Thursday, March 11, 2021

Accessible Oregon: the Southern Coast, Part II

The Hollering Place

We have been traveling down the Oregon coast, stopping at accessible highlights that are also excellent for families with children. In Part l of the southern coast, we started just south of Cape Perpetua and ended up in central Coos Bay. In this post we continue on Newmark Avenue as it heads through Coos Bay, following the signs for Cape Arago. Look for a pullout where Newmark turns left to find the Hollering Place. This strategic site beside the water was once a Native American village; at this relatively narrow spot in a wide bay, it was possible to call across the channel to request a canoe ride, hence the name. The value of this location was not lost on white settlers; Empire City rose in the 1850s to serve ships travelling from San Francisco. When the bay was dredged further up, however, ships were able to go further upstream to Marshfield (now Coos Bay), and Empire City faded. A few historic houses remain, but now the only bustling part of "town" is a wide parking lot with a boat ramp and fish cleaning station. Still, so many years later, this narrow part of the bay is a great spot to watch boats come and go.

Sunset Bay

Continue through the fishing community of Charleston to Sunset Bay State Park. This lovely, sheltered bay and its surrounding rock formations can be easily viewed from your vehicle, and benches and picnic tables are available. Drive north through the parking lot to find the less crowded end which has a simple ramp down onto the beach. However you visit this peaceful bay, you will be guaranteed beautiful views and many photo opportunities. The forested park across the road offers accessible camping.

From Sunset Bay, drive uphill to one of the true gems of the Oregon Coast: Shore Acres State Park. Louis J. Simpson,, a local businessman and lumber shipper, built a lavish estate here in 1906-7. The mansion burned in 1921, however, and its even larger replacement fell into disrepair. Now a fully-accessible viewing shelter stands where the Simpson mansion once graced this dramatic hilltop. Somewhat bumpy paved paths line the cliffs, offering further views of this rocky promontory. This part of the park would be well worth the parking fee, but there is more: Simpson's exceptional garden remains, and it is almost all accessible. Allow plenty of time to wander the smooth paths of this year-round display, and be sure to bring a camera!

Simpson Reef

Continue along the little road beneath Sitka spruce and thick salal to viewpoints of Simpson Reef and part of the Oregon Islands Wildlife Refuge. Some of the viewing sites here are accessible, but the platform at the southern end of the access road requires climbing a couple of steps. There are interpretive signs to help identify the incredible variety of wildlife that can be seen here. Binoculars are very helpful!

Coquille River Lighthouse

Return down the little road, watching for a pullout that offers a view of Cape Arago Lighthouse, which is not open to the public. Back on 101, drive south along an inland section of the highway and meet back up with the ocean at Bullards Beach. Follow Bullards Beach Road to find picturesque Coquille River Lighthouse perched on the north jetty. The lighthouse (closed at this writing) is reached by a barrier-free but not necessarily accessible path; this is a great place to watch boats entering and leaving the harbor. The south jetty across the channel also offers accessible bird watching and photography.

Bandon itself is a charming little beach town, widely known for its cranberries and ocean views. Drive along Beach View Road and visit Kronenberg County Park to find incredible views of the offshore rock formations along accessible, paved pathways. Continue along the same road to view Face Rock and many more landmarks along a series of bluff-top viewpoints, then continue towards Bandon Marsh and loop back toward the highway. The lower part of this road is sometimes under water; should you find this to be the case, Seabird Lane meets back up with the the highway without the soggy passage.

Battle Rock

From here, 101 again follows an inland route to Port Orford. Driving into town, you will easily find the small park beside Battle Rock. In 1851, Captain Tichenor left a small group of men behind at this location; they ended up fending off a group of less-than-friendly Native Americans from the large rock that juts up from the beach. Take Harbor Drive west and turn right to find a beautiful mosaic wall at the port overlook; here you have a bird's-eye view of the ocean, Humbug Mountain, and the fishing boat harbor.

But wait- where is the harbor? Where are the docks? The fact is, Port Orford is a fishing village where the shallow water makes for unsafe moorage. As a result, the Port of Port Orford boasts one of only two "dolly docks" in the United States. The boats are lifted by an enormous hoist and placed on wheeled dollies, where they safely spend the night. The overlook is a great place to watch the boats as they are lowered into the water; it is also possible to drive down for a closer look at the sturdy dollies, which are moved around with pickup trucks.

