Sullivan's Oregon Hikes
the Oregon Dunes
Oregon Dunes Overlook serves as the trailhead for this hike.
Photo by William Sullivan
away from the established overlook, walk into the sand and discover
Oregon's seaside Sahara.
the Hike: Visitors who simply photograph the view from the Oregon
Dunes Overlook are missing the best scenery in this seafront Sahara.
It's just over a mile from the overlook's picnic area to a remote,
windswept beach. Even better is a 4.8-mile loop hike to beautiful
Tahkenitch Creek, through dunes and tree islands.
An easy, early level 1.1-mile route through the sand leads to the
ocean. For a moderate, 4.8-mile loop, continue to Tahkenitch Creek.
Some route-finding skills are required, because the route through
the sand is marked only by infrequent posts.
Open all year.
There: Drive Highway 101 south of Florence 10 miles (or north
of Reedsport 11 miles) to a turnoff between mileposts 200 and 201.
Expect a $5 parking fee.
Tips: From the parking area's turnaround, take a paved path
to the right. This trail switchbacks 0.3 mile down through the forest
into the dunes themselves.
in the open sand, head toward the roar of the ocean, first following
posts in the dunes and then a trail across the deflation plain.
Crest the foredune and head left along a remote, windswept stretch
of beach. Seals peer from the surf. Pipers and gulls run along the
waves' edge. Shells of razor clams, scallops and sand dollars litter
1.7 miles, turn inland at a brown hiker-symbol sign atop the foredune.
This path touches a bend of lazy Tahkenitch Creek, curves left across
a willow marsh full of driftwood, and climbs around the edge of
a tree island. After another view of Tahkenitch Creek the trail
vanishes into open dunes. Head straight across the sand to find
posts marking the route along the left side of two more tree islands
back to your car.
Man changed the dunes' ecology by introducing European beachgrass
to stabilize sand near railroads in 1910. The stubborn grass spread
along the beach, creating a 30-foot-tall foredune. Because this
grassy dike stops sand from blowing off the beach, the inland dunes
have been cut off from their supply of sand.
last dunes still marching eastward are expected to disappear within
a century. Already they have left behind a broad deflation plain,
a marshy area regrowing with brush and trees, between the ocean
and the dying dunes
Along most of the Oregon Coast, bluffs block the prevailing west
winds from blowing beach sand inland. But in the lowlands of the
Oregon Dunes, wave after wave of wind-driven dunes have marched
ashore. Each onslaught buries forests before gradually petering
out and sprouting forests of its own.