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Oregon Beach Front Surprise


No one expects a sea breeze in Wyoming or Idaho.

Montana beach? Look for a lake.

Nevada? The best water feature’s in front of a casino.

So how does an interior county in Oregon, one that includes a view of the Cascade Mountains, have a beach front?

No other county with a similar eastern border reaches the Pacific.



Douglas and Lane Counties each run from the Willamette Valley to the ocean.

I’ve driven Highway 101 a few times. Okay, more than a few. It started as a baby boomer boy and continued into boomer manhood.

Not once did I look at a map for directions. You’re either headed north or south through the coastal counties. Doesn’t get any easier. No one gets lost, just confused.

The last time on the road north I stopped at the Umpqua River Lighthouse. For all the miles up and down 101, that’s one side road I never took.

My wife and I have had a few drives together. 2000 miles on English roads with more one lane goat paths than any modern nation should have; a drive through Spain from Barcelona to Seville with stops in between to enjoy the last Muslim strong holds in Europe.

lh2All very exciting, but not as disturbing as what I found on 101.

Winchester Bay is in Douglas County where Roseburg is the county seat. So is Reedsport. Instead of a string of unbroken coastal counties from Washington to California, an I-5 county butts in.

It felt like foreign land, this unexpected intrusion. To drive it further home, the Umpqua River Lighthouse sits behind a fenced compound for the Coast Guard with a Homeland Security sign on the gate.

And the gate was open.

While I lined up a shot of the beautiful lighthouse, a guide rushed over to shut the gate for national security. To set them at ease I said I was a Coos County guy just like them. You know, North Bend.

She responded with, “This isn’t Coos County. We’re Douglas County.”

Like I was a hick from California.

The tone reminded me of borders in the ‘stan nations where Afghanistan is different than Pakistan, but not that different in some areas.

Discovering Douglas County beach front didn’t ruin the stop, but it did make me feel like an ignorant trespasser. Not anymore.

Inside the museum I asked the lady how it happened. Museums always have a good explanation. She said the county formed on the watershed of the Umpqua River.

Score for the Umpqua.

If the same reasoning applied to the Columbia River, Canada would have a nice piece of America, eh?

But would Canada have such a lovely building on their grounds?


Umpqua Lighthouse Museum And Gift Shop

For a quick travel guide, take I-5 south to the Drain exit and follow Hwy 38 to Reedsport and turn left on 101.

Look for the lighthouse road on the right.

This man found his way down from Vancouver.

You can drive your car, boomer. Just be sure to park and get out along the way.


Headed for Sunset Bay. I gave him directions. He checked his map and acted shocked that I knew the roads and towns along the way. All about helping the intrepid traveler.


About David Gillaspie


  1. Nancy Swendsen says:

    County /Douglas pride? Wow!

    • David Gillaspie says:

      The first step in securing the coast for coast counties. Maybe grab the Lane County land in the deal? Got to admit, seeing the date on the building as built in 1939 raises a flag about coastal defense before Pearl Harbor.

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