Thursday August 11, 2022
We left Brookings shortly after 10 expecting a short 90 mile drive. We arrived in Bandon a little after 2pm. As you can see the mileage doesn’t really correspond to the long travel time. We can account for part of that as we took a side trip to the Cape Blanco Light Station.
It’s about 6 miles off the beaten path, and I mean beaten. The narrow road was washed out in three places making for a pretty bumpy path leading to the lighthouse. The light was unchanged from the last time we visited.
We plan on staying three days at Bullards Beach State Park. We were volunteer hosts here about eleven years ago. Our duty was to man the Coquille River Lighthouse, give tours of the light and selling souveniers in the gift shop to our guests. There was no electric power to the light and only had a portable propane fired heater for warmth. To keep track of sales we were handed a battery operated calculator that had been modified, some buttons represented cash sales, others credit card sales.
The calculator was a mess to operate and could easily be overridden to make sales come out square. At the end of the day receipts, moneys and the calculator were turned into the office. We closed the light tour mid month and were assigned the task of cleaning and straightening up the inventory room. Each and every book mark was counted and catagorized. There were hundreds of those suckers! Tee shirts- same thing but not hundreds. Sweat shirts counted and sized, etc. Trinkits- same. It took us all day to straighten up the mess but we did it.
Our gig was up at the end of two weeks but we volunteered to stay for a while longer- until our new fearless leader ranger dude wanted us to remove all of the scotch broom on a hillside by just cutting it off. We told him that it would grow back from the roots and the effort would be wasted unless the root was removed. He wasn’t convinced and turned us loose with pruners. We decided that digging tools were in order, went to the tool shack and found more appropriate tools to remove the broom. Spent four hours digging up plants by their roots clearing maybe a 150 square feet of hillside with several thousand more waiting for us.. Decided that the effort was an exercise in frivolity since acres of the stuff grew on the hill and unvolunteered ourselves of the task since our official volunteer gig had ended, turned in our gear and left.
Bandon is in Coos County, lying on the south side of the mouth of the Coquille River. The population of this popular destination is 3066 souls. The first Europeans discovered gold at nearby Whiskey Run Beach in 1851. The first permanent European settlers came in 1853 and established the townsite. As was common practice the Indigenous Americans were sent to a reservation shortly thereafter. The town of Bandon was established in 1873 by Irishman George Bennett and his three sons who had come from Bandon, Ireland. A post office was established in 1877. In 1880 cheese making began. The first sawmill, school house and Catholic Church were built in 1883. In 1884 the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began construction on the jetty.
Henry Baldwin, from County Cork, Ireland, was shipwrecked on the Coos Baybar and walked into this area. The first permanent European settlers came in 1853 and established the present town site. In 1856, the first conflicts with Indigenous Americans in the area arose and the native Americans were sent to the Siletz Reservation. In 1859, the boat Twin Sisters sailed into the Coquille River and opened the outlet for all inland produce and resources.
The beautiful grounds of the Bandon Fish Hatchery
In 1877, the post office was established. In 1880, cheese making began. That same year, Congress appropriated money to build the jetty. In 1883, the first sawmill, school house, and Catholic church were built. In 1884, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began construction on the jetty.
Much to most everyone’s chagrin Bennett also introduced gorse to the local area, which went wild and became a nuisance in town and countryside. Gorse, a spiny plant, grows so thickly a person cannot walk through it. It’s also very oily which easily catches fire.
Cranberries have been grown in the area since 1885, vines being brought from Massachusetts, the variety named for Charles McFarlin in his honor and foresight for introducing the crop to Oregon. McFarlin’s cranberry bog lasted eight decades. Bandon is also the first location where cranberries were wet harvested, a technique which floods the bog allowing the fruit to float, making it easy to harvest.
