I first learned about the Port of Siuslaw RV Park (prononced sy-YOO-slaw) when searching along the Oregon coast for campsites using Campendium with the “Public” filter on. It’s my favorite way to search for new campgrounds. We usually already know about the popular state parks, but are always on the lookout for previously unknown public parks – especially those that offer water view sites.
This city-run park may have been new to us, but is far from an unknown spot. We arrived on a Sunday afternoon in the pouring rain to find a half-empty campground. As the week progressed and we approached the busy Memorial Day holiday weekend, sites quickly filled, and by the time we left a week later, there was not an empty spot in the whole place.
The setup here is parking lot style, with the exception of one loop at the back of the campground in the grass. The sites in the middle of the lot are pull-thrus for bigger RVs, and there are also back-in sites across from the waterfront sites. I don’t think we would have bothered to stay here if not for the water view option since there are so many other campgrounds in the area. But overall, it was a nice park with very reasonable weekly rates – even for a full hook-up site with a water view. Also, they had a super clean laundry room with all working machines, which these days is like winning the lottery.
Despite a number of rainy days and a cold wind that just won’t quit, we had an awesome week at the Port. Located along the Siuslaw River only one block from downtown Florence, it was a great spot to enjoy both the beauty of the river and the cute town only minutes from our door.
Florence is a tiny seaside town whose three-block main street has the requisite number of saltwater taffy and knickknack shops mixed in with coastal-themed galleries and restaurants offering up fresh from the sea eats. We walked around town a few times but didn’t visit any of them. No particular reason, I guess we just weren’t feeling it that week.
While there were a few things we didn’t do during our stay – like eating out or kayaking on the Siuslaw River – we did manage to get out for a few adventures during the week between rainstorms. First was a trip to the Heceta Head Lighthouse.
Perched on a headland 200 feet above the ocean, this historic beauty with its classic white & red exterior might just be the most scenic lighthouse on the Oregon coast. It’s a very popular spot, but since we visited mid-week after 4 pm there were not many people around.
We parked next to a secluded beach below the lighthouse and followed the gently sloping path up past the keeper’s house (which is now a B&B) and on to the lighthouse.
In search of more views, we climbed up the trail past the lighthouse so we could gaze at the ocean beyond. The trail continued through a forest of moss and fern-covered trees, some forever bent due to the wind. It was like hiking through a fairytale. If fairy houses do exist, I am fairly certain that Oregon forests are where you would find them :)
After a series of sometimes steep, and sometimes muddy, ups and downs, we reached the Hobbit Beach trailhead where there is a small parking area. From here it was a short walk through a tunnel of wind-sculpted trees to the beach.
By the time we made it back to the lighthouse, the sun was low in the sky and we were treated to a show as the fresnel lens in the lighthouse rotated around and beamed out to sea.
On another sunny afternoon, we took a drive to the Tahkenitch Dunes Trail. That’s right, more dunes! Florence is at the top of the Oregon Dunes Recreation Area, while the last place we stayed, Bluebill CG, was at the bottom. There are probably more hiking trails up near the north end of the dunes, but also more ATVs.
This was an awesome trail. We arrived at the trailhead which is also the location of the small, tent-only Tahkenitch Campground, and set off through the forest. The trail makes a loop through the forest, over a short section of dunes with water views, through more forest to the beach, south on the beach, and then back past the dunes and through a hilly forested section to the trailhead. Altogether it was a roughly 6.25-mile loop. I can’t tell you how happy it makes us to have reached the time of year when there is enough daylight to hike 6+ miles after work and still get home before dark. Yay summer!
For our last outing in the area, we were determined to put our boats in the water. We’ve been surprised by the number of lakes and rivers in this part of the state. The last time we visited the coast, we didn’t have kayaks and never paid much attention to possible paddling spots. These days we’re constantly on the lookout for places to paddle around and this particular stretch of coast is rich in natural lakes and waterways.
We would have been happy enough to simply put our boats in one of the lakes and spend a pleasant few hours on the water. But always on the lookout for an adventure, I was searching around and came across a mention of the Siltcoos River Canoe Trail. The “trail” starts in Siltcoos Lake, travels down the Siltcoos River under bridges and past a dam, all the way to the ocean. Yes, you heard that right. We paddled in a lake, down a river, and all the way to the ocean! I can’t be the only one who thinks this is super cool.
The public boat ramp was not far from the river entrance so we didn’t spend much time in Siltcoos Lake. It looked like a nice place to paddle around though, with a scattering of islands and narrow inlets for exploring. Another time, another day.
We entered the mouth of the river and lazily paddled downstream, occasionally waving to fisherpeople and other paddlers, but mostly enjoying the river all for ourselves on this quiet Saturday morning.
A few miles down the river, we came to a small dam that helps regulate the lake level. On the far right side was a convenient landing pad and ramp for transporting boats past. It was very easy to navigate and I was grateful that I didn’t have to carry my heavy boat around the dam.
Not far after the dam, the nature of the river changed as it was now subject to the tides. Ideally, we would have timed it so we hit this part about mid-tide to prevent dealing with too much current pushing us in either direction. But we were eager to get out on the water and ended up hitting it closer to low tide. The current wasn’t all that strong but it was shallow, and a couple of times we ran aground in soft sand.
As we got closer to the shore, we could hear the waves and smell the ocean. By this time we had left the protection of the trees and were now at the mercy of a very strong wind blowing right at us.
We didn’t have much farther to go. A short paddle around the corner and we could see the shore through the fog in front of us. We had made it!
Before reaching the waves, we pulled over to the side and dragged our boats up on the beach. It was cold here as compared to the river, but we hung out for over an hour taking in the view and waiting for the tide to turn so we could get a free ride back upstream.
We had packed our kayaks with the intention of staying for a while with a picnic blanket, plenty of snacks & cold drinks, and even a book of word finds to amuse ourselves. The wind was freezing, but we stuck it out, and while it was far from what I would think of as typical Memorial Day weather, it was still nice to spend it on the beach.
As the tide turned and started coming back in, we watched the river mouth widen and disappeared as the ocean water rushed in. Soon, the tide was pushing water upriver and that was our cue to get back in our boats. The wind and tides pushed us along nicely and for the first section of the river at least, we simply steered our boats as they gently floating upstream.
We passed at least a dozen people headed downstream as we paddled back up the river. By the time we got back to where we had spotted the kayak rental dock near the entrance to the lake, there were only one or two boats left to rent. I can see why this is a popular paddling trail. It was an easy paddle down a peaceful river that required no navigation skills. And even if you timed it all wrong with the tides, the worst that would happen is you would need to expel more effort to paddle against the current. But the best reason to paddle this trail is the scenery. Tall trees, sand dunes spilling into the water, clear, clean water, and of course, an incredible beach at the end, puts this firmly in my top list of paddling routes. What a great way to end our time near the Oregon Dunes.