This Little-Known Town Is Any Nature Lover’s Tranquil Paradise On The Oregon Coast

by | Jun 9, 2024 | Adventures, Camping, Entertainment, Featured, Forest Bathing, Hiking, Oregon Coast, Photography, Things To Do, Travel, Wildlife

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I love summer for the opportunities it presents to get out into nature. Swimming, hiking, bird watching and camping are some of my favorite outdoor activities, and I'm always looking for new places to get outside and explore. There's one city along the Oregon coast that's often overlooked, but is the perfect spot for those looking to get outdoors. Whether you're seeking the thrill of off-roading on dunes, the serenity of fishing in pristine coastal lakes, or the simple pleasure of a beachside picnic, Reedsport is the perfect home base for an outdoor adventure this summer.

Outdoor Adventure Near Reedsport, Oregon

An aerial view of Reedsport and the Umpqua River. The city is surrounded by forest.
Aerial view of Reedsport and the Umpqua River. Photo via OCVA via Flickr CC2.

Reedsport offers a tranquil escape and is a haven for nature enthusiasts, presenting a wide variety of nature adventures and activities. Want to go wildlife watching? Reedsport has herds of elk and a wide variety of birds to check out.

The Umpqua River Bridge as it goes onto an island covered in lush coastal forest.
The Umpqua River Bridge. Photo by Thomas Hawk via Flickr CC2.

Fancy a day on the beach? In a ten or twelve minute drive, you can be there. How about boating or fishing on a lake? You guessed it, Reedsport is surrounded by lakes, as well as dozens of other outdoor recreation opportunities. There are so many things to do in the Reedsport area that we can't possibly list them all here, so we've made a list of our favorites for you instead.

The Umpqua River Bridge with two boats (one dark blue and one bright red) in the river in front of it. There are forested hills in the background. The photo was taken on a cloudy day.
Umpqua River Bridge. Photo by Thomas Hawk via Flickr CC2.

Where is Reedsport, Oregon? Reedsport is found about halfway between Coos Bay and Florence, Oregon. The ocean is about a 12 minute drive west of Reedsport. Reedsport itself is found on the Umpqua River, which empties into the Pacific Ocean. Highway 101 goes right through town.

Dean Creek Elk Viewing Area

A large Roosevelt Elk eats some grass at Dean Creek.
Roosevelt Elk at the Dean Creek Elk Viewing Area. Photo by Martyne Reesman, ODFW via Flickr CC2.

Just three miles east of Reedsport along Oregon Highway 38, the Dean Creek Elk Viewing Area is a must-visit for wildlife enthusiasts.

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Several elk at Dean Creek viewing area. They're standing in a field, and behind them is a forested hill covered in trees.
Roosevelt Elk at Dean Creek. Photo by Francis Eatherington via Flickr CC2.

This area is home to a herd of 60-100 Roosevelt elk, visible almost every day of the year. The main viewing area includes an interpretive kiosk and restrooms. With several pull-outs along the highway, it's a perfect spot for capturing memorable photos.

A herd of elk at Dean Creek viewing area. They're standing in a field, and behind them is a forested hill covered in trees.
Elk at Dean Creek. Photo by Doug Kerr via Flickr CC2.

Can I get closet to the elk at Dean Creek? You must maintain a safe distance and avoid feeding the wildlife, as these majestic creatures can weigh over 1,000 pounds and can be dangerous to humans. You should always respect the wildlife you encounter.

Several elk at Dean Creek near Reedsport, Oregon.
Elk at Dean Creek. Photo by Doug Kerr via Flickr CC2.

Tip: Bring your binoculars so you can get a better look at the elk. This is a great spot to take photos. If you have a telephoto lens, be sure to bring that with you!

Gaze At Glorious Rhodies And Azaleas At O.H. Hinsdale Rhododendron Garden

Red flowers by a bridge, with white, red, pink and yellow flowers in the background and several trees at Hinsdale Rhododendron Garden.
Hinsdale Rhododendron Garden. Photo by Maria Thi Mai, BLM via Flickr CC2.

For those who appreciate botanical beauty, the O.H. Hinsdale Rhododendron Garden is a delightful stop.

Gorgeous flowers along the waters edge at Hinsdale Rhododendron Garden near Reedsport, Oregon.
O.H. Hinsdale Rhododendron Garden. Photo via BLM via Flickr CC2.

Did I say delightful? What I meant is absolutely jaw dropping and dripping with colorful beauty.