Garrison Lake

Take 12th Street in Port Orford to find 134-acre Garrison Lake. Here you will find a small park with a barrier-free pier, dock, and picnic shelter. This beautiful lake is regularly stocked with trout and is popular with families.

Continue south on 101 past Humbug Mountain State Park. This peaceful wayside is perfect for kids, and two of the sites are accessible; the short path to the beach, however, may be a bit rough for those with mobility issues.

Arizona Beach

Pass in the shadow of Humbug Mountain and continue to Arizona Beach. Access to the beach does require some walking, but the parking lot has a nice view; the real attraction here is the less-intense wind, since the area is somewhat sheltered by rocky headlands to the north and south. Two creeks flow through a wetland that shelters a variety of wildlife. Another feature of this roadside park is Arizona Pond, a very small lake that is reserved for youth fishing only (all of the usual regulations apply). While the pond is not set up to be wheelchair-accessible, the approach is barrier-free, and this is a great spot to teach kids to fish. The pond is regularly stocked with rainbow trout by ODFW.

Next we come to Gold Beach, an unassuming town whose main claim to fame is its access to the Rogue River. Turn right to look out over the harbor area. South of town, watch for excellent viewpoints at both Meyers Beach and Pistol River.

Arch Rock Cove (this particular arch is,
unfortunately, collapsed)

Continue south to the Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor. This unusual state park is a 12-mile stretch of rugged coastline. While we won't be exploring the 18 miles of hiking trails, there are many excellent views here that are accessible for most. Arch Rock Viewpoint is the first of these; this is a great spot for a picnic under the trees, and a short, somewhat paved trail provides a view of the namesake rock. Spruce Island also has a short trail to a view of a little island. Natural Bridges is highly recommended, with a very short pea-gravel path to an excellent view. Next, drive over Thomas Creek Bridge, the highest bridge in Oregon, and stop at Whaleshead Viewpoint for a view from the gravel parking lot. This picnic area's easy path to the beach is a great stop for families with kids. Cape Ferrelo has some views from the parking lot, as well. 

Watch for a nice pullout near Rainbow Rock, then stop at Harris Beach State Park. Here you will find accessible picnic tables, restrooms, campsites, AND an accessible beach! Even the parking lot is nice at this justly popular stop. Plan to spend some time here; photograph the rugged coastline, watch for wildlife, or take the long ramp down to the beach.

Brookings botanical garden
Now we have reached the town of Brookings, known as "Oregon's Banana Belt" because temperatures here can be 20 degrees warmer than that of surrounding areas. Billed as the "Easter lily capital of the world," this area is also home to the northernmost redwoods. Cross the bridge into Harbor, the southern part of town, to find (not surprisingly) a busy harbor area. Hang out, enjoy the warmer weather, and watch the boats come and go. Now backtrack over the river and take a right turn for 33-acre Azalea Park. Here you will find azaleas (also not surprisingly), a lovely chapel, a popular children's play area, and ball fields. There is a stage for summer concerts, and a large holiday light display draws crowds from near and far. Look at the southern end of the park for an excellent botanical garden. This triangular, barrier-free plot has smooth, level gravel pathways that are easy to negotiate. The plantings feature natives alongside specimens from around the world, but all of the plants are species that thrive in the local climate. This gem of a garden is meticulously maintained by dedicated volunteers.

And so we reach Oregon's southern border and end another accessible journey. Whether you have trouble getting around or you are just looking for roadside highlights, we hope you enjoy getting out and exploring our beautiful coastline.

A final note: all of our Accessible Oregon posts are inspired by Milo Gosen (1941-2021) and are dedicated to his memory. He passed his fondness for Oregon's outdoors on to us, and we are indebted to him for his knowledge and sound advice. He battled Parkinsons disease for many years, but never lost his love of nature. 

Sunset Bay
Shore Acres

Simpson Reef from the accessible viewpoint
From the tip of Cape Arago
Coquille River Lighthouse
Bandon's South Jetty

Kronenberg County Park at Coquille Point
Face Rock

Along Beach View Road

Port Orford near Battle Rock

Some of the dolly fleet

Hoisting the boats at the Port of Port Orford

Garrison Lake

Humbug Mountain State Park

Arizona Pond

Gold Beach
Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor
Natural Bridges

Thomas Creek Bridge (highest in Oregon, 345 ft.)

Harris Beach State Park

Boardwalk at Harbor

Brookings Botanical Garden

Azalea Park
Azalea Park Chapel

And the eponymous azaleas. Thank you for joining us in our journey
to the southwest corner of our state!