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Gold Coast rich in vacation options

Sun., May 16, 2004, midnight

One of the popular ways to reach the southern Oregon Coast town of Gold Beach sounds odd: by raft. But don’t imagine Tom Hanks washing ashore a la “Cast Away.” We’re talking river rafts running down the celebrated Rogue River, sometimes through whitewater and sheer basalt canyons.

Gold Beach, just 50 miles north of the California border, claims to be the heart of “America’s Wild Rivers Coast.”

That marketing moniker refers to 101 miles of coastline from Port Orford, Ore., down to Klamath, Calif., a stretch where eight rivers and dozens of creeks pour into the ocean. Besides the Rogue, those wild rivers include the Sixes, Elk, Pistol, Chetco, Winchuck, Smith and Klamath.

Seven of those hold the federal designation of Wild and Scenic River, which was created by Congress in 1968 to preserve remarkable free-flowing rivers and protect exceptional recreational values.

Gold Beach just happens to lie in the center of the aptly named coast.

And yes, gold was actually found here — in beach sand near the mouth of the Rogue in 1853. Prospectors flooded the area. While gold, copper and other minerals were mined, the operations proved penny ante compared with the California’s gold rush. None found the mother lode, but gold can still be panned on the beach and a few mines still operate.

Today, the Rogue River is also known for salmon fishing — not the commercial kind, but the sporting kind. When the Rogue nearly lost all its salmon to commercial fishing back in the 1930s, the Oregon Legislature outlawed the practice. Today, salmon, steelhead, trout and other fish attract anglers from around the country.

Drift boats, canoes, kayaks, jet boats and those rafts all ply the region’s rivers. Primitive campgrounds, historic lodges and RV parks dot the banks.

Giant coastal redwoods, cedars and myrtlewoods thrive here, especially in Siskiyou National Forest. The wilderness all along the southern Oregon Coast is protected. Some hikes require permits, and there is limited access to the wild and scenic sections of the Rogue.

Since this is the Oregon Coast, expect the usual awesome shoreline views backed by rugged mountains along most of the region. Lighthouses, historic villages and working ports can also be found along the 101 miles.

Other Gold Beach activities

So what else is there to do around Gold Beach (which sports a winter population a shade more than 2,000 residents)?

• Beachcombing for driftwood, agates, jasper, fossils and petrified wood (though the last three are best from December through April).

• Tide pooling at low tide, with the best spots including Rocky Point, Agate Beach and Whiskey Creek north of town, and Myers Creek and Lone Ranch Wayside to the south. Tide pool creatures are protected, so forget about souvenirs.

• Bicycling, especially on one of the few trails open to cyclists. The Lower Rogue River Trail covers 12 miles each way and passes an old homestead, creeks and a waterfall.

• Shopping in the art galleries and antique shops (think battered miner’s equipment, Japanese glass floats, Depression-era glass and crockery).

• The calendar offers some special events, with the 25th annual Gold Beach Boat Marathon, Calcutta and Aqua Fest (jet boat and hydroplane racing) coming up June 11 through 13. The Rogue River Salmon Derby Round-Up follows on Aug. 21.

Details on Gold Beach fun

• Fishing: Salmon and steelhead fishing is open on the Rogue River every day of the year. Chinook season lasts from mid-July through October. Deep-sea charters take fishermen three miles offshore for bottom fishing for giant ling cod, rockfish, snapper, cabezon and china rockfish. Surfcasting for perch and smelt is also popular.

• Jet boating: Between May and October, two outfitters run boats up the Rogue on trips of 64, 80 and 104 miles round-trip. Excursions include lunch or dinner stopovers at upriver lodges (meals extra). Mail Boat Hydro-Jets ( operates open boats and a glass-enclosed vessel great for rainy days and champagne cruises. Jerry’s Rogue Jets ( begins at the company’s museum, which recounts the area’s history in photos, artifacts and dioramas.

• Rafting: Paradise Lodge/Rogue River Rafting: (866) 213-7754;

• Kayaking: Gold Beach Sports Unlimited (rentals and instruction): (541) 247-7039.

• Camping: (800) 452-5687; Also,  ThingsToDo/camping.cfm.

• Hiking: Trail information and maps for the Coast Trail, Rogue and Illinois River trails and others can be found at the Gold Beach Visitors Center. Also, contact the Gold Beach Ranger District (541-247-3600) for directions, trail conditions and necessary passes.

• General visitor information: Gold Beach Tourism Information Center, (800) 525-2334;; Also,

Packages in Montana’s Glacier Country

The Glacier Country Regional Tourism Commission, which encompasses Glacier National Park and the surrounding region, is offering travel packages for the first time, available on the Web at or by calling (800) 338-5072.

What will you find there?

• A Couples Package to George Winston, with two nights at Kintla Lodge on Big Mountain available from June 8 through 11. The offer includes tickets to the Winston concert and a gondola or chairlift ride to the mountain summit, one dinner at Mambo Italiano, a Walk in the Treetops adventure and wine. Prices start at $360 per couple for a Kintla Lodge hotel room and top out at $499 per couple for a Morning Eagle one-bedroom condo. (800-859-3560;;

• Glacier National Park Getaway at the Resort at Glacier, designed for families and available from May 22 to June 30. The resort, at the eastern entrance to the park, includes dinner and breakfast for each night spent there. Prices are per person for each night: $139 double occupancy; $99 triple; $95 quad. Each additional child is $20. Guests are welcomed with wine, a cheese tray and the resort’s homemade huckleberry fudge. Each room includes a private deck, mini wet bar and satellite TV. (800-368-3689;;

Leavenworth’s accordion festival

At the risk of ridicule, I must make a confession: I like accordion music. It’s lively and fun. When I was a kid, I even learned how to dance the polka (not that I remember those steps today).

Please, no heckling.

A few years back, I was in Kimberley, B.C., when that Bavarian-style town hosted its annual international accordion festival. While I ate schnitzel one night in a packed restaurant, three players at the next table took turns wailing away on their accordions. Those talented guys were amazing.

Our region is blessed (or plagued, depending on your point of view) with another Bavarian-style town, Leavenworth, and another global accordion event, the Leavenworth International Accordion Celebration.

The 11th annual festival, July 15 through 19, features competitions, workshops and concerts as well as an accordion parade and jamming at Front Street Gazebo. (509-548-5807; and


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