• Port Orford has the only the only "dolly dock" on the Pacific West Coast
• The area has over 400 years of recorded history
Port Orford is the oldest established city (1851) on the Oregon coast as well as the westermost incorporated city in the United States. Despite the small population of a bit over 1,100 people, Port Orford is a fantastic Pacific Coast destination in southern Oregon for a whole plethora of reasons.
Port Orford and its vicinity have a wide range of popular and less-known beaches with multiple adventures including beachcombing, rockhounding, fishing, surfing, kite surfing, nature viewing, hiking, and much more.
There are a variety of historic landmarks like Battle Rock to visit and learn about the engaging history of the Oregon coast, native people, European settlers, and natural life. Breathtaking viewpoints like Port Orford Heads State Park let you enjoy the scenic views of the rocky terrain, sea of greenery, endless ocean, sea stacks, and a variety of sea creatures living in the area.
In addition to the natural beauty, Port Orford offers quite a few things to do within the town. Multiple restaurants, bars, and cafes serve American and international cuisine with plenty of seafood options as well. Several galleries display and sell a huge variety of art pieces from paintings to sculptures, glass arts, and high-quality crafts.
Another big thing to see in Port Orford is the only open-water port in Oregon and one of the few "dolly dock" ports in the world. The open-water port offers no natural protection for anchored vessels, so all boats must be moved to the shore. Two massive dock cranes lift boats in and out of the water and put those on custom-made dollies to keep vessels from being damaged by the ocean.
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Things to Do and See
Battle Rock Wayside Park
Battle Rock Wayside Park is a scenic outdoor destination with a very interesting history and a plethora of things to do. This is a fantastic location for kite and windsurfing, rockhounding, nature viewing or simply enjoying a relaxing stroll on the sandy beach. The park allows easy access to Dock Beach and Battle Rock Beach separated from each other by a massive headland called Battle Rock.
Port Orford Heads State Park
Port Orford Heads State Park is a scenic location on a bluff towering over Port Orford. The views here are truly spectacular. You can see the rocky terrain, sea of greenery, endless ocean, offshore rocks, Port Orford, and beautiful wildflowers during the blooming season. Port Orford Heads State Park has 3 trails providing access to viewpoints and historic locations.
Tseriadun State Recreation Site and Agate Beach
Tseriadun State Recreation Site with Agate Beach is a mile-long sandy shore next to Garrison Lake. It is a fantastic spot for beachcombing, fishing, nature viewing, having a picnic, and beach exploring. Take a peaceful stroll along the ocean with distant sea stacks, beautifully weathered driftwood sitting right on the sand, and wildflowers blooming in the spring.
Paradise Point State Recreation Site and Garrison Beach
Paradise Point State Recreation Site, also often called Garrison Beach because of adjacent Garrison Lake, is a secluded coastline two miles away from Port Orford. Garrison Beach is a productive place for rockhounding and the Paradise Point viewpoint is great for watching wildlife and winter storms.
Cape Blanco Lighthouse and Park
Cape Blanco Lighthouse is the most westerly and southerly as well as the oldest continually operating light station in the state. Cape Blanco and its surrounding area feature over 400 years of recorded history starting from Bartoleme Ferrelo when he mapped Cape Blanco in 1543 and Captain Martin D’Aguilar of Spain visiting the cape in 1603 and giving it the current name.
Humbug is the highest mountain on the Oregon coastline. Standing at 1,756 ft high 6 miles south of Port Orford, it provides impressive views with a 3-mile hike required to get to the top. The mountain has an interesting history including a gold rush of the 1850s with rumors of prospective wealth being nothing more than a "humbug". Native Americans also used the mountain as a destination for vision quests.
Prehistoric Garden is a unique roadside attraction for the entire family. It shows the natural history and unique species used to traverse our planet a long time ago. It features a tempered rainforest garden with 23 life-size dinosaur sculptures from the Paleozoic and Mesozoic eras.
The beaches and rivers of Port Orford are heaven for fishing enthusiasts. With a variety of fish species including salmon, steelhead, cutthroat trout, and sturgeon in the river, as well as cod, lingcod, snapper, and perch offshore, you can fish in this area year-round.
Since Port Orford has no dangerous bars to cross, there are many more fishable days in a year than in other places and productive fishing spots can be found as little as a few minutes away from the dock.
Elk River and Sixes River are great for salmon and steelhead fishing from around November. Salmon season runs until the end of the year while steelhead can be caught till March. Garrison Lake is stocked with cutthroat and rainbow trout. Check the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife for current rules and regulations.
Rockhounding and Beachcombing
Beaches and river banks of Port Orford and the surrounding area allow you to go on a treasure hunt for a variety of interesting rocks and minerals for your collection. Agates are plentiful here at places like Agate Beach and Paradise Point Beach.
You can also find plenty of other beautiful types of rocks here including but not limited to jaspers, petrified wood, fossils, and serpentine. Beachcombing can bring you a lot of beautiful sea shells, driftwood, and if you are lucky, even a Japanese glass float.
Low and minus tides on the coast at Port Orford reveal a kaleidoscope of marvelous sea creatures and plants. Sea stars, anemones, sea urchins, and other ocean life create a plethora of red, orange, yellow, and multiple shades of green making a unique picture to enjoy and commemorate in a photo.
Surfing, Boating, and other Watersports
Surfing, windsurfing, and kitesurfing enthusiasts can practice their skills and enjoy their hobby off the shore of Port Orford and at places like Battle Rock. Waters around the city are very welcoming for kayakers, divers, and other adventurers as well.
You can surf at Port Orford downtown with winter being the best time for it when northwesterly winds are coming in. In spring, Hubbard Creek Beach is a great place for surfing as well. Garrison Lake is a fantastic spot for a variety of water sports including boating, waterskiing, tubing, and other water activities.
Port Orford is a start and end point for the Wild Rivers Coast Scenic Bikeway. This 61-mile route will take you through Port Orford Heads State Park, Paradise Point, Cape Blanco State Park, Elk River, and other beautiful places. You don't have to take the entire 61-mile ride all at once since it can easily be broken into much shorter trips.
The Port Orford vicinity was populated by Tututni Native Americans well before the first European explorers even arrived. The first European who described the area was the Spanish explorer Bartoleme Ferrelo when he mapped Cape Blanco in 1543.
Captain George Vancouver gave Port Orford its name in 1792, but the town wasn't established until much later. In June 1851 Captain William Tichenor left 9 of his men near the Battle Rock. The presence of colonists angered Native Americans because the Oregon Donation Land Act of 1850 permitted settlers to file claims on native lands with little to no consideration on the native's part.
Tichenor's men ended up having a bloody battle with native warriors resulting in multiple deaths and injuries on the Native American side with just two injuries from arrows on the settlers' side. The 9 colonists ended up escaping under the cover of the night for Captain Tichenor to later return with a much larger force. He established a town as a US Army fort on September 14th, 1851.
One of the most interesting political figures in Port Orford's history was Gilbert Gable. He was the town's mayor who popularized the idea of seceding parts of Oregon and California and creating the State of Jefferson in 1941. Gilbert died of a heart attack on December 2nd, 1941 a few days before he was to be declared a governor of the newly created state by a popular vote.