John Dellenback Dunes Trail, OR (USA)

June 16, 2016

John Dellenback Dunes Trail beggins in a conifer forest setting which goes for half a mile, then it goes through the dunes and ends at the ocean beach.

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The Oregon Dunes are a unique area of windswept sand that is the result of millions of years of wind and rain erosion on the Oregon Coast.

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This is the largest expanse of coastal sand dunes in North America.

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The sand comes from sedimentary rock uplifted 12 million years ago in Oregon’s Coast Range Mountains.

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Rivers moved the rock downstream, tumbling and grinding it into sand.

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The present shoreline stabilized about 6,000 years ago.

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The strong elemental forces of tides, waves and winds have been constantly moving the sand for centuries—up to two and a half miles inland in places

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Author Frank Herbert was inspired (in part) to write the famous science fiction novel Dune based on his research about the dunes of this area.

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The wind whips the fine, tan-colored sand into steep-faced mounds and soft, round depressions that beg for exploration and sand-slide-inducing dives.

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Even if you don’t plan to continue to the shoreline, just over 2 miles away, plan to spend some time wandering the dunes before looping back on the south side of the John Dellenback loop toward the trailhead.

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The John Dellenback Dunes Trail offers a picturesque look at a variety of coastal ecosystems, including a conifer forest, riparian areas and the dune sea.

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Highlights of the hike include the tranquil Eel Creek, “tree islands,” and a rare red fescue plant community which is dominated by a native grass species.

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Oblique dune

This particular area represents how the Oregon coastal dunes would’ve appeared prior to the introduction of invasive species such as European Beach Grass in the early twentieth century.

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Ninety-five percent of red fescue habitat is now gone in Oregon.

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Festuca rubra (red fescue) is a grass that wild animals browse it, but it has not been important for domestic forage due to low productivity and palatability.

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Hummocks

Hummocks are created by sand accumulation around vegetation. When the water table rises in the winter, puddles may surround the hummocks and they appear to be floating islands.

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The dunes are the nesting area of the threatened Western Snowy Plover. Between March 15 and September 15 there may be prohibitions on entering certain areas to help protect these birds.

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After an hour of hiking across the soft sand—more if it’s windy and/or the sand is super dry—you’ll hit a well-marked trail alongside a patch of forest.

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Follow the trail north and duck into the trees for the final three-quarters of a mile.

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This is a deflation plain area where water-loving vegetation thrives.

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As the dunes move eastward, the plants of the deflation plain also spread eastward. A foredune separates the beach from this inland area.

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The foredune (a narrow, grass-covered dune) area precedes the beach which stretches north and south as far as you can see.

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The foredune is a low hill, formed parallel to the ocean edge.

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Consisting of sand and driftwood, the 25 to 50 foot high foredune is capped by European Beachgrass, an introduced plant species.

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The John Dellenback trailhead is located 10.5 miles south of Reedsport or 16 miles north of Coos Bay on Highway 101. There is ample parking and restrooms. Use of this area requires a $5.00 day permit or a valid recreation pass such as the Pacific Coast Passport.

Map

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Roundtrip length: Around 8.85 km (5.5 miles)
Allow 5 hours
Elevation gain: 85 m (282 ft)


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Driving Distance from Vancouver: 840 km (9.5 hours)