Journeying Oregon’s New Marine Reserves by Bike: Redfish Rocks

Photo: The view of Redfish Rocks Marine Reserve from Port Orford. Photograph by Helen Helfand.

By Chris Rurik and Helen Helfand

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Photo: The view of Redfish Rocks Marine Reserve from Port Orford. Photograph by Helen Helfand.

Our journey ends at Oregon’s southernmost marine reserve: Redfish Rocks.

Leaving behind the rugged majesty of Cape Perpetua, we cycle 175 miles south, passing through sand dune country and the worn town of Coos Bay, where citizens refused a proposed marine reserve. Beyond that, the landscape we enter feels remote, more a part of the Siskiyou Mountains than the state of Oregon. Rock pillars stand in the sea. A taste of southern warmth pervades the air. When we reach the town of Port Orford, home of Redfish Rocks Marine Reserve, we see why so many people have described it to us as isolated, beyond the reach of the factionalism we saw along the rest of the Oregon Coast — uniquely positioned to own and take pride in its new marine reserve, to weave it into the local scene.

If community involvement in Oregon’s new marine reserves can be compared to undersea ecosystems, where a healthy dynamic requires a diversity of species filling many niches, Port Orford has a reputation for being the most robust community ecosystem of them all. In our minds, Port Orford has grown into a shining town on a coastal hill. We have finally arrived to see if the reality meets the reputation.

On our first glide through town, it seems fairly ordinary, a compact collection of homes, restaurants, antique shops, a pub, and a market that walks the fine line between quaint and dilapidated. Its ocean vista, on the other hand, is sensational. From a highway pullout just beyond the town’s main drag, —> Read More

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