Photo courtesy of Vanessa Ball

Beaver Creek State Natural Area is an area rich in wildlife just a few miles from the Pacific Ocean, and paddling Beaver Creek is one of the best ways to see what the area has to offer. From the Ona Beach boat launch on the east side of Highway 101, the creek meanders through wide and flat bends. Heron, osprey, river otter, and beaver sightings are numerous for the quiet paddler. Smaller side channels show the tracks of birds and small animals. Red-winged blackbirds and finches fill the air with song.

As you paddle upstream, the creek narrows and the brush closes in, and if you paddle far enough, you may have to duck under a barbed wire fence to continue upstream.

Due to the slow current, this creek can be paddled in either direction without need of a shuttle. Continuing downstream will lead to the Pacific Ocean, while heading upstream will lead to a wildlife-filled riparian habitat. The flat water makes for a family-friendly adventure, allowing kids to view wildlife close-up. Be forewarned that winds can pick up in the afternoon, making the return trip downstream a bit more challenging.

Beaver Creek State Natural Area is part of Brian Booth State Park. The park opened in 2010 after Beaver Creek was purchased from private landowners using lottery dollars and a grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The natural area serves as an important part of the Beaver Creek watershed, connecting old-growth forests, coastal areas, and marsh habitats.

You’ll reach the Welcome Center by continuing a mile up North Beaver Creek Road from the boat launch. At this newly constructed building, visitors can learn more about the wildlife seen on the creek. Guided kayak tours can be arranged from July through Labor Day weekend and are offered five days a week (no tours are offered on Tuesday or Wednesday). Reservations can be arranged ahead of time by calling the Welcome Center at 541.563.6413 between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Reservations are taken starting June 1.