Visits to Darlingtonia, Newport, and Heceta Lighthouse

Florence, OR

The weather the past few days has been classic Oregon coast with fog, clouds, and cool temperatures.  But that didn’t stop us from getting out and about each day.   One interesting stop was a brief visit to the little Darlingtonia State Natural Site, just north of Florence along US 101.

Darlingtonia State Natural Site is a state park and botanical preserve dedicated to the preservation of a rare plant.  Darlingtonia californica (sounds like the name of a movie star) is a carnivorous plant, commonly known as the cobra lily or pitcher plant, which traps insects in its hollow tubular leaves. Its  top is flared into a hollow dome with a forked “tongue” that gives the species its common name.  Darlingtonia are found only in wet meadows and bogs with acidic soils low in nitrogen.

The park has a short loop trail through a peat bog area overlooking patches of Darlingtonia.  It is the only Oregon state park dedicated to the protection of a single plant species.

It eat insects!

One afternoon we drove north on US 101 to check out some of the scenic views along the coastline.  We tried to wait for an afternoon with some sunshine but the forecast for the next few days was not encouraging, so off we went.  While sunshine would have been better, the fog did make for some interesting views.

Alsea Bay Bridge near Walport

When we passed the sign in the photo below John remarked that US 20 goes right in front of his old junior high school in Erie, PA.  Then, he remembered that it was torn down about 45 years ago!  Sad . . .

We ended up in the coastal town of Newport, which has a historic old town section along Yaquina Bay.  As we walked along Bay Boulevard we could hear barking near the water.  OK, time to check out the sea lions.

Three part harmony!

After touring around town a bit we stopped for a great view of the Yaquina Bay Bridge before heading back to the south.

For our final adventure along the coast, we drove north of Florence for about 15 miles to visit the Heceta Head Lighthouse.  We intended to combine a couple of trails into a long hike by parking at the Washbourne State Park day use area a few miles past the lighthouse and hiking back on the Valley Trail.  But when we arrived at the park there was a sign at the trailhead stating that the Valley Trail was closed.  So we drove back down US 101 a couple of miles to a small parking lot along the highway.  There we got on the Lighthouse Trail for a 1.25 mile hike to the Heceta Lighthouse.  The trail goes through some beautiful old growth forest.  While not very long it goes steeply up and over Heceta Head,  then steeply back down to the lighthouse.


Where’s Waldo John? (he really is in the photo)

Going up a series of switchbacks

Ferns grow in every notch of the trees

Hobbit Beach to the north

Down a long series of steps

As we hiked down the south side of Heceta Head, the lighthouse came into view below us.

Looking to the east from the lighthouse we could see the Cape Creek Bridge.  US 101 goes through a tunnel at the south end of the bridge.

Built in 1894, the 56 foot tall lighthouse shines a beam visible for 21 nautical miles (24 mi). The first light came from a five wick kerosene lamp.  Today Heceta has the only active British made lens of its kind in the U.S. and is the brightest beacon on the Oregon coast.

While we did enjoy seeing the lighthouse, the best part of the visit was watching two gray whales feeding just off shore.

We hiked back over Heceta Head to the Jeep and headed south.  Just south of the tunnel there is a scenic overlook with a beautiful view north back to the lighthouse.

Well, that wraps up our impromptu 12 day stay along the Oregon Coast.  Now it’s time to head inland back to Coburg where we have an appointment at Cummins Northwest to have repairs made to the motorhome engine.

More on that later . . .

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26 Responses to Visits to Darlingtonia, Newport, and Heceta Lighthouse

  1. exploRVistas says:

    Looks like you timed your Coast trip perfectly…the heat and smoke have settled down inland! So glad you were able to see whales while you were at the lighthouse!

    • placestheygo says:

      Good to hear the smoke is calming a bit inland. I’ve been keeping an eye on the temps. Thank goodness the 100’s are over! I was so excited to finally see whales and so close! The lighthouse hosts said they had been there all morning. Must have been great feeding.

  2. Debbie L says:

    Wow, you two are really living up to your name: oh the places they go!!! If you didn’t seek out all these cool places, you’d miss so many amazing things-like the whales and sea lions!