Situated on the Umpqua River, this 55-acre garden boasts a stunning collection of rare and vintage rhododendrons.

Bright pink flowers at Hinsdale Rhododendron Garden near Reedsport, Oregon.
Hinsdale Rhododendron Garden. Photo by Maria Thi Mai, BLM via Flickr CC2.

The garden is most spectacular in spring when the rhododendrons are in full bloom.

Stunning red flowers with a white flower bush right behind it at the Hinsdale Rhododendron Garden in Oregon.
Hinsdale Rhododendron Garden. Photo by Maria Thi Mai, BLM via Flickr CC2.

Limited parking is available directly on Highway 38, but on select days, a shuttle service from the Dean Creek Elk Viewing Area is provided, making access easier and safer.

Gorgeous colorful flowers in shades of light and dark pink, and red along the waters edge at Hinsdale Rhododendron Garden near Reedsport, Oregon.
Hinsdale Rhododendron Garden. Photo by Maria Thi Mai, BLM via Flickr CC2

I really can't think of a better day than stopping to check out the elk at the elk viewing area, and then heading up the Umpqua River to wander amongst blooming flowers.

Get Your Adventure On At The Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area

A sweeping view of the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. Sand dunes stretch far into the distance, surrounded by coastal grasses and forest.
Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. Photo by Mac H (Media601) via Flickr CC2.

Adventure and solitude intertwine at the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, one of the largest expanses of temperate coastal sand dunes in the world.

This 31,500-acre wonderland offers diverse activities, from Off Highway Vehicle (OHV) riding, to hiking, paddling, and wildlife viewing.

Smooth sand dunes, adorned with grasses along their lip, with forest in the background.
Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. Photo by Cyril Fluck via Flickr CC2.

The stark, mist-shrouded dunes, juxtaposed with lush forests and the Pacific Ocean, create a hauntingly beautiful landscape.

A person on an off road motorcycle jumps into the air at the Oregon Dunes. There is a forest in the background.
Riding at the dunes. Photo by Timelapsed via Flickr CC2.

Whether you're looking to explore tree islands, open dunes, or wetlands, this recreation area promises a unique and captivating experience!

Visit The Bolon Island Tideways State Scenic Corridor

Bolon Island Tideways State Scenic Corridor is a serene spot for day use, featuring a hiking trail that wraps halfway around the island. The Umpqua River shoreline here has been a nesting site for Double Crested Cormorants since 1988, offering a rare opportunity to observe these birds up close. Though the park lacks restrooms and potable water, its tranquil beauty and unique wildlife viewing make it worth the visit. Bring your binoculars and telephoto lens, and please remember not to disturb the wildlife.

Hey, why do some of the trees on Bolon Island look like they're dead? The Double Crested Cormorants build platforms of sticks in the trees, making them look dead. Usually these rookeries are too remote and hard to see, which makes the day use area here unique!

Hike The Threemile Lake South Trail

Threemile Lake. It's long and skinny, and surrounded by forest and in some parts by sand.
Threemile Lake trail. Photo by Einahpets32 (Stephanie) via Flickr CC2.

For a leisurely hike through ancient conifer forests, the Threemile Lake South Trail is a bit of a hidden gem. This 1.8-mile trail ends at the south end of the serene Threemile Lake, a perfect spot for a summer swim or a quiet fishing session for yellow perch. The trail meanders through a lush Sitka spruce and Douglas-fir woodland, providing a peaceful retreat into nature.

Tahkenitch Lake And Campground

Tahkenitch Lake, surrounded by forest.
Tahkenitch Lake, surrounded by forest. Photo by Jimmy Emmerson, DVM via Flickr CC2.

Tahkenitch Lake offers a wealth of activities, from boating and swimming to fishing, camping and hiking. This 2,118-acre lake is easily accessible from Highway 101 and is known for its diverse fish population, including bass, perch, catfish, and stocked trout. The area features traditional campgrounds, boat launches, and trailheads, making it an ideal spot for a family outing or a weekend getaway.

Visit Umpqua Lighthouse State Park

A red and clear lens from the Umpqua River Lighthouse.
The lens from the Umpqua River Lighthouse. Photo by Matt Cook.

Less than a mile from Salmon Harbor Marina (also worth checking out), Umpqua Lighthouse State Park is a picturesque location for camping, hiking, and fishing.

