Oregon's Sea of Sand

By Henderson, Bonnie | Sunset, March 2002 | Go to article overview

Oregon's Sea of Sand


Henderson, Bonnie, Sunset


Explore 45 miles of shifting dunes, forests, and wetlands-all teeming with wildlife

Some days the sand is light and dry as sugar, falling away underfoot. After a rain it's like soft-serve ice cream, yielding gently. Then there are winter days when the east wind blows, scouring the sky of clouds and freezing the dunes hard as marble. Always, the dunes are a sculpture, and a work in progress.

It takes a lot of sand, a lot of wind, and a flat coastal plain to create a shoreline dominated by dunes. On Oregon's south-central coast, those elements come together like nowhere else, and the results are stunning. Broad expanses of open sand undulate, sweeping up into steep mountains or falling off into lakes, ponds, and shallow quagmires of quicksand.

Amid that sea of sand, islands of forest appear, dense with Sitka spruce and salal and evergreen huckleberry. Meandering through both sand and forest are creeks the color of tea. Bordering it all is a wild beach with nary a hotel or outlet mall in sight.

The "dune sheet," as geologists call it, stretches about 45 miles from the mouth of Coos Bay north to the base of Heceta Head, and represents the largest continuous complex of sand dunes in the coastal United States. In 1972, Congress preserved a vast portion of it-most of the land between the beach and U.S. 101 from Coos Bay to Florence-as Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area.

Aside from a few primitive campgrounds, picnic areas, and trailheads, it has been left wild, allowing the wealth of plant and animal life that thrives in the dunes to remain relatively undisturbed. Three state parks in or near the dunes provide more interest, from a functioning 108-- year-old lighthouse to lakes perfect for canoeing and kayaking.

Hiking the dunes

This wild coastline is a hiker's dream. Except for five access routes that lead from U.S. 101 to beachfront parking, the Oregon Dunes shoreline is roadless. Trailheads appear regularly along the highway, their routes heading west to the beach or winding through dunes to connect with other trails. Where it crosses open sand, a trail may be nothing more than a series of blue-topped wooden posts indicating general direction; where the trail crosses fragile wetlands, small bridges or raised platforms will keep your feet dry.

The dunes can reward you with moments to savor throughout the year: Watch a solitary bald eagle glide high above a creek or an osprey dive for a fish; follow deer tracks in the sand; flush a river otter from streamside; enjoy clouds of pink rhododendron blossoms in midMay; or witness spawning salmon run a gauntlet of hungry harbor seals to enter a creek mouth in the fall.

A land on the move

This open dune landscape reforms itself minute by minute-and may, in fact, be reforming itself beyond recognition. Most of the pale green grass seen throughout the dunes is European beach grass, introduced around 1910 in Coos Bay to stabilize dunes at the mouths of navigable rivers.

The scheme may have worked too well. Wind blows seeds along the shore, where they take hold and send down deep roots. The plants' slender blades catch sand blowing inland and settle it into an ever taller foredune. Wind scours the dunes just inland, creating marshy depressions inviting to shrubs and trees, and slowly the forest expands.

Despite efforts by the Forest Service ranging from bulldozing to hand-pulling and burning, scientists now believe that the active dunes may be gone in a matter of decades, eventually replaced by forest.

Vegetation of the dunes isn't unique to our era. The introduction of beach grass appears to have accelerated a natural cycle of sand advance and dune forestation. Geologists believe that such cycles have occurred at least three times in the past 20,000 years-but they may have taken hundreds or even thousands of years to complete, rather than just decades.

No one can say with certainty how much humans have contributed to the changes in this rare coastal dune ecosystem. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Oregon's Sea of Sand
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.