Sand and surf

A journey through Nehalem Bay State Park

by Lynn Jackart
beach view
Cannon Beach presents a serene setting. — photo by Lynn Jackart

We could hear the surf and smell the salty air as we travelled south on Highway 101. Twenty miles south of Cannon Beach along the rugged coast of Oregon is Nehalem Bay State Park.

It’s summer and the blue Pacific Ocean is a wonder as it sparkles in the sunlight. Just past the small town of Manzanita the sign reads Nehalem Bay Campground. Next Right. The road narrows and we pass homes on our way to the park entrance. Built on a four-mile-long sand spit, sand covers the road and the trees get shorter as we get closer to the ocean.

We are greeted by park rangers and given a map and directions. The sani dump was busy but there is no hurry—everyone’s on holiday. The 265-site campground is spread out in circles and our site was easy to find. We backed in the motorhome, hooked up the water and plugged in the electricity.

The sound of the surf can’t be ignored. We walked to the beach access trail and started to climb the high sand dune that protects the campground from the wind. Our shoes came off and we sank into the deep, soft, warm sand and it felt good.

When we reached the top we were out of breath. The beautiful blue ocean lay before us, with the surf crashing onshore, the view is amazing. There are miles of beach in both directions. Dogs are running free, horses are galloping in the surf and children are building sand castles. As we walk down the other side of the sand dune toward the beach, I’m thinking the climb was worth it.

As we get closer to the water the sand becomes hard packed and walking becomes easy. Seaweed, netting, logs, bird feathers and small crabs are washed up onshore. The water is cold but if you walk in the shallow part it’s warmed by the sun. Small tide pools need a closer look because you never know what you’ll see.

Walking is a wonderful pastime here. Whether it’s on the beach or in the campground, the flat terrain is relaxing. A 1.75-mile paved bike trail weaves through the campground and a horse camp separate from the campground allows horses to run on the beach and in the ocean.

On a warm morning we drove north on Highway 101 to Cannon Beach. This resort town is dominated by Haystack Rock, a 235-foot-high volcanic rock, which towers above the ocean. When the tide goes out large tide pools are formed and sea life clings to the base of the rock. These tide pools are filled with sea cucumbers, sea anemones, starfish and small fish. We are asked not to touch or take any of the living creatures and leave only footprints.

In the campground, towards the evening we climb up the sand dune again. The soft sand makes a comfortable chair to sit on and wait for the most spectacular sunset over the ocean. This is a perfect way to end a day, watching nature at its best.

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