Spotlight: South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve, Oregon
A mild climate, abundant trails and plenty of wildlife characterize this first estuarine research reserve in the country
What You’ll Find
A 5,000-acre (2023 ha) natural area nestled on Oregon’s southwestern coast where you can enjoy hiking, canoeing, birding and exploring the quiet beauty of the South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR). The reserve is part of the larger Coos Bay estuary and is a mix of tidal and freshwater habitat that includes marshes, mudflats, streams and forests. Enjoy a leisurely walk on South Slough’s many trails, which are open from dawn to dusk, 365 days a year.
South Slough NERR is located in Charleston, about 19 miles southwest of Coos Bay. From Eugene, take Interstate 5 south to Oregon 38, then west to U.S. 101 south. From North Bend, follow the Cape Arago Highway to Charleston and drive four miles on Seven Devils Road. Follow the binoculars on the road signs!
From the south, take Interstate 5 north to Oregon 42 west then to U.S. 101 north. In Coos Bay take Commercial Street to Ocean Boulevard then to the Cape Arago Highway and continue to Charleston.
There are several nearby campgrounds in the Siuslaw National Forest that offer sand-dune camping. The Hauser Sand Camping Area, is about 9 miles north of Coos Bay and features a selection of dispersed camping and is in the middle of the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area.
Make Sure You
Explore the tidal flats near Charleston and learn about the many forms of wildlife that can be found between the tides. Get a first-hand look at a variety of creatures and plants that thrive in the brackish water of the estuary - where the river meets the sea.
Are you a birder? Participate in the Oregon Shorebird Festival.
South Slough has a mild, maritime climate because of the influence of the Pacific Ocean. Fog and wind are common in the summer months, so dress in layers and be prepared for changing weather. Rainfall along the southern Oregon coast averages about 56 inches a year, so pack your rain gear.
Begin your journey at the South Slough Interpretive Center and learn about estuaries. Staff and volunteers are on hand to provide detailed local information. Maps and brochures are available with South Slough hiking and water trails, local flora and fauna information and tide charts to help you plan your kayak or canoe trip, or tide pooling.
Did You Know?
A slough (pronounced "slew") is a sheltered channel characterized by tides, briny water and a slow current. South Slough was the first of 28 designated national reserves which are located in 22 coastal states and Puerto Rico. The reserve provides scientific information and educational opportunities and is co-managed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Oregon Department of State Lands.