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Brookings: Otters, Osprey, and a Cozy B&B
Brookings - Harbor

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Where but the Oregon coast could you watch an otter dig his own “hot tub” in the sand?

 

And where but the Oregon coast could you watch the otter while admiring osprey flying to redwood forests?

 

We’ve traveled this coast for more than 10 years, and have never seen anything like the hybrid otters that live here.

 

This one climbed out of the Winchuck River near the edge of the ocean and acted as if he was going to the spa. He created a little dip on the beach, then rolled and wriggled about, and tossed sand as if he was getting a salt scrub at the spa.

 

The Brookings otters are hybrids, with the long, lean body of a river otter, but the playful antics of sea otters. They swim in the Winchuck and the Pacific, one of the only otters known to inhabit both worlds.

 

 

 

We were watching him from one of the best vantage points in Southern Oregon: Lowden’s Beachfront Bed & Breakfast, celebrating its 26th year in Brookings. It’s about one mile from the California border.

 

From our deck, we had a private, 180˚ view of redwoods, river and ocean, and kept saying, “It doesn’t get better than this.”

 

But it did.

 

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There were osprey nesting in the woods, flowers spilling off hillsides to the sea, and dozens of bufflehead ducks swimming in pairs in the river.

 

We walked the beaches -- river and ocean -- for hours, without meeting anyone. Driftwood was piled high on both, providing a landing for the otter, when he went exploring along the Winchuck.

 

The Pacific beach was loaded with all kinds of shells, and agates in white, emerald and especially ruby.

 

Soon, we saw a lone kayaker on the river, paddling toward the Pacific. By late afternoon, there were many beachcombers exploring the ocean side with their pets.

 

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“I couldn’t believe this setting when we found this property,” said Barbara Lowden, who runs the B & B with her husband, Gary. “It was out in the country in those days, a no-man’s land. No one lived here full-time.”

 

The former Ice Capades skater and musician -- Gary was a professional sax player -- met while they were performing at different shows in Las Vegas. They moved to the Oregon coast in 1987 with their two small children. (One is now a marine biologist, the other, a surfer.)

 

The Lowdens fell in love with this corner of the coast because of the calm Winchuck estuary and the rolling waves of the Pacific.

 

“You can sit right at this table and see 40-pounders from here,” Barbara said.

 

We were sitting in the corner guest suite -- a cosy, well-appointed, one-bedroom overlooking the river and ocean -- and she was describing the salmon that spawn in the Winchuck. Barbara was recalling how, when salmon are beached at low tide, the family rescues the fish and moves them to water, so they can continue their journey up-river.

 

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“They’re really heavy, and you have to clean out all the sand before you can put them back,” she explained. “Some days, we see their ‘rooster tails’ swimming from the ocean up the river.”

 

If all this sounds like a nature show, it is. Guests can also spy gray whales, seals, and Pacific porpoises here.

 

“We had one big sperm whale along this part of the coast for two weeks,” Barbara said.

 

Bald eagles and kingfishers are common. Flowers bloom year-round in Brookings, known as “home of the winter flowers.”

 

Locals have a private dirt road nearby for getting into the Winchuck for fishing. And this is crab season, so ocean-going fishermen are selling their catch straight from the boats at Brookings Harbor.

 

By Kathleen Kenna

All photos by Hadi Dadashian

 

LINKS

 

Lowden’s Beachfront Bed & Breakfast: http://www.beachfrontbb.com/

 

Winchuck River: http://www.brookingsharbororegon.com/southern_oregon_coast/winchuck_river.cfm

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