By the tenth of June, Karen had a couple weeks of vacation, and it seemed the right time for a little trip down the central Oregon Coast. Yes, there were the obligatory stops at the Indian casinos enroute to our destination: Florence, Oregon. But, we also spent quality time at the Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area in Newport. "Outstanding" is an over-used word, but the BLM is justified in calling this area just that.
We started visiting Yaquina Head in the mid-1980's when the route to the lighthouse was over a narrow, chuckhole-filled gravel road, and the lighthouse had lost most of its white coat to the salt air and gale-force winds that hit it every winter. The strong basalt rock that comprises the headland was being carted away to create the breakwaters all along the Oregon coast. There was a good possibility that the rock quarry would soon cut the headland in two! No one cared if you carted home the beautiful smooth blue cobble stones that lined the beach by the tidepools. No one cared if you walked on the fragile tidepool animals and trampled them. And, no one cared if you wandered too close to the edge of the sheer cliffs and found yourself suddenly in the sea! However, the seabirds still made their annual trek to the "sea stack" rocks to breed, nest and raise their chicks.
But, in 1980 wheels were already turning to rescue Yaquina Head from neglect and abuse. That year, the headland and lighthouse were transferred from the Lighthouse Service to the BLM for management and improvement. It took the BLM some time to get underway, but over the years we've seen significant changes and improvements. Now, a smooth road leads to the lighthouse; the former quarry holds a beautiful visitor center and museum; the lighthouse has been restored; the edges of the cliffs are all fenced for safety; and paved paths encourage visitors to stay off the meadows where the wildflowers have returned in profusion. The ranger told us on this trip that better management of the tidepools has improved life for the larger marine animals too--the seals are thriving now. We could see for ourselves the 24,000+ seabirds that continue to use the offshore rocks. Well, yes, there is one downside--you now have to PAY to visit this Outstanding Natural Area. It's true--there is no such thing as a free lunch. This is the official BLM website for Yaquina Head.
Our time in Florence was consumed by the casino adjacent to our hotel room. But, the next morning we headed for Eugene via Highway 126, following the Siuslaw River east. Our destination was the "Fern Ridge Wildlife Area" to check out the birds and the wildflowers. We found this to be a HUGE refuge, pretty much encircling Fern Ridge Reservoir. WAY too big to see in a few hours, but we did enjoy seeing grasslands, wetlands, and a lovely little creek. Nice birds and colorful wildflowers made it a good side trip--and no one lost a penny to a slot machine the whole time!
How nice to live in Oregon!
June 12, 2009
Unless otherwise noted, text and photos are the property of Barbara Halliday, © 2009