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!

1 comment:

  1. Please be aware that due to COVID 19 restrictions, many destinations are opening and closing without much advance notice, and some may have limited facilities. Be prepared to be flexible if you travel, and stay healthy out there!