Monday, March 3, 2014

Mile 279 to Mile 296: Bandon to Floras Lake

Cumulative mileage figures in parentheses refer to mileage in this section only.

The Oregon Coast Trail changes character south of Cape Arago. The beaches are narrower and the sand softer, which makes the going a bit harder for hikers. The scenery continues to be stellar, of course. And there are some very remote stretches. In fact, south of Bandon you enter what is perhaps the remotest OCT stretch of all; once you get a mile or two south of town, it’s likely you won’t see another soul for 13 or 14 miles.

Beach south of Coquille Point
From Old Town Bandon, follow US 101 south up the hill about 0.5 mile to 11th Street SW, turn right, and follow it 1 mile west to Coquille Point, returning to the beach on stairs down the point's south side. (Alternately, from Old Town Bandon, follow First Street around the bay as it turns into Jetty Road and leads you to Bandon South Jetty Park (toilets/water) and the beach. Head south on the beach, rounding Coquille Point). Continue south, rounding the point at Face Rock, to the mouth of Twomile Creek, about 5 miles south of Coquille Point, and 1 more mile to the mouth of New River (7.5 miles).  (Note that those were the distances to the creek mouths when I last hiked it in 2009, but the mouth of New River, which runs just inside of and parallel to the foredune, tends to get pushed around by winter high water; you may find that it has busted through the dune to the ocean far to the north or south of where I found it.) New River should be easy to wade at its mouth at low tide.

From this point, you will be on the toughest stretch of beach walking on the Oregon Coast, in my experience. The sand is coarse and soft, the beach steep; it may help to hit this area at low tide, but I don't think it helps much. And there is no camping allowed except in one spot (to avoid disturbing nesting snowy plovers March-September). Continuing south, look for an "INFORMATION" post in the dunes about 1.5 miles past the New River mouth, marking the north end of the New River Area of Critical Environmental Concern; continue another 3.25 miles to a second "INFORMATION" post, which marks the location of the only (primitive) campsite on this stretch of beach. Even if you don't camp here, it's a good place to get out of the wind and take a break.

Continue 4.25 miles more to the end of the plover fencing (March-Sept.) and a break in the dune with lots of footsteps emerging (17 miles); follow the footsteps to a trail that leads east 0.5 mile, crossing a footbridge over New River, to Boice Cope County Park on Floras Lake, a good place for an overnight (toilets/water). The park caters mainly to board sailers and kiteboarders; there’s plenty of room for a backpacker to set up a tent in the middle of the camping loop. Alternately, arrange to stay at the B&B a few steps away ( I don’t think there is any regulation against camping on the beach or in the dunes here, as long as you’re outside of the plover fencing.