Port Orford and Humbug Mountain
Pastoral sheep ranches, cranberry bogs, berry fields, and Christmas tree farms dominate the 25-mile stretch south of Bandon, but as you pull into Port Orford (pop. 1,133), you can’t help but notice a huge volcanic plug abutting the crescent-shaped shoreline. Known as Battle Rock, in memory of a battle (reenacted every 4th of July) in which early settlers fought off a party of hostile Native Americans, the rock is impressive from the harbor below, while a trail climbs up to the windblown summit. Due to the southwestern orientation, which subjects the harbor to turbulent winds and constant waves, fishing boats have to be lowered into the water by crane, but surfers (and kite-surfers and windsurfers) don’t seem to mind. Port Orford is a great place to pull over and appreciate the coastal scene, especially if you can time it right for an oceanfront meal of chowder, fish ’n’ chips, and berry pie at Griff’s on the Dock (490 Dock Rd., 541/332-8985) at “Graveyard Point.”
Six miles south of Port Orford you’ll come to Humbug Mountain State Park, whose 1,756-foot elevation flanks the west side of the highway. It’s one of the coast’s highest peaks, rising directly off the beach. Its steep contours and tree-covered slopes are best appreciated from the steep but well-maintained three-mile trail that climbs to the summit. The mountain’s name may have been bestowed by prospectors who found that tales of gold deposits here were just “humbug”—but the views from the top are splendid.
The Prehistoric Gardens
On the west side of the highway, midway between Port Orford and Gold Beach, you’ll come across one of the Oregon coast’s tackiest but most enduring and enjoyable tourist traps, the Prehistoric Gardens (541/332-4463, daily, $12 adults). Standing out like a sore thumb on this otherwise unspoiled stretch of US-101, brightly colored, more or less life-size dinosaur sculptures inhabit the evocatively lush green forest. Since 1955, when amateur paleontologist E. V. Nelson sculpted his first concrete T. rex, nearly two dozen more have been added to the forest menagerie.