An Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC)
Seventeen miles north of Port Orford is a 1200-acre “preserve” managed by the Bureau of Land Management. ACECs are areas where the BLM has determined that special control is required to protect unique plant and animal resources.
From US-101, we take Croft Lake Lane for 2 miles, passing cranberry bogs on both sides of the road.
Croft Lake Lane ends at the New River Learning Center, which is closed the day we visit, and continues as River Road leading to the boat ramp and picnicking area.
We park across from the Learning Center as we are interested in hiking the 3 miles of trails. It’s an overcast day with intermittent showers, but it turns out to be an amazing day for taking pictures… hint, hint for what’s to come…
On our way to the North Trail, a sheltered kiosk detains me with information…
According to local lore, the Great Flood of 1890 caused waters to rage into the lowlands and create a new northbound channel for Floras Creek. A rancher, witnessing this new channel exclaimed, “It’s a new river!”
But before settlers ranched here, Coquille and Qua-to-mah Indians once fished for salmon, picked mussels, and hunted clams along these shores.
So, let’s hit the trail… the North Trail… bordered by manzanita and rhododendron…
We take the Ridge Trail loop and I just have to share these pictures!
The loop ends at the Huckleberry Hill Trail that winds through sand dunes.
As the dunes fade into forest, we travel on the Ocean View Trail through a dense forest.
We take the spur to the overlook for views of the river, ocean, and dune restoration work where European beachgrass has been removed.
This fast-growing plant was introduced here by Europeans in the 1930s to slow the growth of sand dunes to protect their land investments. Unfortunately the beachgrass has choked out many native plants and altered the habitat for the western snowy plover. (plaque and brochure)
The Ocean View Trail exits onto New River Road and the boat launch.
We walk along River Road to access the West Muddy Lake Trail.
A side trail leads to a spot along the river.
Back on the main trail, we arrive at the edge of the freshwater Muddy Lake.
We cross through a coastal shore pine forest…
…that leads to an open meadow and the Old Bog Trail.
At the end of the trail we reach a natural bog. A natural bog takes hundreds of years to create. Clay-laden soil lines the bottom of a bog holding water, much like a swimming pool liner. As organic materials collect and decompose, the water becomes acidic. Only specially adapted plant species, such as sedges, salal, wild cranberries, and shore pine can thrive in these soggy conditions. (plaque)
These bogs were transformed into one of the oldest cranberry bogs on the southern coast of Oregon, the Westmoor Cranberry Bogs, as a way to supplement the income of eastern settlers.
In order to harvest cranberries, the farmers had to find a way to pump water out of the bog, prevent sedges from growing, and keep the deer away. Hauling sand from the nearby dunes to spread by hand over the site aided in this.
From 1914-1950 these cranberries were shipped as faraway as Portland and Los Angeles for the holidays. Berry pickers were paid in tickets redeemable at local stores for food and clothing. (plaque and brochure)
Today this natural bog has returned to its organic state filling with sediments and vegetation. The bench below symbolizes this process for me.
On the way back to the Muddy Lake Trail I get close up and personal with salal shrubs.
And I peek into a gap in the shore pines to discover manzanita branches sculptured by the wind and resting on the yellow-green moss below.
And then these delicate white snowflakes stare up at me.
We return to the East Muddy Lake Trail and the open meadow.
We enter another pine forest. A hanging moss beard captures my attention.
And more flowers…
The end of the trail, or the beginning, displays a plaque explaining the rich mosaic of habitats and life living within the New River Trail System.
As we exit onto River Road we meet a woman from Gold Beach. Then a “milk truck-looking vehicle” slowly passes by and my new friend and I stop them for a chat. We learn that they just converted this vehicle into a camper.
I say goodbye to my new friends and head to our car.
After turning the bend I take one last picture of an old farm machine. Jeff and I convince ourselves that it has something to do with harvesting cranberries.
What an unexpectedly wonderful day!