Sunday, July 5, 2020

Accessible Oregon: The Central Coast Part II

In part one of our trip down the central coast, we covered easy-to-visit coastal stops from Lincoln City to Boiler Bay. Continuing down Highway 101, we come to the little town of Depoe Bay. Pull over and park along the sea wall for top-notch wave watching right from your car; when the waves run high, they sometimes spray right over the road! Follow the sidewalk to view a spouting horn, as well as the "World's Smallest Harbor" on the other side of 101. Look underneath the bridge to watch boats "shoot the gap" as they enter or exit the harbor through the narrow passageway.

South of Depoe Bay, look on your right for Rocky Creek Wayside, another cliffside picnic area. There is also a gravel pullout at Highway 101 and Otter Crest Loop that offers great sea views from your car. On the south side of Cape Foulweather, watch for the turning to Otter Rock and the Devil's Punchbowl. The trails here are mostly barrier-free but sometimes bumpy; the real draw here, though, is the Punchbowl, a large hollow in the rock that fills with churning ocean waves as the tide comes in (be aware that, due to the clifftop fence, one must be able to stand up to view the bowl). The waves here are popular with surfers, and you will likely see a few of them on the south side of the park. Driving further south, a right turn below Izzy's leads to Yaquina Head. Here, a well-kept lighthouse stands guard over seabird rookeries. Paved viewing areas provide stunning ocean views; the lighthouse itself, however, is not universally accessible. Be aware that a fee is charged for parking.

Once in Newport, the easiest way to get to the ocean is in the neighborhood of Nye Beach;  just turn west on NW 3rd St. and drive to NW Coast. Pass under the Nye Beach archway to find the turnaround, with parking, benches, and easy access to the sand. This beachy community of shops and restaurants is a favorite stop for tourists and locals alike.

Drive south over the Yaquina Bay Bridge and take the first right to access Newport's South Jetty; drive around the curve and look for a left turn just before passing under the bridge. Park in one of the many pullouts to watch boats entering and leaving the bay. There is also a wide, paved path that leads for a mile through the dunes to South Beach State Park. While you are in the area, drive over to the Hatfield Marine Science Center and look at the east end of the parking lot to find the Yaquina Estuary Hike, one of our favorite hidden gems. This trail varies from smooth pavement to gravel and from bumpy, weathered asphalt to packed sand. It is barrier-free, though, and worth some effort to navigate beside the mud flats and wetlands. There is excellent bird watching here; a simple trailside picnic shelter makes a great blind.

Driving south through Seal Rock, watch on your right for Seal Rock State Park. The small parking lot is not friendly for trailers, but there is parking for other vehicles. Take either branch of the somewhat sloping, paved trail into deep, dark coastal woods to find a viewing platform tucked against the cliffside. While the beach trail from here is narrow and steep in places, the platform is a perfect spot from which to watch the wave action. Those with binoculars should scan the nearby rocks for nesting birds in spring and pelicans in autumn.

Gazebo at Keady Wayside
Continuing south into Waldport, turn left on Highway 34 to find Eckman Lake, a small freshwater lake with a dock for easy fishing and bird watching for those who can navigate the slightly lumpy lawn. Back in town, watch on your right as you leave the business section for tiny Keady Wayside, a bayside parking area with excellent bird and seal watching. An accessible gazebo features free viewing glasses to get a closer look at the wildlife. A bit further south, Governor Patterson Park offers expansive ocean views and picnicking from a fully-accessible viewing platform as well as a short dirt path to the beach.

Yachats Ocean Road
Just before you reach the village of Yachats, watch on your right for the modest entrance to Smelt Sands State Park. The name may not draw you in, but this is, in fact, the easiest way to access the up-close ocean views from the 804 Trail. This popular path is barrier-free but eroded in places; that being said, even a very short walk provides stunning wave watching (keep kids and pets on the trail; the ocean is powerful and unpredictable). Continue through Yachats, cross a small bridge and turn right on Yachats Ocean Road to drive along similar bluffs. Since this stretch is completely paved it is easily accessible, but it's also just a great place for a quick picnic in your car if the weather is less than ideal.

This picnic area offers graveled access and a peek at
Cape Perpetua's amazing views
Our last stop on the central coast is one of our favorite views of the Pacific. South of Yachats, turn left toward Cape Perpetua Campground, then immediately turn left and drive up the hill to the top of Cape Perpetua (a fee is charged which is also good for parking at nearby Devil's Churn, a wave-filled slot in the rock with accessible viewpoints). While much of Perpetua's rugged hilltop is not accessible, there is a short, paved trail that offers the amazing view to everyone.  Those who can manage the graveled, quarter-mile loop trail can also visit a stone shelter built by the CCC during the Great Depression. This historic building was used as an observation station during WWII, and one look at the expansive ocean view will tell you why. Even if you can't negotiate the trail, though, or if you just don't have the time, do stop to check out the parking lot viewpoint. Wildflowers bloom in the sun on the steep, south-facing hillside. Bring binoculars to watch for whales and fishing boats.

Don't miss out on the coastal experience just because of small children, or mobility issues, or lack of time. Along the central coast, Highway 101 follows close beside the ocean's wild waves, offering countless opportunities to find the beautiful Pacific for yourself.

