pay a $5 parking fee.

For direct ATV access to the dunes, be sure to reserve a site in the popular "H" Loop. The gate here is only available to campers in that loop; ATV riders camping elsewhere in the park must trailer their rides to the South Jetty or Siltcoos areas. The dune gate will be closed for the summer season after April 30, but pedestrians can still use it to access the dunes. If you don't have an ATV but would like to try exploring the dunes by motor, there are several rental businesses along Highway 101 that will gladly outfit you for an adventure.

One of the many views from the Woahink hiking trail.
Look near the campground's amphitheater for a wide, paved path leading through the woods. This trail leads over Highway 101 toward beautiful Woahink Lake, 800 acres of deep, clear water. The paved trail ends at a group camping center with nearby lake access. Along the way, watch for a small trail near the maintenance office. This is a real hiking trail, scattered with roots, springy underfoot, and winding along the lakeshore. Birds do their best to drown out the highway sounds and the air smells of forest and ocean. This trail is popular with mountain bikers looking for a bit of singletrack. The trail ends in a loop on a scantily-treed hilltop; bikers will enjoy the climb, but hikers may want to turn back where the loop begins.

The north end of Woahink Lake is easily accessed from Canary Road, directly across 101 from the Honeyman entrance. There is plenty of roadside parking, including a spot near a tiny boat ramp. Drive a little further to find a lovely park on the right. This park is free and offers a paved boat ramp with dock, a swimming beach, and picnicking. Motorboats are easily launched here, and there is plenty of trailer parking. Paddlers can savor a peaceful morning exploring the lake's northern arms, and sailors will enjoy the brisk afternoon breezes.

Our family has taken several coastal trips with the intention of covering most of the coast, only to end up staying around Honeyman the whole time. There is just so much to do, the area is so pretty, and the people are so friendly. It's a perfect spring destination.

Arm of Woahink

Arm of Cleawox

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