Thursday, September 19 Through Sunday, September 22, 2019
The drive from Fort Stevens State Park near Astoria Oregon south to South Beach State Park near Newport Oregon was along US-101. Most sections of US-101 through Oregon are congested nearly year round with the northern section especially bad. There are a number of tourist activities along the coast attracting visitors. Speed limits go up and down between 25 and 65 MPH. Stop lights are in nearly all the small towns. US-101 is mostly two-lane with limited opportunities for passing slow moving vehicles. Lots of RVs drive this highway.
The average speed for the drive was around 40 MPH.
Tillamook Oregon is close to the half way point between Astoria and Newport. A little north of Tillamook, a steam engine pulling four passenger cars was chugging and huffing slowly northward on tracks squeezed between US-101 and the ocean. After a quick Internet search, this was an Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad excursion train. Regular Coastal Excursion (Between Garibaldi and Rockaway Beach Oregon) tickets can run $22. The website isn’t clear if this means round trip or one way. Regardless, this looks like fun!
Tillamook is where world famous Tillamook Cheese is made. Lots of parking for both cars and RVs can be seen from US-101 and is available for visitors touring the Creamery, eating in the restaurant and shopping in the gift shop.
South Beach State Park is south of Newport Oregon on the other side of Yaquina Bay. Crossing Yaquina Bay drops travelers into South Beach Oregon where the park is.
Even though mid September is a shoulder season for Oregon beach parks, they still fill up on the weekends. There we also a number of full-timers and extended-travelers going up or down the Oregon coast visiting as many coastal state parks as possible. The majority of campers have had Oregon and Washington license plates.
While the above line of RVs seemed long, the wait wasn’t. Campers with paid reservations just have to show up, provide their names, get some tags to hang on the rear view mirror and go find their campsite. We were asked to unhitch our Jeep in the overflow parking lot. Good advice since the camping loop roads are either narrow (one lane) or have lots of traffic on them.
During check-in, we were told about bear sightings in the park. Fortunately, the bears were frequenting an area of the park we didn’t plan to go to. We were offered and accepted a pamphlet titled Oregon is Black Bear Country: Guidelines For Living With Black Bears. Additional black bear resources can be found at the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife website. The website has good bear encounter tips.
This is a back-in water and electric site. The only sewer sites in the park belonged to park hosts. There are no pull-through sites. The sites are paved and most have tree cover. Grass struggles in the poor salty soil and there are many bare spots in human traffic areas around the site. Drainage after rains can be slow. During our stay, we constantly swept rocks, sand and pine needles off the floor.
Verizon and AT&T phone service was spotty in the park. In the campsite, however, it was good enough to support phone, data and personal hotspot data. Over-The-Air (OTA) television is also available although the channels are somewhat limited. Like other Oregon State Parks, they do sell ice.
Restrooms and showers had waits during certain times of the day. They were heavily used and could have had better and more frequent cleanings.
The park entrance is on US-101. Traffic on US-101 is generally heavy. Left turns out of the park toward Newport take either time, good timing or plain dumb luck to do safely. Right turns toward the south are not so hard.
The evening dog walk goal was to get to the ocean. The Interpretive Boardwalk Trail was the shortest path.
This trail crosses the Cooper Ridge Nature Trail first, then the South Jetty Trail followed by the Old Jetty Trail before before the paved trail ends and the boardwalk begins. Along this trail are markers painted on the asphalt. The trail markers show where the high-tide line was in different years going back to the 1800’s. Since the North and South Jetties were constructed, the beach has been growing and there are now two or more high sand dunes between the campground and the ocean. The amount of land in the park has doubled since the jetties were built.
The boardwalk begins at the 1974 shoreline according to the writing on the asphalt in the lower right hand side of the above picture.
The boardwalk gives the feeling of floating over the dunes.
One of the interpretive signs explained how the jetties built this beach. From the above end of the boardwalk, the hike down to the beach was through deep moving sand.
The sand was considerably firmer away from the dune at the high tide mark. Tide was out and the beach view was particularly beautiful.
On the way back, the Yaquina Bay Bridge could be seen in the distance.
The following day’s mid morning walk revealed new trails crisscrossing the dunes.
Making way toward the ocean and jetty and topping the last dune, finally the beach, ocean and jetties came into view. A sailboat rounded the jetty and turned into the channel toward Yaquina Bay. Not hurrying fast enough, the sailboat passed through the channel before my jetty arrival.
The sailboat was on its way to passing under the Yaquina Bay Bridge.
A smaller, slower sailboat also passed through the channel. The Yaquina Bay South Jetty can be seen on the right. The jetties were made from large quarried rocks/boulders and the channel between them gets periodically dredged to keep the channel clear.
One mystery, not solved on this day, was where was the foghorn that blew for two seconds and then went quiet for ten. Day and night that foghorn blows. The location of the foghorn is hidden from search engines.
Even the normally helpful park Hospitality Center, part park store and part help desk, couldn’t answer the question.
After leaving the park, searching for “Yaquina Aids To Navigation” revealed the NOAA Marine Chart Book Covering Yaquina Bay. Finally, after looking closely at each page, there it was. The horn on the South Jetty. Finally, the foghorn mystery was solved.
Continuing along the jetty, a trailhead parking lot appeared on the right.
Uncertain which trail to follow, choosing the beach direction would ultimately lead to a known location.
It turned out to be a longer walk than usual that eventually lead back to camp.
Back at camp, the sun finally broke through the clouds and we all sat outside enjoying the afternoon. In the evening, the camp was packed up and put away. The rains were coming back with a vengeance in the morning. The rains started in earnest after midnight, pounding on the roof in irregular patterns.
We arose early to get out of the park before 8:00 AM. We were third in line at the dump station. After dumping the tanks, we headed north on US-101 to Newport to fuel up the truck. Then we found US-20 and headed east toward our next stop, Waterloo County Park outside Lebanon Oregon.
Hope to see you on the road ahead!