Portlanders know that natural wonders are always close at hand; for many of us, our awe-inspiring state parks and scenic areas are a big part of why we live here. There’s the Columbia River Gorge and Silver Falls’ 10 powerful waterfalls. Near Astoria, Fort Stevens provides exploration of a historic military installation—and a super-cool shipwreck. This Memorial Day Weekend, add Sitka Sedge Natural Area, located just five miles north of Pacific City, to the list.
According to Chris Havel, a spokesperson for Oregon State Parks, there’s something particularly special about this pristine 357-acre spit of land jutting between Sand Lake and the sea.
“Sitka Sedge has been one of those wonderful little slices of the Coast Range that encompasses the light coastal forest, dunes, and a wetland, all in one relatively self-contained area, and an area that hasn’t seen a lot of development,” he says.
That unique mix adds something more to the natural experience. Havel says that’s an increasingly important element for the parks agency.
“The job is to say ‘what more? What do people need now?’” says Havel.
Sitka Sedge opens on or around Memorial Day Weekend, weather cooperating. The park is free, and expect simple amenities: a gravel parking lot and one restroom.
Havel urges visitors to tread lightly in the state’s newest park. The only part of the place that’s seen any development was a dike that settlers built across the wetlands, dividing the place into a saltwater and freshwater marsh. The wetlands will be the first feature visitors see when entering the park, followed by a diverse cross-section of other natural features. Past the wetlands are light forest, then dunes, then beach. Visitors can expect to see a lot of animals along the way, including deer, ducks, wading birds, and even endangered species like bald eagles or the western snowy plover.
Activities include flatland hiking on the park's three miles of trails, plus a walkable beach and clamming in the saltwater marsh. From the beach, visitors can see Cape Lookout to the north and Cape Kiwanda to the south.
Havel says the hope is that visitors will bond with Sitka Sedge, and translate that love to other wild places across the state. “That bond you form with Oregon by having those places is difficult to measure," he says, "and at the same time, irreplaceable.”