Monday, July 24, 2017

An Estuary, Sand Labyrinth, Fresh Tuna and Tidepooling

Just five miles from our RV park (Oceanside Beachfront RV Resort, Charleston, OR) is the South Slough Estuarine Research Reserve. The Reserve covers almost 5,000 acres with many habitats including conifer uplands, fresh water lowlands, high and low salt marshes, and sand and mud flats. There's an excellent visitor center that explains how all these sensitive habitats work together to support abundant plant and animal life.

There are also several miles of trails which we hiked one weekday morning and practically had the place to ourselves. We hiked over four miles with a good mix of hills and flats and wonderful vistas in many different environments.

Boardwalk through fresh water lowlands.

Boardwalk continues into salt water wetlands.

Tunnel trail!

The posts are remnants of reconstruction of the estuary environment during the early 20th century.
Much work has been done to return the estuary to its original state.

Much of the the trail system climbs through lush mixed forest.

Circles in the Sand creates sand drawn labyrinths during extremely low tides on Face Rock Beach in Bandon, OR. We were fortunate to be only 25 miles away during one of these low tides this past weekend. Check out the link for the drawing schedule if you are in the area.

A group of volunteers spends about two hours under the direction of Denny Dyke creating the sand art, then the labyrinth is open to the public to walk for the next two hours (or until the ocean reclaims the beach). A volunteer offers meditation stones at the entrance to enhance your journey.

Looking down on the full drawing on July 22nd, theme is Love.

As you walk you discover these lovely detailed designs scattered throughout the labyrinth.

Vibrant succulents on the rocks at Face Rock Beach.

Bastendorff Beach is the beach adjacent to our RV park. It runs about half a mile from Yoakam Point, immediately south of our park, to the Coos Bay Harbor entrance jetty at the north end of the beach. Mussel Reef juts out into the ocean from Yoakam Point and we discovered recently that we can walk far out onto the reef at low tide.

Yoakam Point is just south of our RV park and Mussel Reef is the small rocks heading into the ocean in front of the Point.

Walking out onto Mussel Reef we discovered a dramatic sandstone fin.

Hans standing near the end of Mussel's about two hundred yards out from the shoreline.

Looking back towards the shore we can see more sandstone fins.

Chantal and I out on the Reef on a foggy afternoon.

We'd seen signs advertising "fresh tuna available on the docks" when driving around town, so when Chantal drove out from Roseburg to spend a night with us we took a walk at Charleston harbor hoping to score some tuna for dinner.

Kevin, owner of Jean C, sold us this beautiful 13 pound albacore for $2.50/pound.

After purchasing the fish from Kevin we carried it up the dock to be filleted.

This gentleman mans a station at the entrance to G dock and expertly filleted our purchase for $6.

We ended up with nine portions of about this size.
Including tip we spent $41, and got approximately nine pounds of fish, so that's about $4.50 per pound.
And it was delicious!

One of the reasons for Chantal's visit, besides escaping the 90 degree heat in Roseburg and seeing us, was the opportunity to tidepool during an extremely low tide. When Chantal was little, growing up in San Diego, exploring tide pools was one of our very favorite things to do. -2.0 tides don't happen every day, so we were fortunate this one was on a weekend when she could visit.

Cape Arago State Park, just five miles from our RV park, has a very rocky shoreline, perfect for tidepools. The low tide peaked at 7am, which certainly kept the crowds down. We arrived about 7am, stayed for a couple of hours and the only other people we encountered were a group of six which looked like research students. This was a striking difference from tidepooling in San Diego, where we often share the beach with dozens of like minded folks.

Chantal took this lovely panorama shot of South cove at Cape Arago.

So colorful!

We saw dozens of Gumboot Chitons.
Only a couple of them were bright red on top like this one.

We saw a few blood stars.

Most of the gumboot chitons were this brick color.
This one is about the size of an adults size 10 or larger shoe.

The underside of a gumboot chiton.

As we worked our way to tidal areas that are under water most of the time we came upon dozens of sea urchins.

Gumboot chiton.

Black leather chiton.
Blood star.

Happy tidepoolers!

That's more than enough photos for one post! Our month in Charleston continues...


  1. What a perfect tidepooling day...great company and great finds! Awesome selfie of the three of you.
    Beautiful pictures...

  2. So nice living by the Pacific in July and August. Enjoy your time...summer's half gone :((

    1. Yes! The temps are perfect and the scenery is gorgeous!

  3. I love the beach at Face Rock! How fun to go tidepooling with your daughter. You found lots of colorful sea life.

  4. Great photos of the creatures in the tidepools! That is my favorite thing to do on the Pacific coast.

  5. Wow! This is about the most interesting travel post I've ever read anywhere! Incredible wildlife shots, fascinating art experiences, and an enticing trail through beautiful landscapes. Love it! Thank you so much for documenting these adventures.

    1. Thanks Lenore! It was a few days of so many wonderful things to do! I love the OR coast!

  6. Oh, how fun to be tidepooling together! I don't think I've ever seen a gumboot chiton. It's enormous! I wanted so much to see one of the sand labyrinths at Bandon in the spring but we missed our opportunity -- I'm hoping maybe we can catch one in the fall. Your photos of the labyrinth (and tidepools) are wonderful. Fresh albacore -- yum! Looks like you have a good stash to last for a while. Cute photo of you three. :-)

    1. And there are dozens and dozens of ochre stars! It's so wonderful that they are flourishing.

      I'd like to see some of the creation of the labyrinth some time.

  7. The Reserve boardwalk is beautiful. Cute tunnel:) Circle in the Sand does such an amazing! Thanks for getting photos from above. So beautiful! What very cool rock formations. I need to visit this area. It is interesting how the tide pools in different areas hold different creatures. You had blood stars, urchins, chitons, and turbans. This is what we saw at Salt Creek in west of Port Angeles but no big sea stars. Then, at Second and Ruby Beaches while in Forks we saw huge sea stars but no sea urchins. I only saw one Chiton but no Gumboot Chiton...interesting! You hit the jackpot with that tuna!!! That is fantastic! Yum!!

    1. We did actually have ochre stars at every place we have tidepooled...they are so common I did not include them in this series. It is awesome that the sea stars are returning to healthy numbers.

  8. We must be the only folks who were on the coast this summer who didn't catch a tidepool! Love all your great pics, and impressed all the names you know :-) I would love walking the labyrinths, especially with the sound of the waves and the perfect weather - what a treat. Thanks for sharing the beautiful drawings too. Definitely missing the cooler afternoons!

    1. Tidepools next time!

      We've switched from sunny and clear to some foggy days, love the variety and things that grow in the damp!

  9. We've visited at least two Estuarine Research Reserves on the East Coast and they were wonderful too. That's amazing sand art. How great that you were there at just the right time. Just love all your pictures of the landscape, the water, the creatures and of course you guys too.