BEAVER CREEK STATE NATURAL AREA – Just as Oregon prepares to dedicate its newest state natural area – 374 acres of wetland, forest, and meadows, including a quiet creek that is a paddler’s dream – comes news that outdoor enthusiasts may have yet another reason to celebrate: a new campground to go with it.

The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department has signed a contract to buy 583 acres of timberland adjoining the new Beaver Creek State Natural area and hopes to close on it by the end of the month.

“This gives us the opportunity to add the first coastal campground in 38 years,” said parks department spokesman Chris Havel. “It’s exciting.”

The state bought the property for the Beaver Creek State Natural Area – about seven miles south of Newport – from private owners between 2007 and 2009 for $1.7 million, using Oregon Lottery funds earmarked for land acquisition.

It includes seven miles of boat-accessible hiking trails leading through meadows and forest of old growth Sitka spruce, and culminating at the top of a knoll with views of the ocean. There’s also a new visitor’s center that will be accessible by land or water, and will offer maps, photos and information about the wildlife in the area.

If you go
What: Grand opening of the new Beaver Creek State Natural Area
When: Friday, Oct. 1. The ribbon cutting is at 11 a.m. with activities running until to 1 p.m., including refreshments and music at new visitor’s center:
Where: Park at Ona Beach State Park

“For people who aren’t sure they want to paddle, they can come see the photos,” said Havel. “It’s a good way to get a taste of the wetland before you actually get into it. We’ve been working on a video, showing some of the peaceful scenes, and that will be constantly on display.

Long a popular paddling spot with kayakers and canoeists, the serene Beaver Creek is a prime habitat for Coho salmon, cutthroat trout and winter steelhead, and home to innumerable species of birds and other wildlife.

What makes Beaver Creek special is the diversity in landscape, the eco systems and the in the wildlife, said Linda Osborne , co-owner of Northwest Eco Excursions, which leads kayak tours of the area. “You can see elk and deer. You can see the cougar paw prints on the side, which is pretty impressive. There’s that trustworthy osprey. It’s like Old Faithful. Every year you know you are going to see it sometime during the season. The river otters are bountiful. We did a moonlight trip and you could see them dive down, just splash and then they followed us. It was phenomenal.”

beaver2.jpgView full size Photo by Chris Havel. Beaver Creek winds through this area about seven miles from Newport. The creek is prime habitat for Coho salmon, cutthroat trout and winter steelhead.

The additional land — nearly 600 acres — the state is in the process of buying for a campground includes a mix of spruce, hemlock, alder and Douglas fir, and 15 acres of wetlands. The state funded the $1.6 purchase largely through lottery funds, Havel said.

The difference between a natural area and a park is largely the amount of development, Havel said. The state tries to leave natural areas as untouched as possible, while still protecting the resources. With state parks, there is a bit more room to manage the resource, he said. “We still want to protect it as a state park, but because it is a state park, you also look at it and say ‘where can I development facilities?’ Because it is not as sensitive as the marsh and is forest property, it opens the door to bring camping possibilities right next door to this beautiful new natural area.”

The proposed campground would take years to develop, said Havel.

“This is exciting new potential, but we’re not coming out tomorrow with a bulldozer. We’ll have to do the usual thing we do for planning, hold public hearings, go through the local land use process.

But once done, Havel expects it will be a welcome addition to the state system.

“We run campgrounds from Astoria to Brookings,” said Havel. “It’s what people need from the Oregon coast and that’s what the economies need. Our campgrounds are running at capacity all summer long. We know we need more camping. Low key, low intensive camping. This forest is prime for that.”

By Lori Tobias, The Oregonian. Click here to read the complete article.