Lasting Impressions

Of Port Orford

Fuzzy flora…

Tall blooms…

The Port Orford Heads on Dock Day (June 16th)…

The Morrison Dancers on July 4th…

The dinghy races on July 4th…

Port Orford’s dock…

Battle Rock Beach at low tide and through the fog…

A foggy view of Humbug Mountain from Battle Rock Beach…

A beached jelly fish…

Bull kelp at low tide…

Hubbard Creek cutting through Battle Rock Beach…


Fish caught by our friend Kenneth…

Agate Beach and low tide debris…

My friend AJ’s car…

The Street Fair organized by our friend Steven…

The Spoon in Langlois…

By now you know how much Jeff and I love Port Orford. The sea either calls your name or lets you pass by. Three summers ago Port Orford beckoned us like a mythological siren. It is simple and pure… raw and refined… small but large with an underground network community… isolated but social… SPECIAL!

Please take the time to view this excellent video about the uniqueness of Oregon’s southern coast from Bandon to Brookings with Port Orford in between.

Bye bye, so long, farewell Port Orford… See you in June!

Cape Blanco Lighthouse Docent

Finding My Niche Part 3

While I was busy pursuing volunteer venues in Port Orford, Jeff made his own phone call, answering an ad on the local radio station for a cashier at the  Cape Blanco Lighthouse. On Thursday, May 24th, Jeff met Steve Roemen, Executive Director of the Cape Blanco Heritage Society and began volunteering once a week at the Lighthouse Visitor/Gift Center.

Jeff soon learned that Steve was looking for a docent in the lantern room of the lighthouse on Mondays to relieve him.

On June 4th I shadowed Steve and a few hours later I was taking 5 people at a time up to the lantern room to share information about the fresnel lens and the nighttime duties of the lighthouse keepers.

So, without more ado, let the tour begin…

Welcome to Cape Blanco Lighthouse home of:

  1.  The oldest CONTINUALLY operating lighthouse in OREGON (December 20, 1870 the lantern was first lit.)
  2. The most WESTERLY lighthouse in OREGON (The tip of Cape Blanco is the farthest west you can go in Oregon.)
  3. The HIGHEST lighthouse ABOVE SEA LEVEL in OREGON (The focal plane of light is 245 feet above sea level.)
  4. The FIRST FEMALE lighthouse keeper in OREGON (Mabel Bretherton was served as 2nd Assistant Keeper from 1903-1905.)

The tour starts downstairs in the office/workroom and oil room. A seam in the ceiling indicates the room was once divided by a wall separating the 2 areas.

The lighthouse keepers began their days fulfilling office duties and completing any repairs on lighthouse equipment.

Eight 100 gallon drums, originally filled with lard and later mineral oil, were heated by a potbelly stove. Before sunset, the 2 keepers on night duty carried pitchers of oil, a supply of wicks, and lantern replacement parts up the 59 spiral steps to the Watch Level.

Right before sundown they ascended the ladder into the lantern room, opened the fresnel lens, and lit the fire that would guide ships around Cape Blanco at night. It’s possible its light could be seen 23 miles out at sea on a clear night.

After lighting the wick, they descended onto the Watch Level again to adjust the series of flues along the upper brick walls to ensure the fire was burning bright and steady.

But enough talk… the main attraction awaits us up the ladder… the fresnel lens…

Please remember to stay on the black mat, to refrain from touching the lens, and to ascend and descend the ladder facing its steps.

As people step up into the lantern room the oohs and aahs and wows begin as they get up close and personal to the rotating fresnel lens installed in 1936 and still functioning today in 2018.

This lens is not the original one of the lighthouse. The first fresnel lens was a little bigger, did not rotate, and the focal plane was a drum panel. Both lenses, however, were designed by Henry Lepaute and manufactured in Paris, France.

The lens you are viewing weighs one ton. Eight bullseyes rotate slowly around a 1,000 watt halogen bulb. The second bulb is the backup. On a clear night or day the light can be seen as far as 26 miles away. That’s the magic of the optical physics of the fresnel lens. Prisms bend the waves of light and concentrate them into a focal plane.  Every 18.2 seconds the focal plane of light emanating from a bullseye appears for 1.8 seconds.

There’s much more I could share with you but I hope you will someday visit Cape Blanco Lighthouse. The lighthouse is open from 10 am-3:15 pm Wednesday through Monday April through September. If you visit on a Monday my friends from the Heritage Society, Steven, Bob, Judi or Steve, might be giving tours.  The State Park’s volunteers are docents Wednesday through Sunday.

