I found out about the South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve by accident. But I’m glad I did.
Several weeks ago, I received an email at work announcing an upcoming hike at the reserve. I believed the email was sent so we could share the hike in The World, which I did. After it printed, I received a couple of emails asking how that got in the paper.
Despite the mistake, I found somewhere else to explore. Most of my time out with my family in recent months had been at area beaches, but South Slough Reserve offered something different – a trek through the forest.
So, on a Saturday morning, we made the trip and found ourselves at the reserve. After looking at a map of the different trails, we chose to hike the Hidden Creek Trail. So, we headed out, or more accurately down. From the parking area, the Hidden Creek Trail heads downhill for about a mile. On the way, there are lots of surprises.
Dense forest is broken up with bursts of vegetation. This time of the year, flowers are starting to bloom, adding a burst of color to the trail.
Not too far after you start, you begin to hear the creek the trail is named for. But true to the name, it remains hidden for quite a while. About halfway down, you get your first glimpse of the creek. In time, you can get up close, as crystal-clear water moves toward the slough.
Near the bottom, a boardwalk takes over allowing guests to meander over vegetation and marshland to get close to the South Slough. At the bottom, when you reach the slough, the reserve has built a great viewing area, perfect for taking a break, watching wildlife and taking in the scenery.
At that point you have a choice to make – turn around and head back or continue on. I was intrigued by the name of one trail – the Tunnel Trail – so we continued on.
The Tunnel Trail is the perfect name for the next bit of the journey as plants and greenery create a perfect tunnel to walk through. It moves back into the forest, but the scenery is different and breathtaking.
After we made it through the Tunnel Trail, we turned around and headed back. Warning for those out of shape like I am. Heading down is relaxing and gives you a great chance to take in the scenery and the quiet. Heading up is much more of a workout. But we made it. A little tired, but refreshed nonetheless.
Experiencing the forest is different than the beaches, but it’s still an amazing time. You might run into a few others on the trails, but for the most part South Slough is quiet and peaceful, with the only sounds coming from the creeks and occasional wildlife.
All the trails are well maintained, with wooden bridges and the boardwalk at the bottom to protect guests at any tricky points.
I am ready to go back and try some of the other trails and to explore more of what the forest has to offer.
The South Slough Reserve was designated in 1974 and covers more than 4,700 acres. Due to COVID, the South Slough Interpretive Center and bathrooms are currently closed. When COVID wanes, they will reopen. Guided hikes, nature-themed workshops, bird observation walks and more are also offered during normal times.
But even without guides, South Slough Reserve is a relatively easy way to get into nature and experience a pristine area on your own.
To get to the South Slough Reserve, follow Seven Devils Road from either Charleston or Highway 101 outside of Bandon. The reserve can’t be missed if driving down Seven Devils Road.
To keep up to date on COVID restrictions and planned events, visit oregon.gov/DSL/SS/Pages/About.aspx