On September 26, 1936, a fire burned several miles of forest east of town. But a sudden shift in the wind drove the flames swiftly westward. Ignited by the forest fire, the town’s abundant gorse became engulfed in flames, The entire town was in flames with all but 14 of 400 buildings lost. The total loss stated at the time was $3 million, with 11 fatalities. Firefighters found that burning gorse reacted to having water squirted on it like a kitchen grease fire—it simply spread burning gobs of gorse everywhere.
Part of the commercial district had been erected on wooden pilings jutting out over the Coquille River not far from the South Jetty, accommodating river traffic at the merchants’ doors. After the 1936 fire, when Bandon began to be rebuilt, the new perimeter of the business district did not extend beyond the available land. There is still gorse in Bandon today, but municipal codes strictly regulate how high and thick it may be allowed to get.
Misty Meadows specializing in fruit preserves, fresh fruit from their orchard
Adjacent to the town, the Coquille River empties into the Pacific Ocean. The river extends inland a great distance and was a natural link to the virgin stands of timber in the area, but the bar at the mouth of the river, formed by the interaction of the river and ocean, was a major obstacle for ships entering the river. At times, only a few feet of water would cover the bar, but vessels still attempted to navigate the river in hopes of reaping the rewards that lay upstream. In 1880, Congress passed a bill funding the construction of a jetty on the south side of the river’s entrance that created a deep channel, resulting in a rapid rise in the number of ships entering the river.
A lighthouse at the entrance to Coquille River was the next logical step for improving navigation, and in 1890 the Lighthouse Board used the following language to request funds for it. A light of the fourth order with a fog-signal, at this point, would enable vessels bound into the river to hold on close to the bar during the night so that they would be in a position to cross at the next high water. The light would also serve as a coast light and would be of much service to vessels bound up and down the river.
Congress appropriated $50,000 for the project on March 3, 1891, but it would be four years before land was purchased, plans were solidified, and the construction crew was assembled. Local stone was cut to form the structure’s foundation, while the lighthouse itself was built of brick, covered with a layer of stucco. The design was unique with a cylindrical tower attached to the east side of an elongated, octagonal room, which housed the fog signal equipment and had a large trumpet protruding from its western wal
A long, wooden walkway connected the lighthouse to the keepers’ duplex, 650 feet away. Each side of the duplex had three bedrooms, a kitchen, dining room, sitting room, and a 15,000-gallon brick cistern for storing water. A barn was located 150 feet beyond the dwelling.
James F. Barker, the first head keeper, and John M. Cowan, his assistant, were transferred to Coquille River from Heceta Head and took up residence at the new station during the first part of 1896. The fourth-order Fresnel lens was first shown from the tower on February 29, 1896, and a snowstorm settled in the next day, necessitating the first use of the fog signal.
We spent quite a bit of our time here in Bandon enjoying the downtown area, and visiting the local sights. The state park is large and offers long walking paths, a boat ramp, a horse camp, miles of beach to explore, the Coquille Light and an excellent camping area. Life is good here at Bullards Beach State Park!
Tomorrow we head north towards Waldsport. See you there……
3 thoughts on “Bandon, Oregon”
Really enjoyed until the last photo. Necessary in a travelogue? Guess I won’t be visiting Brandon.
Also, more accurate to say land stolen from Native Americans, then they were forced onto a reservation. I am ashamed as an Irish American whose ancestors were starved off our family farms by the English, that we would visit such violence on Native Americans living on their own lands.
Yes, necessary in my travel blog. I report what I see………. Most of Oregon is conservative. Like most states the highly populated areas are more liberal, the low/rural are mostly conservative- like it or not that’s the facts……. And you’d make a mistake not visiting places because they don’t align with your personal political views…..
Politics aside… Bandon is a wonderful community. Best fish & chips ever… the market on the pier has the most spectacular seafood… and Pablo’s is one of the finest dining places I’ve been to. I live in Portland and once you leave the Willamette valley it’s pretty red … that’s just the way it is. The people are warm and welcoming .. the Bandon Inn is the place to stay …