Coos Bay is the largest city on the Oregon Coast even though with a mere 16,000 residents it would be considered a small town in more urbanized regions of the country. The city is situated around a large and protected inland bay at the mouth of the Coos River. Half an hour’s drive west, where rugged cliffs meet the Pacific Ocean, you will find a set of three astounding state parks that lead you out to Cape Arago. Sir Francis Drake supposedly found shelter around Cape Arago in 1579 (per Wikipedia). It is also the location of Simpson Reef, one of the best spots to view wild marine mammals in Oregon. That was the main reason I decided to drive up there a few days ago.
On my way, I stopped at a wonderful park/interpretative center along the South Slough (National Estuarine Research Reserve). There were fantastic trails and boardwalks for exploring the special environment where river water mixes with ocean water and to see all the animals that live there. But unfortunately on this day there were several groups of school children on the trails and they were definitely using their outside voices … so I cut short my visit as there was really no point looking for wildlife.
I did see a red-breasted sapsucker (woodpecker).
I didn’t realize it at the time, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen this bird before. He was noisily engaged in pecking on a tree!
Click on the picture above to see it in full size. There are hundreds of California sea lions, Steller sea lions, harbor seals and possibly even northern elephant seals occupying almost every rocky surface available! It’s not easy to even see them all at first since they are the same colors as the rocks. It is truly an astounding sight that was much more amazing than I had imagined!
On the top of the center rock above, there appears to be a dark-colored young sea lion lounging comfortably on top of a lighter-colored, much larger adult sea lion!
However, the thing that really makes the strongest impression when you see this spectacular gathering is the unbelievable chorus of constant strange barking that fills the air!! Look at this video I made and be sure to view it in full screen:
It wasn’t a very windy day (remarkably!), but there was still enough wind to ruin the original sound of these video clips. I was able to extract the sound from an earlier shaky video and loop it several times – this is to give you an idea, but in reality it is much louder! You can also hear Blanca whining in the video. For some reason, she finds the loud barking of hundreds of large animals unnerving! 🙂 To me, it looked like a gigantic fairy-tale spa for frolicking mermaids!
The sea foam is a strange and beautiful thing! The ocean is far from simply blue. There are a million different colors and you see new ones every day!
Click the picture above to see it larger. Coos Bay is a busy and important harbor on the Oregon Coast, and there has been a lighthouse here to help guide ships into the bay since 1866.
A tree is hanging on against all odds. In real life, when you feel the sea breeze on your face and hear the seagulls screeching, this wild coast is even more amazing than it looks in pictures! But it is also a world battered by the elements. The first two lighthouses were destroyed by the harsh conditions and winter storms. The sunlight bouncing off the sea is blinding and the wind can chill you to the bone if you’re not dressed for it. And it’s wonderful!