As we descend back down into the office/work/oil room let me say a few words about the weather here.

Sometimes thick fog shrouds the cape and beaches.

Sometimes the winds almost knock you over.

Sometimes it’s so cold and windy that you need to don hat and gloves.

And sometimes it’s sunny and clear in Port Orford, like this picture taken from Paradise Point. But notice the fog and marine layer surrounding Cape Blanco and the lighthouse…

My friend Daisy sent me this link from August 25th of The Oregonian, the oldest continuously published newspaper on the U.S. west coast. (There’s that word continuously again!) Blogger Steven Michael shares his 2014 visit to Cape Blanco and Port Orford.

It’s a well written article with great pics. I hope you will take the time to read it!

Redfish Rangers

Finding My Niche Part 2

The local radio station and signs posted throughout Port Orford advertised a volunteer opportunity as a Redfish Ranger… a person outside of the Battle Rock Wayside providing education and outreach about marine reserves, specifically Redfish Rocks, one of the first two reserves in Oregon.

So… of course, I made a phone call and the next thing you know I am attending an all-day training at the Oregon State University Field Station in Port Orford on May 31st.

The Field Station overlooks Battle Rock Beach.

I take a close-up of Battle Rock from the porch of the Field Station. Humbug Mountain rises in the background. The red arrow points to 2 of the 6 rocks that are called Redfish Rocks. (Five emergent rock islands are always visible from shore. The 6th rock is the small shadow to the right of the arrow and is often not visible.)

Why the name Redfish Rocks, you ask? The preponderance of red kelp and the yellow, orange, pink, and red hues of the rockfish species living here cast a red spell on this underwater habitat.

Redfish rocks:

From the docks…

From the overlook at Battle Rock Visitor Center…

From Battle Rock Beach…

Walking south along Battle Rock Beach…

At the mouth of Hubbard Creek…

The Redfish Rangers are a group of trained volunteers who communicate the unique values of the Redfish Rocks Marine Reserve to the public and generally engage people on issues of marine conservation in Oregon. Max Beeken of South Coast Applied Ecology secured a grant to educate the public about the ecological, physical, and cultural aspects of theRedfish Rocks Marine Reserve and Marine Protected Area.

Unfortunately Jeannette, the original Volunteer Coordinator, had to step down due to an unexpected illness.

On May 31st I was one of four volunteers who attended the first training session. Sitting next to AJ, she and I became instant friends. She was a docent at the Hughes House and I was interested in becoming one at the Cape Blanco Lighthouse.

On June 29th a second training session was held with Maya Holiman at the helm. Three more volunteers attended.

July 4th was our official kickoff date but AJ and I tested the waters, so to speak, on Saturday June 30th.

Part of the grant requirement is to survey visitors at Battle Rock Wayside Visitor Center. We find out where folks are from and where they are headed. As we stand and admire the beautiful coastal view together,  we share our connection to Port Orford and point out the 5 prominent rocks of Redfish Rocks one of five marine reserves in Oregon.

AJ and I soon learned that a clipboard and pencil was a deterrent in approaching visitors. So, donned in our jackets (and eventually red caps) we simply walked up to people and started a conversation… Sometimes short and sweet and sometimes so much more…

I know you want the “so much more”…

Redfish Rocks Marine Reserve is a living undersea laboratory dedicated to conservation and research. The Marine Reserve is a 2.7 square mile “no fish/no take” area of kelp beds, large boulders, complex rocky reef, and soft bottom reaching to a depth of 131 feet. No extraction of fish, crab, and red sea urchin is allowed.

An additional 5 square miles beyond the Reserve is the Marine Protected Area where crabbing and salmon trolling is allowed.

