Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Oregon Dunes

We were staying about six miles south of Florence, OR, and a few hundred feet from the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area.
“The Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area (NRA) occupies just over 40 miles of the Oregon coast line, between the towns of North Bend and Florence. At some points the boundaries of the Oregon Dunes NRA go inland as far as 3 miles. The entire Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area covers over 32,000 acres.”
I made three trips into the dunes. The first, a hike from the RV park, and the second, a dune buggy group tour, produced the photos shown below. The third trip will be covered in tomorrow’s entry.
"The sand dunes of the Oregon Dunes are made up of light-colored sand blown in by the wind and deposited over thousands of years. The dunes can be as much as 500 feet high. At the beach the sand is coarse grained; the sand farther inland is finer grained. The dunes and the surrounding landscape are constantly being reshaped by the forces of wind and water.
"But you'll find much more than mountains of sand in the Oregon Dunes region. Tree islands dot the dunes. These tree islands are the remains of large forests that were overcome by the deposits of sand. A number of creatures live in these tree islands, including bears and gray fox.
The first two trips into a portion of the dunes were made in the early afternoon. As this group approached, I remembered this paragraph from the pre-hike reading matter: "Unless you are in seriously good aerobic condition and are able to hike in amongst the dunes, some kind of OHV is required to fully explore the dunes landscape. OHVs include such recreational vehicles as dirt bikes, all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), and four-wheel drives. The Oregon Dunes are a popular destination for OHV enthusiasts."
I decided to join the motorized "hikers" for an expanded view of the dunes.
“The first Oregon dunes were formed between 12 and 26 million years ago by the weathering of inland mountain ranges, but it was not until about 7,000 years ago, after the massive eruption of the Mount Mazama volcano, that they reached their current size and shape. That volcanic eruption emptied out the entire molten-rock contents of Mount Mazama and in the process created the caldera that would later become Crater Lake.

The vehicle at the top of the dunes in the photo below gives you some idea of the expanse of the dunes.
My first day's hike left me about two miles from the ocean. Today's ride took us right to the mist of the sea.
"European beach grass is playing an even greater role in changing the natural dynamics of this region. Introduced to anchor sand dunes and prevent them from inundating roads and river channels, this plant has been much more effective than anyone ever imagined. Able to survive even when buried under several feet of sand, European beach grass has covered many acres of land and formed dunes in back of the beach.
"These dunes effectively block sand from blowing inland off the beach, and as winds blow sand off the dunes into wet, low-lying areas, vegetation takes hold, thus eliminating areas of former dunes.
"Aerial photos have shown that where once 80% of the dunes here were open sand, today only 20% are. It is predicted that within 50 years, these dunes will all have been completely covered with vegetation and will no longer be the barren, windswept expanses of sand seen today" (
Even after two visits to these dunes, there was still something missing.

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