Out Our Back Door By Tom Baake
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Natural Wonders a Treat Whether First or 15th Visit
By Tom Baake
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With a lone and leafless maple standing sentinel, Silver Falls roars up and over its domed top. The twin cascades at Golden and Silver Falls State Park east of Coos Bay are in spectacular form right now thanks to recent rain.

My dentist’s receptionist Jessica said she had “a confession to make and I’m kind of embarrassed about it.” I assured her that her secret would be safe with me and about 18,000 Shopper readers.

She lowered her voice. “I’ve lived here all my life and I’ve never been to Golden and Silver Falls.”

(“Is that all?” I wanted to say, having braced for the worst.)

Instead I said, “Don’t feel bad, I’ve heard that from other people.”

We agreed the obvious solution would be for her and her husband and kids to simply visit the waterfalls, which are about 25 miles east of Coos Bay. And while it’s true the access road in Golden and Silver Falls State Park had been closed last year because of a washout, it was fixed last October so it’s again possible to drive all the way to the park and right up to the easy trails that lead to the waterfalls. Which thanks to a super-abundance of rain are in furiously fantastic shape right now, perfect for a visit.

On top of all that, her timing couldn’t be better, because if she couldn’t roust family or friends but still wanted company, she could join the South Coast Striders hiking group for a trip to the falls this Saturday, March 18. More details at www.coostrails.com.

I get a kick whenever someone levels with me about never having visited one or another of our local landmarks. Especially if they’re natives or long-timers. As if it’s expected of them.

I have another friend who’s heard about all these places but he’s waiting until he retires to check them out.

 For all those folks, I guess the waterfalls aren’t going anywhere and the ocean will keep rolling in whether they visit every day or wait ten years.

Still, it seems sort of a waste to live so close to these natural wonders and not visit them now and again.

Getting There

At the "Y" at the south end of Coos Bay on US 101, follow signs to Coos River, Allegany. The road crosses a bridge over railroad tracks, then goes over Isthmus Slough Bridge. Bear left across the bridge on 6th Ave. and in a half-mile a “T” intersection turn right (E) on Coos River Rd., following signs to Coos River, Catching Slough.

The route winds out of the residential district, with bay views opening up. The road crosses Catching Slough Bridge and drops onto a levee. Ahead is the green steel span of Chandler Bridge. Cross the bridge and bear right, following signs to Allegany. The road’s on the river’s north bank now, and passes the Doris Place boat ramp in a couple of miles.

Lined by maples and myrtlewoods, the river and road twist through farmlands. Next landmark is Rooke-Higgins County Park, offering camping, day-use and a boat launch. The road curves past more ranches and homesteads, finally looping around in front of the former Allegany School, now a post office and community building.

Another few turns and you're in Allegany. A little logging community once flourished here, with a sawmill and other businesses and dwellings. On a hill just west are old church buildings and a schoolhouse.

Continue on the main road past Allegany, following signs to Golden and Silver Falls State Park.

In just over 1 mile is an unusual, two-forked road separation. Take the left fork, following signs to Golden and Silver Falls. The two roads parallel each other for a bit.

About 4 miles from Allegany is Nesika County Park, with a day-use and seasonal camping. The road turns to gravel, following the river, then wends away. Past the final few dwellings the road narrows to one lane, hugging a hillside of swordferns and dense brush. The trees get bigger. The river rushes through a cataract of huge boulders. And then you're in Golden and Silver Falls State Park.

The bases of both cascades are about 5 minutes’ walk from the parking area. A longer hike follows an old logging road above Golden Falls, which at 377 feet is higher than Niagara Falls. Keep a tight rein on pets and youngsters at the top.

Once you’ve soaked in the grandeur, retrace your footfalls and vehicle route to Coos Bay. And from now on be proud:  You found the waterfalls, and they were awesome!

(Shopper columnist Tom Baake is author of regional guidebooks.) 
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