  • Protect and sustain seas for future generations
  • Conserve marine habitats and biodiversity
  • Provide a framework for scientific research and effectiveness monitoring
  • Avoid significant adverse social and economic impacts on ocean users coastal communities
  • Invest in the future profitability to provide more fish
  • Offer educational opportunities for students, residents, and visitors
Who and when

In 2009 the state of Oregon enlisted the help of Port Orford’s  commercial fishermen and local community to take part in a pilot project to establish an ocean reserve. After 3 years of “give and take” discussions and meetings between the local community, fishing community, and the state, the Port Orford fishing community picked the location and established the boundaries and rules. After submitting their proposal to the state, the legislature approved and adopted the Redfish Rocks Marine Reserve.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW), Oregon State University (OSU), and the local fishing community began collecting baseline data in 2010. Research monitoring includes: the Fishtracker Project that studies the movement of fish implanted with transmitters, Remote Operated Vehicles (ROVs) controlled aboard host vessels that allow researchers to monitor habitat by recording video and taking measurements of habitat features and fish species of the reserve, SMURF (Standardized Monitoring Unit for the Recruitment of Fishes) that collects juvenile fishes at the reserve and comparison sites, and hook-and-line surveys conducted inside and outside the reserve to measure the size and distribution of fish species.

Restrictions began in January of 2012.

Will prohibiting fishing in the Reserve benefit the ocean ecosystem? Will the Reserve contribute to a more sustainable fishing industry for Port Orford?

Data is up for review in 2023.

Other interesting facts:

  • It takes 1,000 pounds of kelp/seaweed to grow a salmon
  • Rockfish can live for 50 – over 100 years
  • Rockfish give birth to live babies
    • very small, like plankton
    • vulnerable to currents
    • adrift for about 90 days before settling as juveniles
    • big old fat fertile female fish
    • as rockfish females age they produce more offspring
    • as rockfish females age they produce more viable offspring

Check out to find out more.

Librarians Never Retire

Finding My Niche Part 1

From summers past, I knew the library “hired” volunteers.  After arriving here April 16th, I decided to seriously check out (get it?) this opportunity.

So, in May I talked to the Director of the library, Denise Willms, to inquire about the possibility of my volunteering. When I mentioned that I was a retired librarian, she smiled and said, “Laurel, librarians never retire!” We became instant friends, scheduled a meeting  on Monday and on Friday, May 18th, I reported for duty from 10-12.

I work with a most wonderful woman named Daisy, originally from Brazil. She came to Port Orford by way of Portland several years ago. She also volunteers at the CO-OP, a natural foods market and deli in town. Daisy is quite the gardener. She owns 3 plots at Buffington Memorial Park where she grows all sorts of vegetables for her plant-based diet.

A library begins with the first book

In 1921 the State Library in Salem loaned one hundred books to Port Orford creating a traveling library that was operated out of the Port Orford Hardware Store. Mabel Gillings, the wife of the hardware store owner, was responsible for transporting the books back and forth. 

In 1927 the Women’s Club of Port Orford established an official library with 315 books. It was open two afternoons and one evening a week in the rooms of the Civic Improvement Club. Between 1929-1932 the Women’s Club rooms and library were located in the same building as the Leneve Drugstore.

In 1934 the library shared a  building with the Chamber of Commerce and Civic Club Rooms. Rent was $1 per month. The library owned 1,552 books and was open for 8 hours a week. The population of Port Orford was 449.

When this building was sold in June 1935, the library collection was moved to the high school until a new Civic Club Community House could be built. The Port Orford Women’s Club helped circulate books for one hour after school on Tuesdays and Thursdays and for two hours on Saturday afternoons.

In 1937 the Women’s Club built their own building, the afore mentioned Community House.  Various community groups held meetings here, including the American Legion Post before their building was built.  A Curry County Reporter article from June 1938 stated that Mrs. Maude Lynch, the president of the Women’s Club, was working on library books “at the Community House and will later fix up the Women’s Club library”, perhaps implying two library collections? In September of 1938 the Reporter referred to Maude Lynch as the library supervisor. In December the same newspaper printed an article about the opening of the Women’s Club library and the resignation of its president, Maude Lynch. Then in January 1939 the Curry County Reporter stated: “The town library will open Saturday from 2 to 4 pm at the Legion Hall under the supervision of Maude Lynch.” Indeed, it seemed two rival libraries existed in a town of 755 people by 1940.

In late 1940 the Oregon State Librarian, Harriet Long, visited Port Orford to consolidate the two libraries. After sorting, discarding, and mending books, the Curry County Bank donated a small building to house the collection. This building was then moved to the site occupied by the City Hall. A librarian was hired with funds from the Works Progress Administration, patrons received library cards, and the collection grew. When W.P.A. funds were no longer available, volunteers operated the library.

By 1956 the city had enough funds to hire a librarian again. Unfortunately a fire in 1958 destroyed all the buildings at the City Hall site, except for the jail. Library books were saved but water-damaged and moved into the vacant Post Office Building on Highway 101, sharing a crowded space with City Hall offices.

