Exploring a Northwest Refuge for Endangered and Threatened Wildlife
An ecological sanctuary for the snowy plover, peregrine falcon, and brown pelican, Oregon’s New River ACEC is a haven for hikers, boaters, and naturalists.
Located south of the golf resort town of Bandon in Southwest Oregon is a little-known ecological hideaway. Comprising 1,100 acres/445 hectares and some nine miles in length, the New River Area of Critical Environmental Concern, which is managed by the Bureau of Land Management, provides a protective habitat for hundreds of birds, animals, and reptiles.
Birds like the elusive snowy plover, which is considered a threatened species, and the western lily, which is endangered, make their homes among the outlying reaches of this river. Other waterfowl, such as the Aleutian Cackling Geese (also called Canada Geese) flock to the river’s wetlands during spring migration and often number in the thousands.
New River Hiking and Boating Facilities
Like so many curious landmarks that dot the South Oregon coastline, the New River is a testament to the ferocity and power of the ocean. The river that gives this piece of property its name was created during a flood in 1890. The flood devastated homes and ranches, displaced people and property, and carved a nine-mile swath through the foredunes of Bandon’s southern beaches. Seasonal rains and runoff have fed the river each year, changing its course bit by bit and creating a lush refuge for native habitat.
For hundreds of hikers and boaters each year New River ACEC is a refuge of sorts as well. Birders, kayakers, fishing enthusiasts, and outdoor trail seekers come to New River to observe South Coast wildlife in its own unique habitat. The ACEC’s man-made trails crisscross, wind, ascend and descend over sand dunes, plains, hills, and small valleys, skirting within view of deer, birds, and other animals. New River is an ecological microcosm of Oregon’s coastline, with forests, estuaries and a river running throughout it.
Storm Ranch at New River
There are multiple entrances to New River ACEC, although some are no more than a single marked trail. The main entrance to the ACEC is Storm Ranch, former ranchlands surrounded by fertile grazing lands and cranberry bogs. The facility is open to visitors each day from dawn to dusk. Dogs are welcome but must be kept on a leash.
Storm Ranch’s recreational amenities are numerous and most are open throughout the year:
- Five miles of scenic trails;
- A wildlife viewing/sitting area at Muddy Lake;
- A half-mile handicapped-accessible trail;
- Ellen Warring Learning Center illustrating history dating back thousands of years;
- Picnic facilities;
- Boat ramp reachable by a gravel road;
- Interpretive wayside displays;
- Access to the Oregon Coast trail;
- Pit toilets
Snowy Plover Nesting Areas
The gravel road is closed to vehicle traffic during snowy plover peak nesting periods, March 15 to September 15. The birds lay their eggs in the dry, flat sand above the shoreline. Although New River provides a natural barrier to foot traffic, the BLM still has concerns about people launching motor vehicles during nesting periods. The road and trails are accessible by foot during this time, and many kayakers portage their vessels to the boat ramp on foot.
Oregon Coast Trail at New River
The Oregon Coast Trail, which links the Oregon-Washington border with the Oregon-California border, runs along the river at Storm Ranch. The trail affords a great way to see the unique features of this special place.
The BLM has recently established a primitive camping site on the river shore. The BLM is hoping that it will encourage hikers and boaters on extended trips to limit their camping to that one location and minimize the human footprint on this protected area.
Directions to New River ACEC
Take Highway 101 south from Bandon, or north from Brookings; turn west at Croft Lake Lane; road merges with New River ACEC at end of the street.