Submitted to : Oregon Department of Transportation


Central Oregon Coast Range: Lincoln and Lane Counties



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6.2 Central Oregon Coast Range: Lincoln and Lane Counties


Like the climate of the Northern Coast, the climate of the Central Coast is temperate and maritime, with relatively wet, mild winters and dry, moderately cool summers. Annual precipitation also ranges from 60 to 90 inches along the shoreline, and increases inland to as much as 200 inches in the Coast Range uplands. Approximately 80 percent of annual precipitation falls between October and March. As a result of this heavy rain, coastal forests along the Central Coast are also dominated by Sitka spruce, western hemlock, western red cedar, Douglas fir, shore pine, and grand fir, along with deciduous trees including the red alder, Sitka alder, bigleaf maple, willow, black cottonwood, cherry, crabapple, and madrone. A variety of berry plants, rhododendrons, ferns, and Camas root are also common in this area as well. 22

The Central Oregon Coast is generally defined by lush forest lands, prominent headlands, sandy beaches and rocky shorelines. In Lincoln County, however, the terrain is rugged and hilly rather than mountainous; most of the ridges are under 3,000-feet in elevation.23


Forest Lands


The Central Oregon Coast boasts extensive forest lands, which at times directly border the coast line and the highway. These lands have historically provided opportunities for recreation, but more importantly they have influenced the development of the local logging economy of Central Oregon and the inland communities that have relied on that industry.

Beginning at the northern end of Lincoln County, the highway follows the western edge of the Siuslaw National Forest (NF) until the town of Neskowin’s southern edge, at which point the highway rounds Cascade Head to the east and passes directly through a scenic section of forest land. The highway follows gentle curves through the forest and provides views of the Cascade Head Experimental Forest. The 11,890-acre Cascade Head Experimental Forest was established in 1934 for scientific study of typical coastal Sitka spruce-western hemlock forests found along the Oregon Coast. The forest stands at Cascade Head have been used for long-term studies, experimentation, and ecosystem research ever since. In 1974, an Act of Congress established the 9,670-acre Cascade Head Scenic Research Area that includes the western half of the experimental forest, several prairie headlands, the Salmon River estuary to the south, and contiguous private lands. The Siuslaw NF and the USDA Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest Research Station jointly manage the experimental forest and scenic research area. Research partners include The Nature Conservancy, public and private universities in Oregon and Washington, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Oregon Department of Agriculture, National Aeronautic and Space Administration, Environmental Protection Agency, and National Marine Fisheries Service.24 This scenic stretch of forest land ends near the town of Otis.

The next section of forested land is located south of Lincoln City, near the Siletz River. Throughout this area, the highway is bordered on its east side by forested land and on its west side by the Siletz Bay. The highway continues south through the town of Gleneden Beach, which is bordered along its eastern edge by forest lands not associated with the Siuslaw NF. Just south of Lincoln Beach, the highway turns slightly inland and passes through the forested areas of Fogarty Creek State Park and Boiler Bay State Wayside. This exceptionally scenic area offers expansive ocean views. South of the town of Depoe Bay, the highway shifts slightly inland, passing through a strikingly straight stretch of forested land before rounding Whale Cove to the south and following close to the shoreline. From here until Beverly Beach State Park, the highway winds gently through forested curves with occasional views of the ocean. From Beverly beach to the northern end of Agate Beach, the highway proceeds close to the shoreline, with sandy beaches to the west and forested lands to the east.

After crossing the Yaquina Bay Bridge, the highway passes through periodic sections of forested lands until approaching the town of Waldport. South of Waldport, the highway again clings closely to the coast line, bordered by forest lands to the east and sandy beaches to the west until the town of Yachats. South of Yachats, until the northern end of Florence, the scenery becomes more rural and residential communities more isolated. This significant stretch of forested roadway passes by both Heceta Head and the Sea Lion Caves. South of Florence and the Siuslaw River, the highway follows the Siuslaw NF closely until the Lane and Douglas County border. This stretch provides a unique view of the forest and occasional sand dunes.

