Out Our Back Door By Tom Baake
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By Tom Baake
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A visitor admires the views from the 40-acre pond in Powers County Park. 

Whether you’re a local or a visitor, if you like lakes, you’re in the right place. In addition to lakes tucked away in forested settings up in the Coast Range, there are in-town lakes in just about every South Coast community. Even relatively small towns such as Powers and Winchester Bay have lakes large and small.

Some, such as Eel Lake in William Tugman State Park near Lakeside, support an impressive variety of activities, from competitive distance swimming events to kayaking geocachers, plus the usual gamut of swimming, fishing and sunning.

Like most coastal lakes, it’s regularly stocked with trout and is open for fishing all year round.

Other lakes, such as Bradley Lake in Bandon, cater to a narrower user group. All the land around the lake is private property so there’s no place to stop and get out. There’s not so much as a picnic table in the day-use area, although there are some relatively new vault toilets and floating docks at the boat ramp. So this is pretty much a bring-your-own-watercraft situation, and get ready to just drift around or, perhaps more productively, go fishing.

Speaking of fishing, at least one lake is completely dedicated to that – Arizona Pond at Arizona Beach State Recreation Site north of Gold Beach. It, too, is stocked year round, but open exclusively for anglers 17 and under. All regulations apply and juvenile licenses are required for anglers 14 to 17.

Other lakes are mostly just for looks, such as pretty Lost Lake and others in the Bureau of Land Management’s New River area south of Bandon. Some of them are sparkling blue bodies of water and others are in an almost swamp-like setting, framed by huge trees with long drooping veils of Spanish moss.

Floras Lake, near Langlois, is another lake with what might be called specialized uses. Owing to steady wind along this part of the coast, the lake has been a longtime destination for windsurfers, kiteboarders and other wind-dependent vessels. Thanks to that wind, you don’t see many people swimming or fishing in Floras Lake.

Some bodies of water that had earlier specialized uses have in been turned into picturesque recreational sites, such as Johnson Log Pond outside of Coquille (now a county park), and 40-acre Powers Pond in Powers County Park, both of which were formerly used as log storage ponds for sawmills.

There’s even a Coos County lake that disappears. That would be aptly-named Winter Lake, which “appears” annually during the rainy season, inundating vast tracts of the Coquille River Valley. As the rains subside, the shallow waters slowly dry out and drain away, leaving behind a new layer of rich sediment to fertilize the valley.

Seasonal lakes are also found throughout the Oregon Dunes, completely flooding some areas in raintime and then just as completely drying up in summer, leaving basins of crusty sand.

Other Dunes Country lakes hold their water year round. A couple of them – Tahkenitch and Siltcoos south of Florence – have dams that keep lake levels consistent. Others have different distinctions; for example, at 3100 acres, Siltcoos is the largest lake on the Oregon coast, and adjacent Woahink is deepest.

The levels of some lakes, such as Garrison Lake in Port Orford, vary with the seasons, as does Ten Mile Lakes in Lakeside. Ten Mile Lakes and Siltcoos Lake both have picturesque outlets to the sea; the Siltcoos River Canoe Trail is the only officially-designated canoe trail on the South Coast.

In Florence are a number of nice little lakes mostly surrounded by private property, but a couple of them – Mercer and Sutton – have public boat ramps from which fishing expeditions can be launched, or just float around and admire the fancy lakeside homes.

Winchester Bay’s little Lake Marie is another forested gem, and it even has a sandy beach. Find other beaches at Eel Lake and Ten Mile Lakes near Lakeside, and even at Empire Lakes in Coos Bay’s Empire District. Loon Lake in the mountains east of Reedsport is perhaps the ultimate summer-lake destination, and a favorite place for swimmers, sun-seekers, waterskiers and jetskiers.

As might be deduced, whether you’re into fishing, boating, paddling, or just want to splash around in the water, you don’t have to go far in Oregon’s South Coast region to get, well, wet. 

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