For my birthday, I chose to paddle a nearby creek. The day was perfect - partly sunny, with very little wind (unusual for the Oregon Coast). So, we checked the tides, loaded our gear and headed 50 miles North up the Oregon coast.
We have paddled several of the coastal lakes and streams close to home and have been eyeing Tenmile Creek that flows out of Tenmile Lake to the ocean. The total distance to the sea is 6 miles, but the last mile, or so, flows through protected snowy plover nesting areas and dune access is restricted. We decided on an out and back trip from the lake, halfway to the ocean to Spinreel campground.
We planned our trip with the tide, not sure of how much the tide effected the creek's flow - out with the tide, getting out at Spinreel for lunch and back to the lake with the incoming tide. As it turned out, the creek has a pretty strong current in the Spring, so it was more of a drift/paddle as we followed the creek downstream, meandering past homes situated along the shore. We were expecting a more strenuous paddle on the return.
About a mile downstream, the creek turned to the North. According to our map, it made a hairpin course before resuming a Westerly direction. Ahead of the turn, the creek had cut through the strip of land between our location and where the main creek returned in the direction of the ocean. The map did not indicate this detour, and, since it was a bit rough and we couldn't see around the corner, I decided to follow the creek's natural course while my husband took the "shortcut".
The paddle around the bend in the creek was smooth, with the exception of having to maneuver through some tight spots where the willows grew close from both shores. Then, as I rounded the final bend - Whoa!!!! The entire creek was totally obstructed with old boat docks and other debris that had apparently been washed downstream during the winter. I tied up to one of the docks to survey the situation, a bit tricky with the current.
It appeared that this section of the creek was grown over with willows and other vegetation which resulted in the dam. The shores were marshy and brush covered, making a portage impossible. I was glad I had the food with me!
My husband, seeing that the course of the creek was blocked, came around to see how I was doing. We decided, by staying as close to the shore as possible, we could paddle back upstream. And paddle we did. It was tough with the current. Paddling quite strenuously was tricky through the willows; I was wishing I had my son's white water paddle instead of a long touring one.
When we got back to the "shortcut" we decided, since we had put in so much effort, to continue on to the campground. There was just enough water to get through the slightly rough ride. But it was short. The creek then began to open up as we crossed under Hwy 101 and the wooded shore turned to estuary and dunes. Birds were abundant - ducks, geese, and many other water loving species. A peaceful drift/paddle on down to the campground. Unfortunately, too much maneuvering required, due to the current, to take pictures. Including the detour, it took us about an hour to arrive, and were we hungry!
We had a nice lunch, intending to wait and see if the current lessened on the incoming tide before returning to the lake. However, the campground host told us the current is what it is this time of year and not effected much by the tide. When we told him about our experience earlier, he explained that we had found the "Mangrove Swamp" and that residents along the creek had cut the shortcut through so they could navigate the creek.
Knowing we would have to paddle quite hard to get back to the lake and carry our kayaks through the shortcut (too shallow to paddle hard against the current) we decided to end the trip. My husband walked back to the put-in and 45 minutes later we were loading the boats into the pickup and heading home.
In hindsight, we should have asked someone about the condition of the creek. But, the day we paddled Tenmile Creek will be a birthday not soon forgotten.
If you are looking for a leisurely paddle on the Oregon coast, I would suggest the Siltcoos Canoe Trail that flows out of Siltcoos Lake, just south of Florence.
At Tenmile Lake:
public boat dock, restrooms, RV/tent camping, picnic area; boat washing station (Coos Co. Sheriff's Dept monitors and checks for invasive species permits, if applicable.
sandy shoreline for landing/launching, very small boat ramp - better to use the shore for kayaks, RV/tent camping, restrooms at campground; day use area has vault toilets.
$3 day use at Tenmile Lake boat ramp; camping fees for RV park. USFS day pass required at Spinreel; fees for campsite use. Sheriffs monitor the lake pretty regularly for invasive species permits (required in Oregon for non-motorized craft 10'or more), all hulls are checked for contamination. Boat washing facility available
Hwy 101 north of Coos Bay approximately 15 miles to Lakeside.
Put in at the Tenmile County boat dock.
USFS topog map of Oregon National Dunes Recreation area
- Trip Duration: Day Trip
- Sport/Activity: Kayaking, Canoeing
- Skill Level: Advanced
- Water Type: River/Creek (Up to Class II)