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Whiskey Run Beach Near Bandon a Subtle Wild Card on South Oregon Coast

Published 08/25/21 at 5:48 AM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Whiskey Run Beach Near Bandon a Subtle Wild Card on South Oregon Coast

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(Bandon, Oregon) – Not every spot on the southern Oregon coast is quite like this one. Whiskey Run Beach, a sprawling set of cliffs that runs beneath the Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, is somewhat more subtle in its wowing factors. At first glance a simple stretch of sand and surf, wandering here just a bit will cause you to realize there's way more going on here than you initially thought. (Photo courtesy Manuela Durson - see Manuela Durson Fine Arts)

Nothing short of breathtaking in numerous ways, Whiskey Run Beach is also kind of strange, certainly geologically. There's even a rich history of a gold rush living in these cliffs.

It all begins with a lengthy, twisting drive down Whiskey Run Lane until it ends with a small parking lot and the roadway dipping onto the sands. Yes, you can drive here, but it doesn't mean you should.

Like much of this part of the south Oregon coast, especially Bandon, yellow Gorse covers the green hillsides here, creating a patchwork of colors along the length of this beach and beyond.

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There's a smattering of rocky blobs around the tideline, depending on sand levels, which result in massive tidepools at times. Enormous, multi-colored anemones stare outward from their circular bodies, partially covered in sand; or maybe you'll encounter tiny crabs, little snails or the inventive shades of sea stars.

During other seasons, more cutaway bits of rock occasionally just barely emerge from lower sand levels, showing a strange theme that's common here. Slanted rock chunks that look cut up, or sliced and diced by the crazed hand of nature abound, but it's on a grand scale that's hard to notice unless you're somewhat far away and elevated above it all. And these curiosities get more pronounced the closer you get to Five Mile Point to the north. There's some intriguing geology going on here: apparently these are all wave-cut terraces. They've been attacked by waves for thousands of years and then changed direction by geological forces – or the landscape changed so drastically the waves stopped coming from that direction.

It's all part of the Whiskey Run Terrace, a formation rather intensely studied by geologists at times. The mineral-rich sands in this spot were also the subject of special study by Oregon scientists in the past as well .

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The hillsides and cliffs here are full of craggy, fascinating shapes. The odd rocky protrusion is practically de rigueur around Whiskey Run Beach, and there's plenty of them. Some are sloped or sweeping in a kind of almost-basalt grandeur. Others have an intricately carved look, made out of a light-colored mudstone, with curious grooves or windswept designs. Below are more gray masses of puzzling objects, sometimes cracked, with jagged chunks that almost look like big dino eggs that hatched at one point.

A sort of main attraction is the large, undulating rock formation with a nearly triangular look to it and a dollop of a rock shape on top. It drastically changes its appearance depending on point of view, sometimes taking on that diagonal, sliced-up theme that permeates Whiskey Run. Another chunk looks like some gigantic, broken, and ancient machinery: like a huge lever set between two other dilapidated, non-working parts, as if created by some mysterious race of giants.

In other areas, a myriad of holes mar some structures, a not-uncommon-sight on the south Oregon coast.

Just beyond the tideline, a few rocky slabs lurk. One resembles a boot at times.

The sands here the main attraction: the whole place seems to go on for miles. After Five Mile Point (only accessible part of the time), the beach then merges with Seven Devils State Recreation Site, Merchants Beach, Agate Beach and eventually the remote and largely inaccessible Saachi Beach. They're rich in agates, so keep looking down.

Those sands are also interesting for another reason, being of a darker nature. That means a high mineral content, which translates to gold bits.

This area got its start in the 1850s with a sizable gold rush on the southern Oregon coast, much of which was focused in the Whiskey Run area. They panned for gold in the creek – enough of them that a small, makeshift town sprung up around here. Exactly why it and the beach got called Whiskey Run isn't clear, but according to state signage on the spot: “it's not hard to imagine why.” There were stores here, saloons, tents, cabins and even restaurants. And lots of booze.

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