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Gold Beach Area Offers Fun Walks Short and LongBy Tom Baake
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As its name might imply, the town of Gold Beach has a bounteous sandy shoreline on which to amble, jog, pedal a bike or run with your pooch. There are other walks within minutes of town. Keep venturing into the nearby mountains and forests to find even more trails and walks short and long.
You can access the beach at a half-dozen places just west of town, beginning at the south jetty of the Rogue River. (But stay off the wave-swept jetty itself.) It’s possible to walk seven miles south from the south jetty to the headlands of Cape Sebastian, although such a walk requires fording Hunter Creek about five miles along.
The beach has wide open sections of sand as well as stretches thickly strewn with driftwood, kelp and massive cast-up logs. Like many Curry County beaches, the sand is gray, grainy and sometimes slow-going to plod through.
To the north of Gold Beach and the Rogue River, you can walk north from the north jetty area along Bailey (also called Barley) Beach for about 2.8 miles to the headlands of Otter Point. You can also drive north on Old Coast Rd. to find several direct accesses to this beach.
Find “non-beach” walks by going east on Jerry’s Flat Rd., which begins near the south end of the Isaac Patterson Bridge over the Rogue River.
In just under a half mile, park in a gravel turnout near a gate with a sign indicating this is Port of Gold Beach property, passable by permission. During a visit last week, I double-checked with the Port office and was told the public is welcome to use this road. Just don’t block the gate.
The road goes atop the east end of the Rogue River’s south jetty. To the left (south) is an estuary backwater, while to the north the main body of the Rogue surges towards its seaward confluence.
Perhaps most dramatic, though, is when the road passes under the bridge.
Named for an Oregon governor and completed in 1932, this is one of five distinctive, Art Deco-inspired highway spans along the Oregon coast drawn up by famed bridge designer Conde McCullough. It was the first use in the United States of what’s known as the Freyssinet method of concrete arch construction, an early-day technique of pre-compressing the concrete arches with a series of powerful hydraulic jacks.
The bridge was a design wonder from the get-go, although it sometimes takes a more nuanced eye to appreciate. For example, if you look at the bridge from the west, its gently-curved arches are said to resemble the rolling slopes in this part of Curry County.
In his 2001 book Elegant Arches, Soaring Spans: C.B. McCullough, Oregon's Master Bridge Builder, author Robert Hadlow notes other elements include “prominent pylons at the ends with stepped Moderne elements and stylized Palladian windows crowned by sunbursts. The railings use a simplified, rectilinear Tuscan order with arches on short ribbed columns.”
As with all of McCullough’s bridges, the details are best appreciated unhurriedly and up close; in this case, the jetty road offers excellent vantage points.
The road (and jetty) continues west for a total of about a half mile, dead-ending at the water gap in the jetty that allows boats to enter the protected harbor area.
Returning to your vehicle, drive east on Jerry’s Flat Rd., and in about two-tenths of a mile, park in a gravel area across from Indian Creek Café. Interpretive signs explain salmon life-cycles and such. This is also the east end of the Rotary Trail, which ambles westerly through a dense alder and brush forest, with several short side-trails to the edge of the Rogue River. Along the way is a section of old, moss-covered concrete bridge railing spanning an inlet of the Rogue River estuary.
It’s possible to make a short loop near the trail’s west end; otherwise retrace your route back to the interpretive sign and parking area.
Further fun walking opportunities include the Rogue River Walk beginning about 4 miles upriver. I’ll discuss them in a future column, but for now I hope you find time to visit some of these lesser-known spots just minutes from town – out the back door of Gold Beach.
(Shopper columnist Tom Baake is author of regional guidebooks.)
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