In 1962, with donated land, a new City Hall, designed to include space for the library, was built and dedicated on April 21st.

By the late 1960s, however, the library needed more space and the Library Board considered constructing a new building with funds received from the city and county. In 1970 the Board asked Curry County for $18,000 to build a new library. In 1972 Gold Beach, 25 miles south of Port Orford, donated almost 1/3 of its annual county library funds ($8,000) toward a new library. Local volunteers installed the ceiling and furnace ducts, built tables and myrtlewood panels for the end of the bookshelves, and painted. In 1973 the new library building opened, sharing space with the Port Orford City Council. By 1975 the library had a collection of 10,000 volumes and 15 children participated in the Summer Reading Program.

By the early 1980s the county funds allocated to the library were reduced to nothing. The Library Board took the necessary steps to form a tax district requiring a voter-passed levy to finance the library. On November 2, 1982 voters approved the Port Orford Public Library District, one of the first in the state. In 1983 a levy passed to fund the library. The November election of 1984 successfully established the tax base on which the library continues operating today.

In 1988 eight out of ten people living in Port Orford had active library cards.

The possibility of building a new library for Port Orford went from a dream to a hopeful reality in 1994, when funds from Charlotte Johnson’s Memorial were used to start a Capital Reserve Fund for library expansion. A year later the Port Orford Public Library Foundation was formed to manage funds and secure more. In December 1999 a bequest of $80,250 from the Robert Reinhardt estate turned hope into a promising reality.

After 22 years as librarian, the longest of any in Port Orford, Bonnie Wagner retired in 1999. Tobe Porter, librarian at Langlois, 12 miles north, was hired on a part-time basis and managed both libraries. She became passionately committed to building a new Port Orford library. In 2003 Tobe became the full-time director of the Port Orford Library, declining a position to serve on the Oregon Library Association, in order to apply for grants to construct a new building to house the library collection.

In 2001 Norma and Bob Carlisle donated property at the corner of 15th and Highway 101 for the site of a new library.

Bake sales, rummage sales, a quilt raffle, fundraising meals, musical events, book signings, art shows, donations, and grants helped advance the cause of a new library building. In May 2007 voters of the Library District  passed a $450,000 bond to ensure funds to pay for construction. On July 29, 2007 ninety-year-old Dot Mathews, representing the past, and four-year-old Rowan Tilley, representing the future cut the yellow ribbon. This was the signal for several of the younger patrons, with child-sized shovels and toy earthmoving equipment to ceremonially “break ground” for the new library. As more grants came in, the Library Board voted that it would be unnecessary to issue the $450,000 general obligation bond. In June 2008 the 11,000 square feet new Port Orford Public Library was finished, debt-free, and had a permanent home at last!

Nelson, Shirley. Home At Last: the journey of Port Orford Public Library from a traveling borrowed collection in 1921 to a home of its own in 2008. The Friends of Port Orford Public Library, 2008.

Port Orford Library is the hub of this town of 1100 people. Denise, the Director, is the only full-time staff member. Everyone else is either a volunteer or part-time employee.

The collection includes large print editions, DVDs, music CDs, and books on tape. The fiction books are further separated into 2 popular genres: Mystery and Westerns.

Port Orford is part of the Coastline Library System, 13 libraries serving Curry and Coos Counties. Requesting an item from any of these libraries is easy peasy.

Patrons enjoy and rely on free internet access.

The man in the black baseball cap, in the picture below, is Popz. Every Friday we wait together for the doors to open at 10 am. Some years back Popz, whose real name is Brad, owned a surf shop in Port Orford.

Last Friday, however, he wasn’t there. Today I found out that he passed away. Popz, though we barely knew one another, know you will be missed!

There are 3 meeting rooms available, 2 small and 1 large. Their calendar of events include metaphysical classes, youth chess club, folk dance, and bridge games, just to mention a few.

The Children’s Room is inviting and busy. Cheryl is in charge of the Children’s and Young Adult collection. She plans programs throughout the year and oversees the school libraries’ collections as well. Driftwood Elementary is in town just across the highway. Pacific High School is about 5 miles north. Neither school has a certified librarian so volunteers manage the libraries during the school day.

This week I helped Cheryl weed the high school collection. I think we discarded half of the books as most volumes were so very outdated. I felt like I was getting back in the groove for a new school year again.

The hallway displays local artists’ works, a carrousel of free paperbacks and a shelf of older magazines.

