Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area

Day2-DSCN0022Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.


The Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area is a National Recreation Area contained within the Siuslaw National Forest and so is a unit of the US Forest Service, not the NPS. Back in my post on Flathead National Forest, I talked briefly about the Forest Service’s mission of managed conservation vs. the National Park Service’s goal of preservation. As a result of this different ‘prime directive’, you are likely to find more commercial recreational opportunities in National Forest lands.


Oregon Dunes is a 40 mile stretch along the southern Oregon coastline of temperate sand dunes intermingled with forested land. We stopped in a few sections of this park on our drive down Highway 101 to Redwoods National Park.


Our first stop was in the northern section in Florence, Oregon. We took a sandrail tour with Sandland Adventures, giving us our first glimpse of these sand mountains.


Our driver and tour guide was Ben. We took the thirty minute tour and it was a wild, thrilling ride around the dunes with some scenic interludes while we caught our breath. There is a calmer ride available on a sort of dune bus for those with motion sickness issues.


The dunes themselves are the result of millions of years of wind erosion. Some of them are 500 feet above sea level. Here and there you will find a forested oasis in the middle of all that sand.


As we traveled south the dunes were visible from the highway in some sections. Our next stop was in Reedsport where we found the park’s Visitor Center was closed. So we had lunch across the street at the Harbor Light Family Restaurant.


This is a small place, frequented by locals. We did have to wait 15 minutes for a table to open up, but it was worth the wait. They source many of their ingredients locally. Two of us had the chicken pot pie. They have a smoker and use the tender smoked chicken in the pot pie. Yum!


After lunch, we visited Umpqua Lighthouse State Park. This park is centered within Oregon Dunes National Recreational Area. Though the dunes here are not as dramatic as in the Northern section, there is a beautiful ocean vista, a historic lighthouse (circa 1894) and a small museum.


Location: 855 U.S. 101, Reedsport, OR 97467

Designation: National Forest, National Recreation Area

Date designation declared: 3/23/1972

Date of my visit: 8/20/2016


Travelling south over the Conde McCullough Memorial/Coos Bay Bridge as we left the Oregon Dunes NRA behind. This bridge was built in 1936 and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Top 10 Posts of 2018


Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! As 2018 draws to a close, I’d like to do a year-in-review post. It’s been a great inaugural year here on the blog, with 113 posts, over 5000 visitors and over 600 people following along on the journey. I am grateful for and humbled by your support.

Here are the top ten most popular posts from 2018 (you can click on each title to go to the original post):

10: Great Smoky Mountains National Park – Clingman’s Dome (Tennessee/North Carolina)DSC05739

9: Montezuma Castle National Monument (Arizona)IMG_5657

8: Muir Woods National Monument (California)F-_2012_2012-08-11-San-Francisco_DSC02511

7: Crater Lake National Park – Garfield Peak (Oregon)Day7-IMG_6122

6: Bryce Canyon National Park (Utah)DSCN0953

5: Flathead National Forest – Whitefish Mountain (Montana)IMG_1677

4: Acadia National Park – Loop Road Highlights (Maine)IMG_1355

3: Acadia National Park – Jordan Pond and the Bubbles (Maine)2007_0527(009)

2: Glacier National Park – Running Eagle Falls (Montana)IMG_1792

And the most popular post of 2018….Capitol Reef National Park – Cathedral Valley (Utah)IMG_8712

Happy New Year everyone and here’s to happy exploring ahead for 2019!

Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest – Natural Bridge Interpretive Trail


Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

The Rogue River–Siskiyou National Forest was originally two separate forest units covering parts of Oregon and California. They were combined into one unit in 2004. The Rogue River is a US Wild and Scenic River, also managed by the US Forest Service.


We stopped at the Natural Bridge Interpretive Trail on our way from Crater Lake to Grants Pass. There are restrooms in the parking lot and it’s just off the main road.
A short trail leads to a raging section of the Rogue River, which shoots through some lava tubes and comes out the other end as a waterfall…a natural wonder.


We were exhausted from a full day of hiking and exploring in Crater Lake National Park, so this was an excellent place to stop on our approximately 2-hour drive  back to our hotel.


It was an easy 1/4 mile walk to the natural land bridge from the parking lot with a level, wide path, benches and interpretive displays along the way. It was just enough for us to stretch our legs, take some photos and move on to the next stop.

For those interested in a more in-depth exploration of the area, the interpretive trail does connect to the Rogue Gorge Trail and Upper Rogue River Trail.