The Central Coast’s forested land are critical to the overall scenic experience associated with the Coast Highway and demonstrate how the highway adapted to the existing environment, creating an organic, flowing experience through this area.

Lowland Estuaries


Lowland estuaries situated in the Central Coast include Siletz Bay, Depoe Bay, Yaquina Bay, Alsea Bay, the Yachats River, and the Siuslaw River.

Beginning in the north, Siletz Bay is located between the southern end of Lincoln City and the northern end of Gleneden Beach. Here, the highway moves inland to the east and crosses at a point where the Siletz River narrows. The river crossing provides extensive views of the bay and ocean to the west. Continuing south, the highway passes directly through the town of Depoe Bay, over the small Depoe Bay, and closely follows the Pacific coast through this area. The highway also offers extensive views of the bay as it passes through this area.

Further south, the highway overpasses Yaquina Bay, at which point there are panoramic views of the large bay. The fact that the highway crosses this large bay, instead of bypassing it, substantiates the significance of the Yaquina Bay Bridge, which dates to 1936, as a major engineering feat. Further south, in the town of Waldport, the highway again passes over water via the Alsea Bay Bridge. Like the Yaquina Bay Bridge, the Alsea Bay Bridge was significant for crossing such a large expanse of tidal waters and the technical expertise that such a crossing necessitated. This bridge was completed in 1936 and replaced in 1991.

At the town of Yachats, the Yachats River’s mouth significantly widens to create a protected bay area, although the river is not regarded as a formal bay. Here, highway engineers followed a different approach by crossing the river at a narrower inland point. This highway section curves east before crossing the river and continuing back along the coast line. The bridge crossing affords an expansive view of the river and its protected beach. The furthest estuary point along the Southern Coast is in Florence at the Siuslaw River. Also not a formal bay, the width and breadth of the river as it passes along the southern end of Florence creates many protected ports and has many associated sloughs. The highway crosses directly over the river at a narrower point inland from the shore to avoid many of the complications associated with the ports and sloughs. This Siuslaw River Bridge was completed in 1936, one of the last major engineering hurdles to completing US 101.


Sandy Beaches


Long stretches of sandy beaches compose much of the Central Coast shoreline, but the highway itself does not closely follow the Pacific shoreline through much of this area.

Sandy beaches begin in Lincoln City and continue south beyond Siletz Bay until Fogarty Creek near Rabbit Rock. The highway does not follow most of this sandy beach stretch, but it does follow the Pacific shoreline briefly near SE 39th Avenue in Lincoln City. Another sandy beach stretch begins at Devil’s Punch Bowl State Park and terminates briefly at Yaquina Head. The highway follows the shoreline closely through this section, providing expansive views of the ocean, particularly near Beverly Beach. Another stretch begins south of Yaquina Head and continues until the mouth of Yaquina Bay. The highway follows the shoreline near the northern section of this stretch but eventually moves inland to the east and passes through the town of Newport and over Yaquina Bay. Sandy beaches continue south of Yaquina Bay and extend to Alsea Bay with the exception of the Seal Rock area. This stretch is accompanied by the highway, which tracks it closely. The highway again follows a sandy stretch from the southern end of Alsea Bay until Starr Creek near Yachats. A small expanse of beach, described above, borders the Yachats River. The highway passes this area as it curves inland to the east. A small stretch of beach is located at Cummins Creek and the Neptune State Scenic Viewpoint; at this point, the highway passes directly over Cummins Creek and provides an expansive view of the beach and ocean. The same view occurs at Nancy Creek and Bob’s Creek, both a little further south. From Bob’s Creek until Heceta Head, sandy beaches, divided by multiple stone outcroppings, cover most of the coastline. Here, the highway closely follows the coastline. Two small beaches in the Heceta area, both visible from the highway, include Cape Creek and just south of Devil’s Elbow. Less visible from the highway, another two beaches are situated south of the Sea Lion Caves just south of Horse Creek.