The famous Salmon Harbor in Winchester Bay near Reedsport, Oregon. There are more than a dozen boats in the water at the docs, and a forest in the background.
The famous Salmon Harbor in Winchester Bay near Reedsport, Oregon. Photo by Rick Obst via Flickr CC2.

The park sits along the pretty freshwater Lake Marie, which is perfect for non-motorized boating. The nearby Umpqua River Lighthouse, with its distinctive red and white flash, offers tours from May through September.

View from the campground and cabins at Lake Marie. The lake is surrounded by lush, dense green vegetation, shrubbery and trees. It's really a pretty sight.
View from the campground and cabins at Lake Marie. Photo by Rick Obst via Flickr CC2.

Whether you're staying in a tent, RV, cabin, or yurt, the park provides a serene and scenic camping experience.

Relax And Play At William M. Tugman State Park

Eel Creek at Eel Lake Day Use Area at Tugman State Park. The creek has downed logs across it, and is surrounded by lush green foliage and trees. It's very pretty.
Eel Creek at Eel Lake Day Use Area at Tugman State Park. Photo by Rick Obst via Flickr CC2.

Located near Lakeside, Tugman State Park is a hidden sanctuary offering year-round camping and day-use facilities.

Eel Lake at Tugman State Park on a cloudy day. The lake is surrounded by forested hills.
Eel Lake at Tugman State Park. Photo by Rick Obst via Flickr CC2.

Eel Lake, found inside the park, is ideal for fishing, swimming, and boating. The surrounding trail allows hikers to explore the diverse wildlife and scenic beauty of the area. With campsites nestled in mature shore pines and a fully-accessible fishing dock, Tugman State Park is perfect for both relaxation and adventure.

Check Out Half Moon Bay County Park And Campground

Half Moon Bay County Park offers direct access to the Oregon Dunes for OHV enthusiasts and beachgoers. Situated between the Pacific Ocean and the Umpqua River, this park features non-hook up campsites and group camping options, making it a convenient base for exploring the dunes and nearby attractions.

Learn All About The Natural History Of The Area At The Umpqua Discovery Center

The exterior of the Umpqua Discovery Center.
Umpqua Discovery Center. Photo by Joseph Hunkins via Flickr CC2.

The Umpqua Discovery Center in Reedsport provides an educational journey through the natural and cultural history of the Lower Umpqua Area. With exhibits that take you from tidewater towns to deep forests and high mountain meadows, this center offers an immersive and interactive educational experience for all ages.

How much does it cost to visit the Umpqua Discovery Center? Adults can visit for $8, and children ages five to sixteen can visit the discovery center for $4. Please keep in mind that the hours of operation are different in the summer and winter months. From June 12th to October 1st, the center is open from Monday - Saturday from 10 AM - 5 PM and Sunday from 12 PM - 4 PM. From October 1st to June 11th, the center is open Tuesday - Saturday from 10 AM - 4 PM and on Sunday from 12 PM - 4 PM.

Tips For Camping And Enjoying The Outdoors Near Reedsport, Oregon

A deluxe camping yurt at Umpqua Lighthouse State Park.
A deluxe camping yurt at Umpqua Lighthouse State Park. Photo by Rick Obst via Flickr CC2.
  • If you plan on camping, you should make reservations six months out to ensure you get a spot. This is a highly popular area along the Oregon coast due to all the outdoor activities, and people flock to this part of the coast every summer, making it hard to get a campsite if you don't plan ahead.
  • Plan for inclement weather during your trip. Even if the forecast says clear skies, there is always a chance of rain and wind on the coast. Weather on the Oregon coast can change quickly, so always bring some warm clothes and waterproof gear for your trip. I always bring extra socks when hiking on the coast, because mine get soaked hiking through dense, wet foliage, even if it's a couple days after it last rained.
  • Wildlife viewing? Bring your camera, telephoto lens if you have one, and binoculars. Do not feed the wildlife.
  • Don't forget the sunscreen and bug spray if you'll be spending time outdoors, especially in the woods. As with enjoying the outdoors in all parts of Oregon, be aware of black legged deer ticks and the potential for Lyme disease.

Whether you're drawn to its diverse wildlife, scenic landscapes, or recreational activities, Reedsport is a nature lover's paradise just waiting to be discovered.


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Written By Jessica Tomlinson

Jessica Tomlinson is a native Oregonian currently living in Southern Oregon. She has been blogging since 2006. She loves nature, photography, hiking, camping, and exploring Oregon's wilds.

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