Location: 9 miles North of Prospect, OR

Designation: National Forest, Wild and Scenic River

Date designated or established: 2004

Date of my visit: 8/25/2016


Crater Lake National Park: Rim Tour


Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

Millenia ago,  Mount Mazama (an ancient volcano) collapsed forming Crater Lake in its caldera. The pure blue lake is the deepest in the United States and is famous for its bright blue color.  There are no rivers feeding into the lake or underground water sources…the water is replenished only by rain and snow.

The Rim Drive is a 33 mile loop around the caldera. You can explore it in your own vehicle during the summer months, but we opted to take the two-hour tour with Crater Lake Trolley. We wanted to see all the highlights without having to drive ourselves. Park loop roads are no fun for the driver.

The trolley company is privately owned, but includes a national park trained interpreter on board. Our guide was great, telling us all about the history and geology of Crater Lake, interspersed with 5-6 stops where we got out, took photos and stretched our legs.


We first stopped at the Watchman Overlook where we had great views of Wizard Island. The Island is actually a volcanic cinder cone, with a peak about 750 feet above the lake surface. There is a boat running out to the island from a point on the north shore and a trail to climb to the top.


Next we stopped at the Llao bay turnout. Llao Rock is a prominent high point on the lake, rising 2000 feet above the water. It is named after the Native American god of the underworld, who, according to legend,  fought with the sky god, Skell, and caused the eruption of Mount Mazama, forming Crater Lake.


Next, we stopped somewhere near Cleetwood Cove. The Cleetwood Cove trail is the only way to access the water in Crater Lake. It is a steep trail down to the dock where the boats depart for Wizard Island. We did not descend as the trail takes 1.5-2.5 hours to walk round-trip.


Another interesting stop was the Pumice Castle Overlook. The Pumice Castle is a colorful formation in the otherwise monotone caldera wall.

Almost full circle, we stopped at the Phantom Ship Overlook to see the small island said to resemble a ghost ship in foggy weather.


Turning away from the lake to head back to the Rim Village, we made one last stop at Vidae Falls. It was too crowded to linger for long and many were anxious to return to the village for the restrooms so I didn’t get a decent shot of the falls.

The tour runs a solid two hours and there are no restrooms once you leave rim village, so be sure to use the ones by the community center before you leave.

To see my other Crater Lake posts click:

Location: Crater Lake, OR

Designation: National Park

Date designated or established: 5/22/1902

Date of my visit: 8/25/2016


Oregon Caves National Monument: Chateau Restoration


Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.


For this special Wednesday segment, I spoke with Sue Densmore, executive director of the Friends of the Oregon Caves and Chateau. To see my previous posts on this park, please click Oregon Caves/Cave Tour and Chateau/Nature Trail.


As mentioned in my previous posts, we’d really enjoyed our visit to this off-the-beaten-path gem of the National Park Service and hope to someday return for a peaceful stay in the lodge.  I know that most of my readers are supporters of the NPS and its mission to preserve our nation’s natural wonders and historic legacy. I hope that you will find this information to be of interest.


As the NPS begins a much-needed overhaul of the 83-year-old Chateau, the federal funds allotted will only provide for functional improvements which have been deferred for 15 years. The Friends group is trying to raise additional funds to allow for the historic restoration work to be done during the same closure and avoid closing down the lodge for two seasons in a row.  The Chateau closed on September 30th, 2018 and will not re-open until the renovation is complete.


The Friends of the Oregon Caves and Chateau, a non-profit organization formed in cooperation with the National Park Service began the Chateau Restoration Campaign in 2012. The Chateau made the Restore Oregon’s Most Endangered Places list in 2016 and 2017 due to the long delay in obtaining federal funding for repairs.


When I asked Sue what the Friends’ immediate priorities were, she responded,

     “We are struggling with saving the Historic items today.  We have one month with this concession – so they are clearing out the inventory (refers to the vintage 1930s counter and bar stools in the Caves Cafè.)  So we are focused on that – needing to quickly raise a lot of money.

     Once this is resolved – we will also need to raise $100,000 to match the Travel Oregon Grant to do the Historic Furnishings Plan and restore the Monterey Furniture.”



To donate to Friends of the Oregon Caves and Chateau please click here. Donations are processed through the Network for Good and are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.


Built in 1934, the Chateau has six stories, four of which have ground level entrances because of the steep hill it is built into. A stream was diverted to run through the main dining room and the building houses the largest collection of original Monterey furniture in the world. It became a National Historic Landmark in 1987.

