The Oregon Coast is world-renowned for its combination of hidden coves, towering cliffs and crashing waves. Peggy and I are fortunate to live only a couple of hours away from this beauty and have resolved to spend much more time exploring the coastline in 2017. It should be one resolution that is easy to keep.
I called and made reservations to stay at Sunset Bay State Park on the Oregon Coast in November. Normally I wouldn’t bother with reservations during late fall, but the Christmas light show at nearby Shore Acres Park attracts up to 50,000 people annually. Odds were that a number of them would be staying at the campground.
I needn’t have worried. The park was under two feet of water when I called. A high tide had joined forces with a flooding stream. The park reservation company in California had happily collected its seven-dollar reservation fee and failed to fill us in on the little detail that we might need a boat to get to our campsite.
Peggy and I already had that experience. We had camped in our small RV at a private campground near Mendocino a few years ago and woke up to discover a seagull floating by our window. Water was lapping at our doorstep. We had departed quicker than a jack rabbit on steroids, not even stopping to pay our campground fee. They probably would have charged extra for the seagull. Besides, a warning in the night that the area was flooding would have been appreciated.
Fortunately we lucked out at Sunset Bay. We weren’t even aware of the flood until we arrived and the water had already receded. Apparently we had missed the flood by a day and a gang of prisoners had swept through the campground and cleaned up the debris. Other than the campground host, we pretty much had the area to ourselves.
Sunset Bay is a hidden jewel, snuggled in along the coast near Coos Bay. It is part of a 6000-feet thick geological formation known as the Coaledo Formation after the coal deposits found in the area. For a while, starting in the 1850s, coal mining was a major industry in the area. By 1904 there were some 40 active mines. The coal was used primarily for running steam locomotives. The appearance of diesel engines in the 1920s had reduced the demand for the Coos Bay coal, however, and the last coal mine was shut down in 1940.
Coal fired steam locomotives are mainly a footnote in history now, but Peggy and I ended up on a train being pulled by one just before Christmas. Our son Tony and his wife Cammie had purchased tickets for the family to travel on the Polar Express out of Essex, Connecticut. We arrived just about dark and the locomotive was warming up to leave. Manny Mistletoe entertained us on our way to the ‘North Pole’ where Mr. and Mrs. Clause greeted us and entertained our grandsons who were appropriately decked out in their pajamas. Hot chocolate was served.
The sedimentary rocks of the Coaledo Formation, laid down in layers over millions of years, have been tilted steeply upward by the crashing Pacific and North American tectonic plates. Varying levels of hardness found among the sedimentary rocks have allowed for different levels of erosion and account for the interesting land formations found at Sunset Bay. I am going to do two posts on our visit. Today’s photos are focused on looking out toward the ocean. On Friday I will do a photographic essay on the fun things we found along the shoreline. (Wednesday’s blog returns to the Sierra Trek.)
WEDNESDAY’S BLOG: Part 2 of the Sierra Trek, a nine-day hundred mile backpack trip across the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range.
FRIDAY’S BLOG: The wrap up on Sunset Bay… a photographic essay.
66 thoughts on “Sunset Bay: A Hidden Treasure on the Oregon Coast… The North Coast Series”
It’s a beautiful spot, for sure. Still, I got caught when I read about the “no warning” experience at that campground. If they’re still in business, I hope they’re a little more attentive to things. Flash flooding’s flash flooding, but it’s still possible to know when conditions are right: at least, for the most part.
That steam engine’s impressive. There’s a train exhibit at the Houston Museum of Science now that’s made up of models. It’s not your circular track in a store window version, either. It’s the size of two tennis courts, and has all of Texas as its scenery!
We simply wouldn’t have been able to get into the Sunset Bay Park, which would have irked me. I am pretty sure they warned the folks there. Oregon State Parks are good even if the private reservation system leaves something to be desired. As for the other place, I think it went with the territory. We haven’t been back!
