- The Columbia River at Astoria: The mighty Columbia is the second-longest river in the U.S. and the one most associated with Pacific Northwest history, since Lewis and Clark rafted down it to reach the Pacific in 1805. The river’s mouth, near present-day Astoria, is some 14 miles wide, and its treacherous bar has been dubbed the “Graveyard of the Pacific.” At Astoria, it’s the Columbia that rules the waves. Take the Riverwalk along the old waterfront to get a feel for this legendary river, spanned by the giant Astoria-Megler Bridge.
- Three Capes Scenic Loop: Really, the entire Oregon coast counts as a “best natural attraction,” but for a dramatic introduction to the scenic splendors of the North Coast, this drive can’t be beat. Giant headlands, sandy beaches, windswept vistas, dense forest, even a lighthouse—you’ll see it all on this memorable drive. The Three Capes Scenic Loop, a 35-mile byway off of U.S. 101, begins just west of downtown Tillamook and leads south along the coast past Cape Meares, Cape Lookout, and Cape Kiwanda to end near Pacific City. Together these capes offer some of the most spectacular scenery on the northern Oregon coast. All three capes are state parks, and all make great whale-watching spots in the spring.
- Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area: Towering sand dunes stretch for some 50 miles along the coast between Florence and Coos Bay, forming the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. This sand-seared area contains lakes where you can boat and swim and trails for hiking, horseback riding, and off-road vehicles.
- Rogue River at Gold Beach: Oregon’s South Coast is called the Wild Rivers Coast because six free-flowing rivers hurtle down from the coastal mountain ranges to empty into the Pacific. None is more fabled and famous than the Rogue River, which pours into the ocean at Gold Beach. Zane Grey was one of the earliest to write about the salmon fishing on this river, and it has since become a mecca for white-water rafting trips and jet boats that roar up the Rogue from Gold Beach, as far as the wild and scenic section where the rapids begin.
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