Photo courtesy of Halvor Tweto
The robust boat ramp in Bullards Beach State Park is an excellent resource for local fishermen and recreationalists looking to explore the Coquille River. It is a great option for a put-in because of the flexibility users have when planning for the tides that significantly affect flow on this lower section of the river. The ramp is 2.75 miles from the river’s mouth, so in a low or outgoing tide, The Port of Bandon, located in Bandon’s downtown, makes a great destination. Depending on your timing and energy, this can be used as a turn-around point.
When the tide is moving in, or you are looking for a less crowded section of the river to paddle, turn upstream from Bullards Beach State Park. From here it’s nearly the same distance, approximately 2.6 miles, to the boat ramp at Rocky Point. Paddling in this direction, you’ll pass beneath Bullards Bridge, a vertical-lift bridge opened in 1954 that is hardly ever raised but is still quite striking. Once you’ve passed the bridge, the Ni-les’tun Unit of the Bandon Marsh National Wildlife Refuge opens up on the river right bank (on your left as you paddle upstream). Recently the focus for an intense restoration and mosquito mitigation project, this section of the refuge is in the process of becoming an intertidal marsh that will attract the same avian traffic as the Bandon Marsh Unit just downstream.
Continue up the Coquille as it sweeps broadly around the refuge, and the boat ramp at Rocky Point County Park is straight ahead on the left just before the Randolph Slough forks off to the left. Take out here, or turn around and enjoy the much easier and faster paddle back downstream to Bullards.
Note that paddling in tidal rivers always requires an understanding of three elements: the river’s natural flow, the timing of the tidal influence, and the size of the tidal influence. Even when you are helped out by an incoming tide, you may be working against the Coquille’s current for this paddle; while this isn’t hard to do when the river flow is low in the summer, higher river flows would make this a much more difficult or even unadvisable trip.