Driving to the South Coast from Roseburg and other cities along I-5 means you get to travel on Oregon Route 42, which leads to Bandon, or Oregon Route 38, which leads to Reedsport. This latter 66-mile corridor, also known as the Umpqua River Scenic Byway, is unendingly scenic, nestled between the dense Coast range forests and alongside the clear-flowing Umpqua River. Both routes are dotted by small towns full of serendipitous finds. Here are a few of them.

Butterflies and history in Elkton

Thirty five miles east of Reedsport, Elkton is a cheery town with its heart at the Elkton Community Education Center — a fabulous stop, free of admission, for kids and adults alike. During the summer, see the Painted Lady and Monarch butterflies fluttering about; visit the hummingbird and native plant gardens; buy produce from their homegrown farm stand and support the center’s education programs at their cafe, run by local teens who prepare smoothies and pizza. You can also walk the grounds and explore the major community restoration of Fort Umpqua — a reproduction of the Hudson’s Bay Company fur-trading post that operated just across the river, from 1836 to 1854. Just steps from the Umpqua River, visitors can see how this old building was once a regional center for trading beaver pelts; check the center’s event page for public concerts, classes and celebrations including their summer produce stand, native plant nursery, public art exhibits, and annual Fort Umpqua Days and bass tournament in September.

Wine tasting in Elkton

Hankering to taste some of the famous Southern Oregon wine you’ve been hearing about? Several tasting rooms are open to visitors within a few-mile radius in town; among them: Brandborg Vineyard and Winery,Lexeme Wines, River’s Edge Winery, Bradley Vineyards. Tour them all at Elkton’s first Wine About Your Bike ride (Aug. 17, 2019), with multiple routes for all ages.

Picnic in Scottsburg

Sixteen miles east of Reedsport, Scottsburg County Park is a sweet spot for a riverside picnic and a swim, with a play structure, restrooms and a boat ramp (bring your fishing pole, too). Close your eyes and try to imagine this town during the gold rush of the 1850s, when pack-mule trains loaded up with supplies for the mining camps up in the Siskiyou Mountains.

Play a game in Myrtle Point

Twenty miles east of Bandon on Route 42 is Myrtle Point, named for the prized myrtlewood tree. The city is home to many of the state’s tallest myrtlewoods, which you can see along the streets. The big surprise here, however, is a park called Amaze Zing Outdoor Game, right off the highway. Kids and grownups alike will love the outdoor maze, all-terrain mini-golf course, ball launchers and more.

If you go:

Whenever you’re recreating in Oregon’s coastal natural areas, make sure to follow Leave No Trace principles — leave the place cleaner than you found it and be mindful of the sensitive ecosystem. Pack out what you pack in — even pistachio shells and orange peels are harmful, because scavengers will eat food scraps even though it’s not good for them. Visitors should not feed wildlife since it can attract scavengers to nesting areas of threatened bird species such as marbled murrelet and western snowy plover.

When using the trails, respect all signs posting beach restrictions due to snowy plover nesting season (Mar. 15-Sept. 15), keeping dogs, bikes, kites and drones off these beaches in these areas. Stay on the trail, since wandering out into a meadow may damage plants critical to the Oregon silverspot butterfly, a threatened species. Keep pets and children within a safe distance on the trail, carry a map and dress in layers, and prepare for adventure — the Coast is full of surprises.

By Jen Anderson

Photo courtesy of the Elkton Community Education Center