logo home new finds about archives links contact

Bandon by the Sea

It is said that Bandon located on a ley line - grids of energy crisscrossing the earth purportedly having great power emanating well-being, abundance and good fortune.

Bandon does seem to be blessed in many ways, including its natural setting of riverfront harbor and some of the most spectacular beaches on the Oregon Coast. However, if one believes in ley lines, one would do well to consider that the vibrations may not be sympathetic to human endurance of an economic kind. Luck and misfortune could be as integral to Bandon as any place, yet seems more obvious here.

The town, fluctuating between prosperity and doom has burned twice. The Coquille River Lighthouse, built in 1896 and decommissioned in 1975, was once the guiding passage over the treacherous bar of the river and is the only lighthouse on record that has the distinction of actually being hit by a ship.

The aboriginal Indians, who had inhabited the site for thousands of years and who believed that theirs was a sacred and abundant place, could not withstand the westward movement of European settlers, and in the 1850s those that survived raids and disease were shunted off to reservations.

Yet too, those early settlers who surged to the area looking for gold found little to sustain them. Fortuned turned and they soon discovered goldmines in shipping, timber, and fish. These enterprises played out in less than a century, and new arrivals of artists and California retirees could not save a town sputtering to stay alive on economies of cranberries, cheese, and tourism. Recently, a new wave has brought Bandon once again to the lucky paradigm.

It is not gold that places Bandon in the limelight now, but a shiny nugget of another kind – a white, spherical indented man-made stone, better know as a golf ball.

The world-class golf resort Bandon Dunes stretches along the beachy fens and dunes a few miles north of Bandon. What is most remarkable, in fact downright unbelievable, is that at two years old, Golf Magazine ranked the eighteen-hole Scottish links course number three in the world behind Pebble Beach and Pinehurst. That's big time. Bandon is suddenly on international jet-set radar screens. Golfers from all over the world probably know more about this spot on our southern coast than most Oregonians.

If you've traveled Hwy. 101 to California, you've likely had a glimpse of Bandon's Old Town, a cluster of buildings on the Coquille River waterfront. Most travelers drive on by, or stop briefly for food and perhaps a visit to the candy at Cranberry Sweets or the Fudge Factory. Some may notice the river and that enchanting historic lighthouse across the bay, and some may venture to the jetty, but if you don't take the Beach Loop Road, you've really missed Bandon's secret – sandy beaches with ancient sea stacks and basalt monoliths rising dramatically out of the surf. To make this obvious, many have started referring to Bandon, named after a town in Ireland, as "Bandon by the Sea."

Bandon's Old Town still maintains that small town flavor and not yet too- cute-enthusiastic renovation. If you wander through town, you will find a very good bookstore, a few good restaurants, and various arts, crafts, glass, novelty, and souvenir shops in full bloom.

On the waterfront, you can rent bait, fishing gear and boats, or hire charters for pursuing salmon, tuna and halibut. In summer, the tiny bait shops offer decent fish & chips too. Crab traps are available to rent, and you can set them off the new public floating dock, or rent a kayak and explore the waterfront and upriver estuary near Bullards Beach State Park.

There's a new walkway pier overlooking the marina and the enormous collapsing on it’s pilings warehouse once used by Nestles for canning and shipping condensed milk, the last remnant of this once thriving harbor.

A few blocks west of town, you can hike through beach grasses and blooming gorse to the river's edge, navigable at low tide. You can pick your way along kelp-laden slippery rocks while heron, ducks and the occasional snowy egret watch with interest. You might simply enjoy the walk or eagerly seek out agates and fossils as you wend your way to the jetty where the mouth of the Coquille River and the Pacific clash, river and surf exploding in great shafts of spray.

From the jetty you can walk to the beach and continue rock hunting, or explore tide pools at the bases of the basalt outcroppings.

Face Rock is one of the largest offshore formations, and if you're at the right angle you can see, as legend has it, the profile of the Na So Mah Indian Princess who was stolen by a sea monster and lies frozen in time.

The Coquille Indians, whose ancestors were so rudely removed, have returned, and some of the land that was taken has been given back. Harmony and prosperity has visited for a few years. Perhaps those ley lines are resounding. If only they could forecast what’s next.

2006 for The Oregonian

back to top

back to South Oregon Coast overview