The Friends of the Port Orford Library was formed in 1982 and helped promote the formation of a Tax District. Still searching for their true mission, librarian Bonnie Wagner spoke at a meeting about the need for the organization. She said the Friends are “the icing on the cake” for the library, providing funds for activities not in the budget. Besides a Christmas Bazaar, they hold a twice-annual used book sale.

Nelson, Shirley. Home At Last: the journey of Port Orford Public Library from a traveling borrowed collection in 1921 to a home of its own in 2008. The Friends of Port Orford Public Library, 2008.

Their Unique Boutique, located on the southern end of the hallway, sells used treasures.

Thank you, Denise, for bringing me out of retirement for a couple of hours each week. I will miss so many people here: Wendy, Cheryl, Kyle, Alice, Penny, Midge, people whose names I cannot remember, patrons, and especially Daisy. Thank you for making me feel right at home.

Cape Blanco to Blacklock Point


After several attempts driving to Cape Blanco to access the northern beach and walk from the Lighthouse to Blacklock Point, we finally succeed. Today is not foggy, windy, or cold.  And the tide is low.

We park outside of the gate leading to the Lighthouse and descend onto the beach.

Waves crash over boulders on the shore, painting them shiny black.

About an hour later we approach the southern side of Blacklock Point and make our way through the green, red, orange, and gray rocks.

High tides from winter leave piles of driftwood atop ridges of sand.

A whimsical driftwood hut has lost its roof.

Strong winds and waves wedge this large piece of wood into these boulders on the beach. Oh, did I forget to mention that this photo is facing east?

There’s the ocean peaking through. And look, the fog is rolling in.

We climb a grassy dune scattered with driftwood…

…and descend onto another rocky beach.

A path leads up to higher ground.

The deep crack in a rock resembles an upside down letter V.

The fog thickens and obscures Blacklock’s ledge of rugged rocks jutting out to sea.

Coming down the path we encounter a grandfather, his 3 grandchildren, and 2 dogs. The kids romp on the beach.

And we head back.

A sand slide!

The sea gets choppier.

The sky blends into the ocean.

The Sixes River pools into a lake.

The mouth of the river no longer reaches the Pacific.


A clump of kelp…

Two and a half hours later we are back where we began, on the beach beneath the lighthouse. Trust me, Cape Blanco Lighthouse is there, buried in the fog.

Starry Starry Morning…

Minus Tide on Battle Rock Beach: A Photo Exhibition

The stars of the show: A series

a collection of co-stars: collages with anemones

So many starfish… so amazing

Seize the Size

mosaics on the rocks

I spy Starfish…

Anemones, barnacles, and snails… sigh

Snail Crossing

She sees Seagulls on the seashore

Swept ashore: a still life of starfish, snails, and chiton

Blowing beautiful bubbles on the beach

I’ve looked at clouds…

And fog…

from all sides…


Moseying through the mouth of Hubbard Creek


The ides of tides


A visceral victim: 2 Vultures and A washed-up sea lion

4 swept up starfish sitting in the sun: souvenirs

A Rainbow rings the sun: our walk is done

More Beach Bumming

My Favorite Moments

Battle Rock Beach June 22nd

Ripples of sand…

Tidal pools…

Sea anemones…

On the rocks…

Redfish Rocks…

Hubbard Creek changes channels to the sea…

Washed up…

Black Oyster Catchers…

Rooted in the sand…

Paradise point/Agate Beach June 26th… HAppy birthday, dad. You would have been 92 Years old. ❤

It’s a w-i-n-d-y day!

This colorful little beetle blows away after I take its picture…

As we continue walking south along the beach our backs are pelted by the tiny pebbles carried by the wind. Ouch! The only bums bumming along the shore are us…

Battle Rock beach again July 7th

Bundles of bull kelp…

Navigating the waves…

Notice the sailboat in the photo above and Redfish Rocks in the photo below.

And now I capture them both in the same photo…

Pecking order… Fresh crab…

Snail shells and other stuff stuck on sea rocks…

Hubbard Creek and Humbug Mountain…

Serious sand sculpting …

Blue skies, evergreens, sandy cliffs, and pink flowers…

Tseriadun State Park/Agate Beach July 10th


Yummily tart to the taste…

Live crab…

Tidal pools…

A starfish mosaic created by the wind…

Port Orford Heads…

“Mussel Beach”…

Splish splash…

Agate hunters…