  3. The hike looks wonderful! Short, but lots of variety. I added it to my list of must do’s!

  4. Now that we are settled in at South Beach State Park in Newport, we can hear those seals when the conditions are right! As we were driving past all these places yesterday with the RV we were bummed we could not even pull over…busy Sunday and not as many stopping points on the northbound side of the highway…especially for big rigs!

  5. Loved the “three part harmony” seal photo! We toured the Heceta lighthouse when we were out there–the views are stunning!

  6. TravelBug-Susan says:

    Glad you’re enjoying your coastal trip and the cool temps. I’ll be in Portland area next week visiting my family (Aug. 24-Sept. 6). If you’re around, I’d love to meet you. I’m happy to hear no more 100+ temps. I’m trying to escape those in Texas!

  7. Ingrid says:

    I graduated from a high school in northern Illinois located on Route 20. When we workamped in Idaho last summer, the RV park was located off the same Route 20. I called my day and told him I was just down the road from him … a couple thousand miles west of him but on the same road 😆 Fun little discoveries.
    Wow, that vegetation is something!

  8. kyotesue says:

    So enjoyed reading this. You wrote beautifully about some of our favorite coastal places. The rule is, the hotter it is inland, the more dependable will be the coastal fog and cool temperatures. We were really wishing we could have heading to the coast during those triple digit days, but there probably would have been no place to park, and we had a house to build.

  9. pmbweaver says:

    Love this post. So many awesome and beautiful places to experience. Don’t you just love the lighthouses. Did you go back after dark? So cool how the lights reflect on the surrounding trees.

    I loved that hike. Everything is so green and lush. Boy did those 12 days fly by. You will love you next long stop!

  10. Jodee Gravel says:

    How fun that you got to see so much of that great area – I even love it in the fog 🙂 The pitchers were much healthier than when we stopped. Great pics of the lighthouse, and you caught the light!! Happily the smoke inland has moved on, although I still miss the coast.

    • placestheygo says:

      The fog certainly created some dramatic scenery. Luckily, we only had heavy fog a couple days. I was so glad we got a little sun just as we got to the Darlingtonia Wayside. The sun really lit up the pitcher plants. Thanks for finding this place and sharing it.

  11. Sherry says:

    You gotta love a state that has an entire park to protect one plant. Very cool looking but doesn’t resemble the carnivorous plant also called “Pitcher” we’ve found all over in Acadia and Vermont. WOW that’s a lot of plants in one place. Surprised there are enough insects for them all. We’ve had foggy hikes here as well but time’s awastin if you don’t go. LOL at all those seals. What are they lying around on? Your longer hike plan sounded great. Sorry it was foiled. The section you did hike was really lovely and I had no trouble seeing John in his red shirt. Good choice of color not to get lost! Did you see any hobbits on the beach? Like the looking down on the lighthouse photo. Really lovely lighthouse. The photo of the day is WHALES! Wow wow, lucky you. We’ve seen none and we’ve been along the coast of Maine for 2 months. Super “impromptu” visit!

    • placestheygo says:

      I, too, was wondering about where the insects come from for all those plants. We haven’t had any insects on our hikes. I remember having foggy days during our last visit to your area. That section of Maine and the PNW coast are very similar. It was a wonderful impromptu visit!

  12. Laurel says:

    Oh, how cool that you not only saw whales, you got a photograph of more than the water spout! (We never seem to capture more than “spouts.”) I always love seeing Darlingtonia — they’re such an interesting plant, and definitely do look like cobras, forked tongue and all. Looks like you’ve had a great time in Florence — I’ll take fog and cool temps any day over heat. I know you feel the same!

    • placestheygo says:

      Having to hang around waiting for parts certainly was perfect. I am so glad it was going to be hot in Eugene, and we decided to move to the coast. This area has been on my list for awhile so all worked out for the best. I was surprised to see I got a few photos of the whale spouting. I was just aiming and ready and clicking away when John said the whale was up. As you can imagine, I was very excited!

  13. geogypsy2u says:

    The Darlingtonia are strange plants indeed. Like the area around Florence and the lighthouse. Best, seeing the whales. How totally awesome!

    • placestheygo says:

      Florence ended up being a great central location. And it has a very nice Old Town section with a long dock for sitting right along the marina. Oh, yes, the whale was my highlight!

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