Sand boarding, all-terrain vehicles, sand buggies, horses, vacant beaches, the Pacific Ocean and family fun can be placed at one location in the Northwest. Sand dunes stretching 41 miles along the Oregon coastline provide year-round recreational opportunities.
Sand dunes are hard to find in the Inland Northwest, so most of us don’t have a clue what to do with one let alone square miles of them. Sand dunes may conjure up an image of a thirsty man crawling on his belly desperately looking for water. That may be possible in the Southwest or the Sahara Desert but not in Oregon. In fact, interestingly, there are pockets of year-round freshwater lakes scattered throughout the Oregon dunes. To the uninitiated it seems that there isn’t much to do there. That would be a wrong belief.
Sand boarding is similar to snowboarding in that a board is waxed, feet are placed in binders on the board, pointed and slid down hill. Almost any age can run a slope. But it seems the older you are the harder it is maintain balance and to climb back up the sand dune. The sand is soft and putting on the brakes is as easy as simply letting your butt drag into the sand. You will get covered with sand and have uncontrolled laughter after a few spills. Renting a sand board for half a day is easy and free advice on how to wax the board and what dunes to use are close by. Sand boarding is best when the sand is dry – you will go faster down the hill.
There are several sand buggy operators that take visitors up onto the dunes. You can choose a scenic drive through the dunes. Another possibility, highly recommended, is a heart-pounding, adrenalin rush type of run. After being buckled into a seat by the waist as well as by the shoulders in a buggy with four roll bars, the driver heads for dunes that are tall, steep and bowl shaped.
As you approach the steepest dunes the engine roars, which takes you on a near vertical climb to the top of the dune with the sand flying. Then a quick turn and a drop into the side of a sand bowl. Centrifugal force presses the body against the seat as the buggy circles halfway up the bowl. After several more dunes and similar routes you will be screaming and laughing from the experience. It may not be for everyone but if you like rollercoaster rides, you will love it.
All-terrain vehicles are two wheels (motorcycles), three wheels, and four wheels. The four-wheel variety is most commonly used by dune tourists. The local teenagers are seen riding motorcycles because they are the cheapest to buy.
The use of an ATV is in a word, freedom. Freedom to go wherever you want in the dunes, go as fast or as slow as you want and for a day destress your life. The outfitter will provide a helmet and operating and safety instructions.
Jeeps also can be rented with or without a guide. It is recommended that riders new to the dunes rent a jeep with a guide. The guide can show the main routes across the dunes and how to handle the jeep in the sand. The jeeps have advantages in that they are completely enclosed, which will keep the sun and sand out.
The U.S. Forest Service is responsible for many acres of the dunes. It has established trails that are off-limits to motorized vehicles. Maps are available at ranger stations for those who want to enjoy a quiet hike across the dunes to the ocean.
Three towns offer a central place for activities in the sand dunes. Reedsport is known as the “Gateway to the Dunes” and north is Florence. The farthest south dunes are so close to Coos Bay that they can be seen from the city limits. All three towns provide the necessary accommodations and restaurants.
The sand dunes, in areas, rise nearly 500 feet, which make them some of the highest in the U.S. Stretching, in places, inland from the ocean 2.5 miles they are a landmark while driving Highway 101 along the coast.
Although many users come in the summer, the dunes are open all year. The activities are family friendly and school kids can only visit with their families mostly in the summer. That means that the rest of the year visitors who vacation there practically own the dunes.
In the summer, towns offer festivals and events with thousands participating and watching. This area is a major recreational destination for those who know and enjoy the opportunities.
Many residents in the region own their own off-road vehicles. They vacation at several organized state parks and private campgrounds that border the dunes. Families bring their RVs or tents, swim in the fresh water lakes, travel out onto the dunes and cross over to the Pacific Ocean beaches.
Each morning, because of evening winds, the sand is fresh with no tracks from the day before. Here is a huge sandbox for big and little boy and girl toys. Oregon’s sand dunes will get your attention.
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