The longest stretch of sandy beach along the Oregon Coast extends from the mouth of Coos Bay for 50 mi (80-km) north to Cox Rock in Lane County.25 Although this stretch constitutes the longest stretch of sandy beach, it is not representative of the sandy beaches most utilized for recreation. The majority of this stretch lies west of Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area and, on average, is located over a mile west of US 101. This stretch of beach is considered a significant dunes recreation area. Due to its sandy characteristics, highway engineers avoided this area, as US 101 abuts much of this area to the east.

In contrast to the Northern Coast, the Central Coast has many sandy beaches that are not easily accessible to the public and not associated with residential development. In this region, the highway completely bypassed many long stretches of beach, but at times follows the Pacific shoreline closely. These broad swings to the east and west through the Central Coast region are a character-defining feature of the highway corridor.


Headlands and Stone Outcroppings


The five prominent headlands along the Central Coast are Yaquina Head, Cape Perpetua, Captain Cook Point, Heceta Head, and Sea Lion Point. Yaquina Head, one of the Oregon coast’s most prominent headlands, reaches a maximum elevation of 80.3 m above sea level. The highway passes east of the head, through the town of Agate Beach, and avoids traversing the head directly. Nonetheless, the highway is closely linked with this feature and its associated lighthouse, which draws many recreational visitors every year. The lighthouse, built in 1871, became a part of the Yaquina Bay State Recreation site which features extensive CCC day-use amenities installed in the 1930s.26 It is considered both a scenic natural area and an important recreational historic site.

The next major headland to the south of Yaquina Head is Cape Perpetua. At this cape, the highway hugs the Pacific shoreline, providing expansive views of the ocean and the cape. This is an spectacularly scenic stretch of both the coast and the highway as the highway weaves around the geologic obstacles, moving west and east and east to west to create a character-defining ‘S’ curve. CCC developments from the 1930s associated with Cape Perpetua were particularly prolific through this area.27 Just south of Cape Perpetua is Captain Cook Point, where the highway follows the shoreline with a gentler curve than at Cape Perpetua. This point also impacted highway development through this area. The next headland is Heceta Head, one of the most popular tourism destinations along the Oregon Coast. At this point, the highway curves dramatically west to partially extend onto the head. Throughout the Heceta Head Lighthouse State Scenic Area, the highway features frequent viewpoints that highlight the scenic qualities of the area. This area had a strong influence on the highway’s development and its overlapping functions for transportation and recreation. Just south at Sea Lion Point, the highway again follows closely along the Pacific shoreline, with frequent scenic viewpoints. This too is a very significant tourism location and also influenced highway development.

In addition to the majestic headlands, prominent stone outcroppings along the Central Coast line divide stretches of beach and create greater complexity within the landscape. An accumulation of outcroppings just south of Lincoln Beach begins with Fishing Rock and extends to Rabbit Rock and Government Point. Together, these outcroppings constitute the area surrounding Boiler Bay. The highway follows the Pacific shoreline fairly closely at this point and provides an expansive and significant viewing area at the Boiler Bay State Wayside. This group of visually distinctive stone outcroppings likely impacted highway tourism and development as engineers sought to optimize traveler’s views of these geologic features. Prominent outcroppings further south at Pirate Cove and either end of Depoe Bay frame the town’s northern and southern ends and provide a sense of shelter during the drive through Depoe Bay. Further south, a similar, yet significantly smaller, protected area at Whale Cove is visible as the highway passes through the Rocky Creek area and Rocky Creek State Wayside. This wayside’s viewing point and its high scenic qualities likely influenced highway design through this area.

