The newest member of the Oregon State Parks system opens Friday, Oct. 1, as a remote wetlands refuge halfway between Newport and Waldport on the central Oregon coast.
Created in concert with the Oregon-based Wetlands Conservancy, the Beaver Creek State Natural Area preserves 374 acres of coastal lowland immediately east of Ona Beach State Park.
Governor Ted Kulongoski will head a contingent of state officials dedicating a spanking-new visitor center on a bluff at the edge of the preserve. About 7 miles of trails weave from the building, across marshlands to an overlook atop Snag Point.
The best way to see the preserve is from the creek itself, which means canoeing or kayaking. But the governor has chosen not to paddle.
“He said his schedule didn’t allow it,” ventured Ray Fowles, a longtime volunteer guide for the parks system.
I was privileged to join Fowles and his wife, Joanne, last Saturday on a two-hour kayaking excursion up Beaver Creek.
We put in at Ona Beach, just above the bar where the creek flows into the Pacific Ocean. The slow-flowing stream meanders through dense foliage, including alder and a wide variety of grasses. I was cautioned not to reach out and tug on flowering hemlock lest I meet the same fate as Socrates.
Joanne Fowles pointed out several beaver lodges rising above the creek banks, although the state mammal didn’t reveal itself to us. It shares the stream with river otters, muskrats and other animal life. Deer, elk, and even black bears and cougars are sometimes seen along the creek, Ray Fowles said.
We were content to watch a variety of bird life, including waterfowl, raptors and songbirds. After traveling about 2 miles upstream (to a point below the new visitor center), we turned around and paddled back to the rubber dock where we had put in.
The wetland was purchased by the state in 2007 from a local cattle rancher. She had inherited the property from her father, and wanted to see it protected.
The Fowleses lead trips up Beaver Creek throughout the summer season — and sometimes later into the fall — by reservation. Contact http://www.oregonstateparks.org/park_261.php or 541-867-6590 or 541-867-7451. The cost is a mere $15, including kayak rental.