Saturday, March 23, 2019

Crossing the big bays with an outfitter

Stepping out on Bayocean Spit after a ride across Tillamook Bay from Garibaldi.

Bay mouth crossings: they’re one of the things that make hiking the Oregon Coast Trail extra fun and different from other long-distance trails. You can avoid them (and the uncertainty or expense of getting a boat ride) by simply walking around the big bays, but that puts you on miles and miles of highway shoulder walking, forces you to skip miles and miles of beach walking, and kind of defeats the purpose of hiking the OCT, in my opinion. The good news is that there are now outfitters who will offer rides at every major bay crossing, plus several less-major ones.

When I last hiked the OCT a decade ago, I just hitched rides with recreational boaters across Tillamook Bay, Netarts Bay, Siletz Bay, and the Umpqua; I paid for a ride across the Nehalem (easy and cheap) and prearranged and paid for a ride across Coos Bay. Bumming rides from boaters still strikes me as a good option for people willing to live with some uncertainty (and willing to ask a favor of strangers, and eager to save money, and inclined to not plan ahead). There are usually lots of boats out and about in summer. (Though certain bays need to be crossed only at high tide, or only on an incoming tide; only later did I realize how lucky I was with my timing of the tides.)

CoastWalk Oregon participants climbig into a Jetty Fishery skiff to cross Nehalem Bay. (You don't know about CoastWalk Oregon? Google it.)
But you might prefer some predictability (and a licensed captain) and be willing to pay for it, especially if you are hiking as a group. Great news: there are now outfitters available to provide a boat ferry almost everywhere you really want a boat ride. The three most important bays to boat across, due to the length and unpleasantness of the highway-walking alternative, are Tillamook, Umpqua, and Coos; you might be able to hitch a ride across Tillamook Bay and the Umpqua River, but you’ll need to prearrange a ride across Coos Bay due to the length of the ride.

Here is a downloadable list of the outfitters I’m aware of who are offering boat ferries at each major crossing on the OCT in 2019, listed north to south. Directions for where to meet the boat, in each case, are explained in my book Day Hiking: Oregon Coast.

(OOPS--the link was going to the wrong list. Fixed now.)


  1. Bonnie - It looks like your Outfitters link actually goes to the Campground list - Can you fix this? Thanks so much for your book and this blog - it has been very useful! CB

  2. I found the same problem.

    I'm doing the OCT in June 2019 (beginning the 5th) and your book has been EXTREMELY helpful in planning my trip. Thank you. I'm geopgraphically challenged, lol, so anything that helps me not get lost is a bonus. I hope to see you out there.

  3. Hi Bonnie,
    Just as a heads up, I scheduled a Winchester Bay Charters ferry pick up 24 hrs in advance, I walked out to the North Spit, waited for the boat, boat came close to shore but they were unable to give me a ride - they said the water was too shallow there near where the jetty ends in the river. So, I walked the 6 miles back to Sparrow Park Rd, and made it to Reedsport via road walking. I don't know if this happens often? Or if their boats have changed to where they can't get onshore? They said I wouldn't be able to wade out to them. Might want to double check this option. When they scheduled with me there wasn't any mention about tide times, etc. Just an FYI