Location: 19000 Caves Hwy, Cave Junction, OR 97523

Designation: National Historic Landmark

Date designated or established: 1987

Date of my visit: August 2016


Happy 50th to the Trails, Rivers, etc…


Remember that classic TV show where the pregnant wife has gone into sudden labor and the husband gets pulled over for speeding  while trying to reach the hospital but then the quick-thinking police officer provides an escort with sirens blazing for the expectant couple? Perhaps cliche, but fifty years ago today, that scene played out for my parents and I narrowly avoided charging into this world on the city streets thanks to the NYPD.


October of 1968 was also a fruitful month for our public lands. On October 2nd of that year, the National Trails System Act and the Wild and Scenic River Act were both signed into law.

The Tomales Point Trail is a National Recreation Trail contained within the NPS Point Reyes Unit.

The National Trails System Act initially designated two national scenic trails, the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail, and made provisions to study 14 other trails for inclusion. The Act was later amended to include historic trails and rail trails. Today there are thousands of miles of national trails including 11 National Scenic Trails and 19 National Historic Trails. The trails are managed by five different government agencies and more information can be found on the Partnership for the National Trails System Website.

The Rogue Wild and Scenic River in Oregon was one of the original 8 rivers named under the Act in 1968.

The National Wild and Scenic River Act initially designated eight rivers and today protects over 150 rivers. These are managed by four government agencies and more information can be found on the National Rivers Website. To see my previous post on the Middle Delaware click here (posts on the Rogue and Flathead National Rivers are coming soon.)

The Smith Wild and Scenic River in California runs through parts of Redwood National Park.

Redwood National Park was also designated on October 2nd, 1968. To see my post on that park, click here.


Other park sites (which I have yet to visit) and are turning 50 in October include:

  • Lake Chelan National Recreation Area, Washington.
  • North Cascades National Park, Washington.
  • Ross Lake National Recreation Area, Washington.
  • Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site, North Carolina.
  • Biscayne National Monument, Florida. (Re-designated Biscayne National Park in 1980)

Found this video clip I must have accidentally taken on my waterproof camera while kayaking down the Smith River:



Crater Lake National Park: Lodge and Sinnott Memorial Observation Station


Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

7,700 years ago,  Mount Mazama (an ancient volcano) collapsed forming Crater Lake in its caldera. This is an amazing sight to see today…in my opinion, it is just as impressive as the Grand Canyon, though not as vast.


Because I looked online about 11 months ahead of our trip, I was too late to secure lodging in the park. So our experience at the Crater Lake Lodge was limited to the lobby, front desk, patio and dining room. The no-frill rooms only sleep two people so we needed two rooms for our family and we didn’t book far enough in advance to get the two rooms for the time we wanted (reservations open up 13 months in advance and sell out quickly.)

So that left us with only one day to explore this park. While we did make the most of our day, with a hike to Garfield Peak in the AM (see my post on Garfield Peak here) and a Rim Road Trolley tour in the afternoon (coming in a future post) we would also have liked to take the boat tour to Wizard Island and explored some other areas of the park, like the Pinnacles. You really need at least two days here to experience this park.


Crater Lake Lodge was built in 1915 and is located on the southwest rim of the Crater Lake caldera. Perched on a cliff, 1000 feet above the lake below, it boasts some wonderful views. The patio has rocking chairs where you can sit and take in the stunning scenery.

We stopped in and asked for directions and advice at the front desk before embarking on our morning’s hike. The woman at the front desk was very helpful in answering our questions about the trails.

The common areas are beautiful, vintage and inviting. We relaxed by the fireplace after our hike to Garfield Peak while we waited for the restaurant to open for lunch.

With some time to kill before boarding our trolley for the Rim Tour, we explored the other buildings in the village, taking the stairs behind the Visitors Center down to the Sinnott Memorial Overlook.


The Sinnott Memorial Observation Station is built into an outcropping on the cliff face of the caldera wall. It was built in 1931 and was the first NPS building constructed as a museum. Its stone masonry design set the architectural standard for future buildings at Crater Lake National Park.


The viewing area has an open-air balcony with a spectacular view of the lake, and you are 50 feet below the rim, so the view is a little different than what you can see on the balcony of the lodge.  The museum exhibits, which highlight the history of Mount Mazama and the formation of Crater Lake, are located in the center of the observation room and around the walls.


Back in the village, at the conclusion of our trolley tour. We stopped in the Community Center building for some Ranger-led crafts and free cookies in celebration of the National Park Service’s 100th birthday.

Location: Crater Lake, OR

Designation: National Park

Date designation declared: 5/22/1902

Date of my visit: 8/25/2016