At the Depoe Bay pull-out

Looking south from the Otter Rock viewing area

The Devil's Punchbowl

Yaquina Head Lighthouse

View from Yaquina Head's viewing area

Nye Beach

Newport's South Jetty

Yaquina Estuary Hike

Seal Rock State Park

From Seal Rock's accessible viewing platform

Eckman Lake

Keady Wayside

Governor Patterson State Park

804 trail

Yachats Ocean Road

Stone shelter atop Cape Perpetua
And finally, the Cape's famed view, accessible to all!

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Accessible Oregon: The Central Coast Part I

Some folks use strollers or wheelchairs. Some travel with small children who begin to whine fairly early during a hike. Some can get around, they just can't walk very far. For some travelers, none of these apply; they are just in a hurry to get somewhere, but they don't want to miss too much of Oregon as they pass through. This post is for all of these folks: a selection of our favorite places that aren't too far out of the way. They offer easy access, a bit of nature, and things to do for all ability levels.

Our journey begins where Highway 18 hits 101 and heads into Lincoln City. A left turn on West Devil's Lake Road leads past the hospital to Regatta Grounds Park (or drive east on NE 14th Street from downtown Lincoln City; look for the hospital sign at the stop light). Don't be dissuaded by the steep driveway; this park is a lakeside gem, offering a bit of shelter from prevailing northern winds and a variety of activities. The lowest level has a paved boat launch into Devil's Lake beside an accessible fishing dock. This is a great place to let the kids play in the water and perhaps try for some of the planted rainbow trout, water quality permitting. Just above the shore you will find an accessible gazebo and a sunny, paved area with benches and even game tables (bring your own checkers or chess pieces!). The next level is a large and varied play area, with many of the activities geared toward children of all abilities. When the kids start to tire, take them up the hill a bit more to the music area where outdoor instruments await budding composers. Picnic tables, tall trees, grassy lawns, a small picnic shelter, and plenty of parking round out this popular park.

Back on 101, turn west on NW 33rd Street to find the Connie Hansen Garden. Summer or winter, this is one of our favorite places to visit. Paver paths allow wheelchair access to some parts of the garden, and the remaining smooth paths are mostly barrier-free; click here for an excellent map of all the garden trails along with their surfacing details. The garden is a labor of love begun by the late plantswoman Connie Hansen and carried on by a host of energetic volunteers. Don't miss the pond near the east side of the parking lot and the lush display of rhododendrons throughout the grounds.

View from the Case's vehicle
But you came to the coast to see the ocean, right? Well, there is no better view of the breakers than from the D River Wayside, right next to the highway! Here you can park near the (arguably) "World's Shortest River" and look out over the surf. This is a great place for a quick beachside picnic or to let the kids play in the sand; a few cement steps lead right onto the beach. Watch for the parking lot at a stoplight right by the river.

A little further south, turn right onto 32nd Street at the stop light in the Nelscott neighborhood, then left onto Anchor. Watch on your right for a small, fully-accessible picnic area. Relax and enjoy views up and down the beach; a short ramp leads down onto the soft sand. This facility has a foot wash but no restrooms; however, there is a simple restroom in the parking area back on 32nd.

Continuing on 101, take a right turn in the Taft neighborhood to find a bayside parking lot. Taft, once a separate village, is Lincoln City's bayfront district. Here you will find a sandy bay beach with masses of driftwood, and those who can walk further can follow the Siletz River through the sand to the ocean shore. The swirling bar where the Siletz meets the Pacific makes for good wave watching. Look out over the water for seabirds and sea lions. This park offers an accessible fishing and crabbing pier; watch your footing, as the wooden surface is a bit rough in places. There is also a covered picnic shelter, and paved walkways make getting around easy.

Drive just out of Taft on 101 and pull over to photograph "The Ships," a picturesque rock formation in the bay; this pullout is a great spot to watch sunsets. A bit further down the highway, a left turn into the Siletz Bay Wildlife Refuge offers an accessible viewing area as well as a short, barrier-free hike on an old roadbed. The Alder Island Trail is a half-mile walk that is great for kids (watch them beside the river). This unique refuge includes sloughs, mudflats, salt marshes, forests, and the Siletz River. Such a variety of habitat provides homes for an array of species; click here for extensive information on the creatures to be found here.

Heading south, a right turn into Boiler Bay Scenic Viewpoint provides cliffside picnic tables, a wide, grassy lawn, and bird and whale watching. Here a small, cliff-rimmed bay still holds the boiler of the J. Marhoffer, which sank here in 1910; it can still be spotted during low tides. Gazing out to sea, look for grey whales and sea birds year-round. Wave watching can be spectacular here, especially on the south end of the park. Some of the better views require negotiating the lawn, but it's also possible to stick to the paved areas. Binoculars will help in observing boats and wildlife out at sea. While this is a windy park, it makes a great spot for a picnic, and kids love to run around on the lawn.

Some of Oregon's great views are found on remote trails, discovered only on long backpacking trips. Some, though, are right beside the highway, or tucked into small neighborhoods. We love to get out and hike, but our state holds a wealth of places that everyone can visit, regardless of ability or time constraints. Our hope is that our readers will get out and find their own little piece of Oregon.

Beginning the tour of Regatta Grounds park

Accessible gazebo

Checkers/chess tables by the lake

The older, wooden play structure is partially accessible as well

"Music in the park" is a more recent addition, and is also fully accessible

Connie Hanson Garden

D River Wayside

Anchor Street beach access in Nelscott

Fishing pier in Taft

Siletz River Bar

"The Ships" rock formation near Taft

We end Part I with a walk through Siletz Bay Wildlife Refuge. Stay tuned!