Sunday, August 20, 2017

Dune Buggy Ride, Sandland Adventures, Florence, Oregon

Miles and miles of windblown sand encompass the Oregon Dunes, which stretch for fifty-four miles, from Heceta Head north of Florence to Cape Arago just south of Coos Bay. Well over 100,000 years old, this dune complex of roughly 40,000 acres covers the largest area of any dune system on the West Coast of North America. Its eastern boundary is more than three miles from the shore for much of its length.

Dune buggy riders take advantage of these huge dunes and ride for hours every day.  We can hear them from our campsite at South Jetty Thousand Trails Campground. We decided to partake in this adventure through a company called SandLand Adventures, which offers dune buggy rides to visitors. It was a blast.

Our seats for the ride

The Sandland Giant Dune Buggy

In 1972, Congress set aside 32,186 acres of the total dune complex as the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area (ODNRA), to be managed by the U.S. Forest Service. The area offers solitude for hikers and campers and is one of the most popular off-highway-vehicle (OHV) riding areas on the West Coast.

Recent studies have determined that the youngest dunes, which were formed over the last seven thousand years, are nearest the ocean. The higher dunes to the east were formed more than 20,000 years ago, and the tops of some of the higher dunes were last active more than 100,000 years ago. Analyses of the chemical makeup of individual sand grains point to the Umpqua River, just west of Reedsport, as the primary source of the Oregon Dunes, with contributions from the Siuslaw and other, smaller rivers.

Wind and water are the two strongest forces shaping dune formation. Summer winds blow steadily from the north and northwest at 12 to 16 miles per hour. Mountain barriers near the coast deflect wind currents, sculpting the sand into many different shapes. In winter, winds vary more; however, they can exceed 100 miles per hour during intense winter storms. These winds blow from the south and southwest, moving large amounts of sand. Seasonal changes in wind direction reshape dune sculptures and ridges. 

Off We Go
Strong ocean currents flowing north in winter and south in summer hold sediment from rivers near the shore. Currents, tides and wave action dredge sand from the ocean floor and deposit it on the beaches where the wind takes over. Sand absorbs and stores a large part of the annual rainfall. Where winds have removed sand down to the water table, freshwater plants have flourished. In the wet winter, the rising water table creates marshy areas with standing water several feet deep. With the upward pressure of water, the sand grains become saturated and may float, resulting in quicksand.

It was quite windy out there on the dunes.  I had to tie my hat down with my scarf to keep it from being blown away.

Rolling down the beach. Before Hwy 101 was completed, people would use the hard sand down the Pacific Coast as a highway. It is still considered a roadway with a speed limit of 25mph.  The police have been known to come down and will give a ticket out if one is found speeding.

Some of the dunes are very misleading - the sand blows and forms peaks and dips. From the other direction it looks just like rolling hills and the riders cannot see the dips until they are upon them.  Talk about flying through the air.

A lake in the dunes

There were some trails where they were almost straight down and a lot of the people put their hands up like they were were going down a roller coaster.  It was really a lot of fun.

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