Along the Pacific Coast one afternoon, the sun set—tied slowly behind the fog bank which seemed always to hang at the edge of the Great Western Sea. The salt mist turned to a curtain of gold, melting into the waves and then spreading in ragged pools across the tidal flats. Farther down the shore, gray-green boulders lay in enormous disarray; and just a few yards inland, darkening as the sun dipped lower, fresh-water ponds rippled behind the barrier dunes. Two Americans, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, saw that sunset—the first overland travelers from the newly born United States to see the wild stretch of Pacific shore which is now the coast of Oregon. Today, 154 years later, the Oregon coast appears almost exactly as it did to the first explorers. Among the headlands sea lions still make their rookeries, and the broad beaches are free of wretched little hot-dog stands and pinball alleys flashing neon. For almost all of the 300-mile coast from Astoria at the mouth of the Columbia River down to the town of Brookings on the California border is by law a public highway. This public highway, however, is not for commercial traffic. Instead, as the pictures on these pages show, it is for the public use and private pleasure of anyone who wants to ride the beach, play in the freshwater pools or just walk among the great rocks, seeing and perhaps feeling the same things as did the pioneers when they first came here a century and a half ago.
The evening sun creates a golden backdrop for a party of horsemen on the beach near Delake, Ore.
Strolling among massive black rocks on the beaches of southern Oregon, a party of picnickers searches the sand near the town of Bandon for traces of buried agate and jasper
Oregon youngsters pedal unique bicycle boats through fog-shrouded waters of Smith Lake
JOHN G. ZIMMERMAN