Sacramento has a wonderful train museum if you ever get there, Linda. It is based on the fact that Sacramento was the terminal for the first transcontinental railroad. –Curt
Once again a beautiful road trip idea!
Can’t go wrong with the coast! 🙂 –Curt
What a beautiful, powerful place! I love those crashing waves!
They are gorgeous, Richard. And dramatic! Thanks. –Curt
As a native Oregonian, I can attest that the Oregon coastline is amongst the most scenic, rugged, powerful and beautiful places in the USA. Your pictures are a wonderful reminder of a very special place to visit. Thank you for providing my morning nostalgic moment 😃
Always glad to provide a nostalgic moment. 🙂 More coming on Friday. Where were you born in Oregon? –Curt
Medford, but I am especially fond of Ashland and the Applegate areas.
Ah, maybe we’ve talked about that before. My great grandparents arrived in Oregon in 1907 and bought a pear orchard in Medford. My mother was born and raised in the town. –Curt
Both of my parents grew up in Medford as well. Pretty hard to beat Bartlett pears from Medford.
Interesting. When was that? Our family lost the orchard during the Great Depression. I was born in Ashland but my parents moved to the Bay Area shortly afterwards.
Harry and David’s has helped to spread that taste of Bartlett Pears world-wide. I grew up in the foothills of the Sierras and worked in Bartlett Pear orchards through high-school. –Curt
My dad was born in 1925 and mom in 1928.
So both families would have been there at the same time, Joanne. Medford isn’t that big and was much smaller then. It’s a pretty sure bet that they knew each other. –Curt
My grandparents were fairly well known in the area back in the day. They owned Morton Milling Company which was a major business there.
Bet they knew each other for sure! I’ll have to do some research. –Curt
I get a kick out of the ‘Polar Express’ – those old trains still hold some mystic. I can see why you make the trip to the Oregon coast, scenic views for one!!
Lots of beauty on the coast, G. As for trains, I only wish we had a lot more of them in the US. The Polar Express was pure nostalgia but we also took Amtrak from Boston to New London, Connecticut. As opposed to airplanes, trains are a relaxing way to travel and see the countryside. –Curt
What a beautiful place. There’s nothing quite like the PNW! Great photos Curt.
Spoken lie a fellow PNWer. 🙂 Thanks. –Curt
Sort of explains why those pioneers kept going all the way to the coast!
Good point, Andrew. My ancestors started on the East Coast and just kept traveling until they reached here. 🙂 –Curt
One of my favourite western movies – ‘Bend of the River’ – James Stewart takes a wagon train to Oregon!
They don’t make westerns like they used to, Andrew. My great grandmother, who is buried a few miles away from where I live, came across the country in a wagon train. I just read a fun book that you might enjoy, “The Oregon Trail” by Rinker Buck. Rinker and his brother recently made the 2000 mile journey in a covered wagon. The book is chock full of historical detail but also contains a lot of humor and adventure. –Curt
Your photos are magnificent! I love the Pacific ocean at low tide, the seagull one and the early morning light. How lucky to live near to such stunning and dramatic beauty!
Love those locomotives…..so fun!
Flash floods…not so fun!
Thanks Peta. The coast always inspires me to break out my camera and start snapping. Lots of flooding around here lately. I’ve been working hard to persuade a creek that it really doesn’t want to run down my driveway. 🙂 –Curt
Very beautiful coastline and photos. =)
Thanks Tam… a little different from your Southern California coast, eh? 🙂 –Curt
Yes =) but they are all gorgeous in different ways lol
That they are Tam…
Can’t beat that morning/evening light!
I agree Dave. I always love the early morning and late afternoon light. –Curt
“They probably would have charged extra for the seagull.”
Crap, there’s a big flock of them at the middle school field across the street. Does this mean my rent is gonna go up?
Gorgeous photos. That beach feels more like Northern California than Oregon.
Ubiquitous… a very good word when it comes to describing seagulls. 🙂 Interesting comment on the beach. It isn’t something that has really caught my attention. Maybe it is the shelf effect? –Curt
I dunno, just the lay of the rock and the trees feels definitely very-southern-Oregon, if anything.
