The way we think of birds and sea lions and whales on the Oregon Coast, Kathleen Dickson thinks of mushrooms.

“They’re some of the most beautiful living things out here,” she says. Since moving to Brookings from Colorado with her husband 15 years ago, the couple harvest and sell mushrooms most of the year.

Dickson is also president of the nonprofit Wild Rivers Mushroom Club — a group of like-minded mushroom hunters, both novice and veteran, who are wild about advancing their skill and sharing it with others.

To kick off the start of chanterelle season on the South Coast, Dickson and her club are hosting the Wild Rivers Mushroom Festival in Brookings, set for Nov. 4, 2017.

Visitors are welcome to check out the samples of the region’s edible and non-edible fungi; browse the market for mushroom-related gifts and fresh mushrooms to take home; hear expert talks and attend workshops throughout the day on growing, harvesting and using wild and cultivated mushrooms.

“Our club has done a lot to improve knowledge and lessen their fear of the amazing amount of edible mushroom we can pick in our forests year-round,” says Dickson, from the chanterelles in the fall to morels in the spring.

Club members meet monthly from September to April, and — over their mushroom potluck dishes — talk about their latest fungi forays and mysterious mushrooms they need help identifying.

Many have sought out talks by local experts including local mycologist Bob Burch, who leads mushroom identification workshops in Port Orford and Brookings out of Southwest Oregon Community College.

Yet Dickson urges caution to anyone before they eat a mushroom they’ve picked themself. “You should never eat anything you can’t identify 100 percent,” she says, noting that some varieties, like the Pacific golden chanterelle, have poisonous lookalikes. “Never identify a mushroom based on pictures alone.”

Loving hiking and think you might be interested in foraging too? It’s not for everyone, Dickson says: “You have to be willing to put up with some weather. You can’t stay home just because it’s misting a little bit. You have to work at it. You have to learn the habitat, to know when to go looking. You’ve got to be really good at it. It’s a badge of honor.”

To learn more about mushroom foraging on the Oregon Coast, also check out: Mysterious Mushrooms of the Tillamook State Forest at the Tillamook Forest Center (Oct. 15, 2017); the Mushroom Walk, led by Explore Nature Tillamook Coast (Oct. 15, 2017) and the 18th annual Yachats Mushroom Festival (Oct. 20-22, 2017).

Story by Jen Anderson

Photo by Kathleen Dickson