As I rolled out of the hills and into Florence, I decided to take a side trip out to the coast. The city itself is a short distance inland, with the port protected by a long manmade jetty. I thought it might be worthwhile to see, so I made a right turn and headed out.
[tmt_info =””]From US 101, turn on Rhododendron Drive. It heads west, then north, following alongside the Siuslaw River to the ocean. Drive past Harbor Vista County Park, and watch for Jetty Road, which will take you out to the north jetty.[/tmt_info]
If you stop in Harbor Vista County Park, this is about the best view you’ll find. Your best bet is to keep driving out Jetty Road, which leads…
… to here, where it turns partially to sand, then is blocked by a huge boulder. If you want to go all the way to the end, you’ll have to walk. Since it was windy and cool during my visit, a long hike out to the end of a jetty didn’t sound very exciting, so I turned my attention to the nearby beach, which is littered with driftwood.
On the beach, I discovered the coolest thing: someone (or probably a whole group of someones) gathered up some of that driftwood, and used it to construct a very primitive, very rough, one-room beach house. I was glad to find it, too, since I needed some shelter from the wind.
I climbed inside the house to find a cozy space inside. The place was decorated (with some tasteful graffiti) and furnished (with a stump for a chair). A sign above the door welcomed visitors, and asked for them to respect the property.
A lot of work went into this place. These driftwood logs are heavy, and if the whole thing wasn’t constructed properly, it could have easily collapsed. I don’t think that will happen, though, since the structure seemed pretty sound.
I hung out in the fortress for a few minutes, pretending I was eight years old. Then I left the beach house, just as I found it. (I’d love to hear from someone who knows who built it, why they built it, and how long it’s been there!)
The rest of the beach is a sea of driftwood. Take your life in your own hands and climb around for a while, or do what I did, and seek shelter from the howling wind in your car.
The best part of Florence, from the tourist’s perspective, is the Old Town commercial district, that’s just below the US 101 bridge on Bay Street. There are enough fudge shops and t-shirt stores here to keep you occupied for a while.
Park just below the Siuslaw River Bridge in a parking lot that’s just off Bay Street, and take the stairs up to the bridge.
The Siuslaw River Bridge is one of US 101’s great concrete arch bridges. This one is also a drawbridge. There’s plenty of room for pedestrians on both sides of the road, so it’s worth a quick walk.
The Siuslaw River Bridge was completed in 1936–one of five spans completed along US 101 that year. Before it opened, you had to wait for a ferry to cross.
The decorative touches are everywhere in this old concrete bridge.
Back at Bay Street, as I walked back to my car, I spotted a few rhododendron blooms. Pacific Rhododendrons bloom from April to July.
[tmt_info =””]As you head south from Florence, US 101 is flanked by sand dunes. Most of these areas are managed by the federal government, which means even the most brief sightseeing stop will require a fee. Since the weather was dreary, and I had a lot of distance to cover before nightfall, I decided to drive by without stopping. However, if you have the time, you should consider a sand dune ride in a jeep, provided by one of the many tour businesses along US 101.[/tmt_info]
Note: This trip was first published in 2007.