I’d go with that. The photos from today’s blog shown erosion of the tilted sedimentary rocks has a feel to it that I haven’t seen in either Northern California or Northern Oregon.
I’ll absorb that when I get back; going out to see how long I can last before freeze-drying my facial features at Steigerwald Lake.
Well, if you do, freeze dry a smile.
That’s actually my biggest problem: tooth freeze from grinning.
Okay, I’m off. (shut up)
I never worry too much about the cold until my nose hairs freeze. Okay, I’ll shut up too.
Hey, that hike was a frozen blast, but in a good way. I had everything properly layered but my thighs where the gaiters ended above my knees, so it was a stinging point of contention in the windy spots but the whitened views were spectacular, the place was mostly empty, and the eagles were out and vocal. Zippity-doo-dah.
Would have loved to have seen the vocal eagles! Mine are always quiet. Not so much the hawks. Layered systems really work. Its amazing at how little you can get away with. –Curt
Forgot to leave this: A website I found, called Outdoor Project that you might like. I like their format, heavy on photos so you can get a feel for a place.
Thanks. It looks good. I jumped on and looked at it briefly. I will explore it in greater depth. BTW… I don’t want to be forward, but after communicating for a couple of years, I’ll bet you have a name. 🙂 –Curt
You mean this whole time you never spotted the “About Anna” page of my websites?
Okay, Anna, now I am embarrassed. See my red face. I just sped back to your website. At one time I read the Anna section, and I always go looking for the ‘about’ on blogs. It’s how I get to know fellow bloggers. Anyway, it was good to meet you again! I can see why I liked you immediately… that is beyond your somewhat warped and unique sense of humor. –Curt
Warped and unique. Yup, all the doctors said so.
It probably didn’t even take a diagnosis…
Are you kidding? With health insurance these days, they wouldn’t even know which box to tick.
How about the one that says “Has a unique perception of reality.” 🙂
Great photos Curt. For some reason I picked up on so many horizontal lines along the shoreline. Srange. Maybe it has something to do with the bottom.
Thanks! Maybe its because it’s earthquake country Kayti. Flat ocean shelves are raised and dropped by tectonic activity. –Curt
I’ve never visited that part of the country. Even when I traveled a lot for business, I never had any reason to go to the PNW. Looks like a stunningly beautiful place. Maybe someday…
Put it on your bucket list, right now, Bill. And you and Cheri can stop and visit Peggy and me. –Curt
Curt, it’s a pleasure to travel with you!
And a pleasure to have you along, JF! –Curt
High tide or low tide, Sunset Bay is beautiful.
Glad you and Peggy didn’t waste $7 🙂
$7 seems like a rather puny sum in comparison, huh, Timi. 🙂 But it is all in the story, as you know. The Bay is beautiful! –Curt
A puny sum yes, but the ‘deceit’ behind collecting (swindling) it, intended or unintended, isn’t puny. It was to that, I was referring.
Agreed Timi. 🙂 I don’t think it was swindling as much as not paying attention to detail, however. Admittedly important details.
Watching the crashing of waves over rocks can be very hypnotic. When I saw the sea for the first time in Holland as a child I could not believe it. Great pictures, Curt. I also love ‘the rabbit on steroids’.
I also remember my first experience of seeing the ocean as a child, Gerard. My grandparents lived near the coast in Central California. It made a deep impression, and a cherished memory— one that has pulled me back time and again, and one I never tire of.
Yep, we were ‘a-gitting’ when we saw the sea gull swim by. 🙂 –Curt
Flood or no flood, glad you made it to Sunset Bay! How gorgeous. And your pictures do it justice. I could stay and listen to the waves all day.
There is a great deal of beauty along the West Coast… I’ve returned again and again over the years. –Curt
Those pictures of the waves are really cool
Thanks… I can watch waves roll in for hours! –Curt