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Winchester Bay Along the Oregon Coast

I've been a resident of Oregon for all but six years of my life. One of my passions is to take photos of the beautiful Oregon coast.

Winchester Bay is a family favorite in terms of places to hang out on the Oregon coast.

Winchester Bay is a family favorite in terms of places to hang out on the Oregon coast.

Winchester Bay History

In 1850, Herman Winchester left his home in San Francisco to join an expedition headed toward the Oregon coastal region. The explorer came upon a trading point known as West Umpqua, where he founded the town of Winchester Bay.

Originally inhabited by ancestors of the confederated tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians, trades existed between the tribes, the Spanish and British explorers. Ships traveled along the coastline and would stop at the mouth of the Umpqua River to commence trading in 1791.

Fur trading blossomed into a fruitful business. The area soon received visitors during the gold rush, adding to the population and local commerce.

Herman Winchester served on the county commission in 1853, but due to a popular vote, Winchester Bay lost their seat to Deer Creek or Roseburg as it is known today. Many local businesses moved to Roseburg in 1854. Both Winchester Bay and Roseburg were home to the timber industry, agriculture and fishing during the 1900s. Today Winchester Bay is also known for tourism.

Things to Do in Winchester Bay

Many activities are available during your visit to Winchester Bay. Activities will change depending on the season, as with most tourist destinations. Winchester Bay is part of the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. The dune area includes 50 miles of sand dunes, 30 lakes, dune buggy and horseback riding areas and campgrounds. Activities include interpretive exhibits, wildlife viewing, horseback riding areas, swimming, fishing, and hiking trails.

Dune buggy competitions and shows are a favorite festivity in the town of Winchester Bay. The annual Dunefest has become a tourist attraction and large beach-side party event. Dunefest activities begin in July when the weather along the Oregon coast is at its best. For more information on Dunefest in Winchester Bay, visit

Dunefest in Winchester Bay

Digging the Sand in Winchester Bay

On trips to the Oregon coast, one of the best features of the Winchester Bay area is the sand. Because Winchester Bay resides in the Oregon Dunes Recreational area, the sandy beaches are vast. As a family, we spend much of our time walking along the beaches and sitting on blankets to enjoy a relaxing day along the coast. Removing shoes to walk along the sandy beach is a must when visiting this coastal playground. The search for the perfect sand dollar and shell begins immediately.

Digging feet deep into the sand gives the younger visitors a chance to take advantage of gravity. My granddaughter's boyfriend found if he dug his feet and legs into the sand deep enough, he could float backward and let the wind and his muscles hold him up.

Since the Pacific ocean is rather rough most of the year, combing the beach for intact shells and sand dollars is quite time-consuming. Winchester Bay and other areas are not known for amazing finds when it comes to the perfect shell. If the ocean does not break up the shells, the rocks and other hard items will. The waves are rough on shells and sand dollars as well. If combing beaches for shells is a favorite activity, this article might help you find better areas for your search.

Building Shelters on the Beaches of Winchester Bay

Everyone loves to find driftwood on the beach. Driftwood makes nice benches to rest on while overlooking the ocean. It is also a great item to build shelters during your visit to the coast.

My family loves to build shelters and sit in them to keep the wind out of their faces. There seems to be plenty of driftwood along the Winchester Bay beaches that are right for the job.

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Photo Shoot on the Beach

While some family members enjoy playing in the sand and crafting handy shelters, a couple of us prefer looking at the beach as a good photo opportunity. The cameras come out to capture the beach and family activities during our coastal trip.

The rock we found (below photos) is home to some embedded driftwood, rocks, sand and other collectibles it has picked up over time. A closer view of the rock gives us an inside look into what this rock has been through. The stone is home to small pieces of driftwood, embedded shells, and sand. Outer skin impressions make it clear that seaweed and other plant life has been buried in it during its oceanic stay through pounding waves and years of an undersea environment.

Capturing Wildlife in Winchester Bay

There are many photographs taken on our trips to the Oregon coast. Rarely do we capture a unique glimpse into a moment in time, but when we do, it's magical!

Activities such as watching wildlife in Winchester Bay can lead to those magical moments caught on camera, such as this seagull as it collected American eels for a meal. While sitting on the beach, we happened to look up and see a seagull. My granddaughter Jessee clicked the button on her camera and captured one of the best photos I've seen in the amateur photography realm.

The seagull was bumped by another gull in midair, causing it to drop the eels. The eels were released back into the sea, although I have no idea if they were alive at that point or not. Capturing the moment the seagull flew over our heads was one of those "in the right place, at the right moment" pictures for us.

Seagull with two American eels in its mouth.

Seagull with two American eels in its mouth.

The Umpqua Lighthouse and Park

With lens still in operation, the 65-foot tall Umpqua lighthouse gives visitors breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean and surrounding areas. The lens has a distinctive pattern of 2 white, one red.

The lighthouse standing today was built in 1894 and is in possession of the US Coast Guard, but is leased to Douglas County for tours. A guided tour is available to visitors from May through October, including a small museum adjacent to the lighthouse.

Yurts, one-room cabins, tent spaces and RV hookups are available for overnight camping in the park area.

The Umpqua Lighthouse State Park is a must-see while in Winchester Bay. Lands for the park originated in 1930, plus more added throughout the years until 1951. The Menasha Wooden Ware Company donated a sizable plot of land to the park of over one hundred acres. Over time, more land was acquired through donations and exchanges until the park extended into the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area that surrounded the lighthouse park.

Nestled in a long stretch of towering sand dunes of the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, the park is ideal for overnight camping, sleeping in yurts, boating, swimming, and fishing. With dunes of heights of 500 feet or more, a dune buggy is a must. Off-road riding takes riders back into the beautiful woods of Oregon to enjoy wildlife, photography, and nature in general. For the dune lovers who are more adventurous, the large dunes make a perfect playground for flips and jumps to make the day exciting.

Reservations for lighthouse tours cannot be made through the park. You can make reservations for a tour by calling 541-271-4631 and if you mention that it took 240,000 bricks to construct the tower of the lighthouse, you’ll receive a discount on your tour package.

The Umpqua Lighthouse guards the entrance to Winchester Bay.  It is open to the public for tours.

The Umpqua Lighthouse guards the entrance to Winchester Bay. It is open to the public for tours.

© 2018 Vicki Perry

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