From the Rocky Creek Wayside to the Devil’s Punch Bowl area, Otter Crest Loop closely follows the coastline and has many prominent viewing spots. Otter Crest Loop was a part of the original highway therefore, this scenic drive and its viewing points strongly influenced US 101’s original design and corridor selection. Today, the highway bypasses the area to the east slightly inland. First encountered along Otter Crest Loop is Cape Foulweather, which had an accompanying wayside planned into the highways design. Further south along Otter Crest Loop is the Otter Crest State Wayside, significant for its scenic qualities and as a major wayside planned into the highway’s original design. Lastly, Devil’s Punchbowl State Park, located near the southern end of Otter Crest Loop, is a historically significant recreational site that likely influenced the highway’s design.

Continuing south to the small town of Seal Rock, a group of outcroppings are highly visible from the highway and the Seal Rock State Wayside. This grouping makes up the Seal Rock State Recreation Site, established in 1929, and is considered a significant recreational site.28 These geological features likely influenced development of this scenic section of the highway. Though not a recognizable, singular outcropping, the shoreline from Starr Creek to the northern mouth of the Yaquina River is extremely rocky and undulates with small, gentle curves. Moving inland to the east a few blocks, the highway circumvents this shoreline and does not appear to have been influenced by it.

Additional outcroppings are visible from the highway at the Neptune Scenic Viewpoint, between Nancy Creek and Bob Creek, and at Bray Point. These outcroppings are closely accompanied by the highway, have associated wayside pull-off points, and likely affected the highway’s development and design through this area. The same circumstances apply further south at the Tokatee Kloochman State Natural Site, which has its own accompanying state wayside.

The headlands and stone outcroppings of the Central Coast offer prominent viewing locations and diversity along long stretches of sandy beaches and unbroken shoreline. Many are significant features within the landscape and were often incorporated into highway design through the addition of waysides and pull-off points.

Sand Dunes


The Central and Southern Coasts are famous for their sand dunes, which stretch from Florence to Bar View in Coos County. In general, the highway eludes these areas, as they sustain significant erosion and cannot furnish a suitable highway foundation. At times, the highway follows the eastern edge of the dunes, at which point minimal views of the dunes exist.

The Central Coast dunes extend from the northern end of Florence to the southern end of Lane County, with some areas divided by rivers and patches of forest. One section is visible from the highway in Florence near the intersection with Munsel Lake Road. The dunes become visible again from the highway along the western edge of Woahink Lake, which is a major highway-accessible recreation site. Although the Central Coast’s sand dunes have significance for local recreation and retain many scenic qualities, the highway’s path moves east where the dunes occur as highway designers sought to avoid these unstable natural features.


Agricultural Lands


Agricultural lands within Lincoln and Lane Counties are more common inland to the east and rarely border the highway through the Central Coast. The most significant agricultural areas lie along the Salmon River, Siletz Bay, and Yaquina and Alsea Rivers in Lincoln County. Most farms in Lincoln County are small, averaging 138 acres. 29 Logging is also particularly active throughout the Central Coast. To minimize the visual impacts of clear cutting in the area, property owners have employed measures to ensure that ‘buffers’ of standing trees line the highway near logging operations. This reduces logging’s impact on the visual experience of the highway. Nevertheless, there are still areas of evident tree harvests that have affected the visual quality of the highway.

Beginning in the north, the first segment of agricultural land through which the highway passes is located near the Salmon River and along its tributaries of Salmon Creek, Mink Creek and Baxter Creek. This low lying area has expansive views of agricultural land from the highway and is considered a scenic corridor for its pastoral qualities. Further south, the highway passes through agricultural land adjacent to Siletz Bay and its tributary, the Tide Slough. This too is a very scenic, low lying area with views of agricultural lands. Further south at Yaquina Bay and slightly inland, agriculture is heavily practiced, but the highway does not pass agricultural land in this area. Similar to Yaquina Bay, Alsea Bay has associated agricultural land, although it is further inland to the east. No other substantial agricultural lands are associated with the Central Coast.

Central Coast agricultural lands constitute a very small part of the overall geographic landscape, and did not greatly affect the design of the highway.


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