Saving One of Oregon's Most Unique Landscapes
By Gary Hayes
Published: 04/07/2019  Updated: 08/13/2019
Photo by Gary Hayes

Extending along the Central Oregon Coast from Florence to Coos Bay, Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area is the largest expanse of coastal dunes in North America and it's disappearing at an alarming rate.

The Oregon Coast isn't just a string of beautiful beaches. It's a 363-mile stretch of some of the world's most dramatic landscapes including rainforest-covered capes extending into the sea, towering sea stacks rising up from the water's edge and wave-carved cliffsides offering breathtaking views. It also includes about a 40-mile stretch of sand dunes extending inland an average of 1.5-miles from the sea. It's the largest expanse of coastal dunes in North America and one of the largest complexes of temperate coastal sand dunes in the world. The sand in the Oregon dunes could fill the Empire State Building 7,000 times. This unique landscape can be viewed by sightseers, explored by hikers and it provides miles of recreational access for ATV enthusiasts. The bad news is, the dunes are disappearing. European beach grass and other non-native species that were planted during the early twentieth century in an effort to stabilize the sand have spread invasively and now threaten to crowd out the last of the vast open expanses of dunes left on the Oregon Coast. Over the last 80 years, the open dunes have been disappearing at an alarming rate. Foredunes covered in the non-native grasses now prevent much of the natural spread of the dunes inland. The Oregon dunes are in danger, but not all hope is lost. Conservationists, off-road vehicle enthusiasts and the Oregon tourism industry have come together to consider and enact solutions to address the loss of this spectacular and economically valuable landscape. The Oregon Dunes Restoration Collaborative (ODRC) was formed in 2014 and current efforts to remove invasive species are targeting the best remaining areas of natural dunes; restoring important habitat and recreational areas; and maintaining those large landscape areas where natural processes are likely to be the most successful. You can still venture into this landscape where all you see is dunes in every direction. Hopefully future generations will have that experience as well. To find out more about how to make a difference for the Oregon dunes, visit SaveOregonDunes.org.
Saving One of Oregon's Most Unique Landscapes