A coastal prairie and a peninsula ramble: Nestucca Bay NWR

12 Aug

12 August 2020. 

A discreet brown and white sign points the way to the Nestucca Bay National Wildlife Refuge from Highway 101. Although we have traveled this highway dozens of times in the past three years, we had never noticed the turn-off until clued into this new sanctuary by an article in Oregon Coast magazine.

A pre-hike stop in Pacific City was a bit out of our way but allowed us to fortify ourselves with an Americano and a fine sweet scone from Stimulus Coffee. A few hundred people were already hitting the beach, many carrying surfboards even at 9:15 AM. Not our scene.

Haystack Rock, beach, and ocean

Pacific City’s Haystack Rock, one of many along the Oregon Coast.

We backtracked a few miles to the sanctuary. The first pullout gives a view over grazing lands that provide important habitat where geese gather during migration and also over-winter. We will be back if only for that scene several times this fall. Moving on to the trailhead, we found a genuinely nice parking lot, newly paved and striped, with a convenient – and clean! – chemical toilet. The solitary car there at our 10:00 AM arrival was just departing.

One feels rather far from the ocean but even from the parking lot, the sound of the surf crashing is unmistakable. We made the first leg of our walk the Pacific View Trail, an all-access paved path that leads to a large deck with a magnificent view to the West encompassing the ocean, a haystack rock, and even distant Pacific City.

Haystack rock and ocean

Haystack Rock at Pacific City is viewed from afar at the NWR.

The Pacific View Trail traverses a rare coastal prairie, alive at this time of year with many flowering plants. Prairie habitat was once extensive along our coastline, but development has brought a loss of habitat and with it the decline of species such as the Oregon silverspot butterfly. Approximately 21 of the 35 acres of prairie habitat have been reestablished with native species and restoration work is ongoing.

Meadow and ocean

The Pacific Ocean viewed across the coastal prairie.

Birds Only sign

Stay on the path and no dogs allowed!


There is a fair amount of interpretive signage in the refuge.

The refuge is a study in contrasts. After the .63 mile out-and-back on the Pacific View Trail, we took the highly forested Two Rivers Trail to the confluence of the Nestucca River and the Little Nestucca River. The trail has modest elevation change and varies from gravel to dirt to grass. The only sound we heard was birdsong. One doe silently sought out tender shoots in an open spot. The trail ends with a view of the estuary where we found many waterfowl lounging on the spit and several splashing in the water.

Click on any picture for a better view.

We encountered no one until we were within sight of the parking lot after 11:30 AM. Apparently, most people start later than we do!

Having amortized the morning scones, we headed to The Riverhouse Nestucca, arriving just as they opened their doors at noon. It had been almost six months since we last visited thanks to COVID closures and restrictions. This day, we were the only indoor lunch customers (they have picnic tables in full sun) and we relished those Howard burgers and rosemary fries.

man and hamburger

Ric is ready to dive in to his burger.


The Howard Burger at the Riverhouse Nestucca. Best burger within driving distance of our house.

My Fitbit clocked in at just under four miles and 90 minutes for both trails and a side trip to the picnic spot. This is a hike we will take again and again, especially with a favorite restaurant nearby. Sadly, no dogs allowed.

Woman and flowers

Laurel with the late summer daisies near the picnic area.


18 Responses to “A coastal prairie and a peninsula ramble: Nestucca Bay NWR”

  1. Kim Freed August 13, 2020 at 09:24 #

    Love your writing and miss Oregon!! You both look great.

    Sent from my iPhone



    • Laurel August 13, 2020 at 15:01 #

      Thank you!! Miss you, too, but think of all we can do when it is safe to visit each other again!


  2. Debra Meyer August 13, 2020 at 06:31 #

    Love reading about the hike and seeing the pictures. BTW, you look fantastic, Laurel.


    • Laurel August 13, 2020 at 08:15 #

      Aww, thanks, Deb! We are sticking with healthy eating and getting exercise. Sure missing our usual travels but we do what we can!


  3. chloe erkenbrecher August 13, 2020 at 06:22 #

    I love those Shasta daisies and haven’t seen such a cluster in years. No hiking here as our temperatures are going to be in three digits for days and days.


    • Laurel August 13, 2020 at 08:14 #

      The daisies are very common near the coast since we have such pleasant, cool summers. I do not envy you that heat!


  4. Marcia Kakiuchi August 12, 2020 at 21:33 #

    Laurel, you look absolutely fantastic! And that burger and fries….yummy


    • Laurel August 13, 2020 at 08:13 #

      Thank you, Marcia! The burger was worth the trip!


  5. Audrey Crocker August 12, 2020 at 19:54 #

    I enjoyed your Travel, also the burger HA! HA! Ciao

    Liked by 1 person

    • Laurel August 13, 2020 at 08:13 #

      You and Butch should stop in for lunch!


  6. mefotobug August 12, 2020 at 18:52 #

    Beautiful! I appreciate seeing you and Rick have not lost your passion or appreciation for the beauty of the outdoors…or a good burger. 😉


    • Laurel August 12, 2020 at 19:42 #

      Thanks, Matthew! Nice to know you are following us!


  7. Grier August 12, 2020 at 18:28 #

    Great post! I think this walk has my name on it. I see the restaurant is open three days a week and will keep this in mind. Many thanks for the tip!


    • Laurel August 12, 2020 at 19:41 #

      You’d love it: both hike and restaurant!


  8. Bill Walls August 12, 2020 at 17:19 #

    You look great and the pictures are beautiful. Can’t wait to escape the pandemic.


    • Laurel August 12, 2020 at 17:35 #

      Thanks, Bill! We’d love to have you guys out here to visit! Summers are devine!


  9. lori5124 August 12, 2020 at 17:02 #

    Beautiful picture of you in the late summer flowers. You say “no dogs allowed”…do you mean the trail or the restaurant?


    • Laurel August 12, 2020 at 17:12 #

      Hi Lori. No dogs on the trails because it is a reserve. Not sure about the restaurant, but I would guess dogs are OK at the picnic tables.


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