Winchuk River, Crissey Field

Winchuk River, Crissey Field

by | Feb 22, 2023

Winchuck River starts at an elevation of about 2,000 feet (610 m) and flows generally southwest for 19 miles (31 km) through the Rogue River–Siskiyou National Forest to the Pacific Ocean at Crissey Field, about 17 miles (27 km) north of Crescent City and 4.8 miles (7.7 km) southeast of Brookings, Oregon. The name is reputedly derived from the Chinook Jargon ‘wind chuck’ meaning ‘windy water’. Old maps show the name Windchuck, but since the 1920s, Winchuck is more commonly used. The river drains a watershed of roughly 45,600 acres (18,470 ha) on the southern flank of Mount Emily underlain by sedimentary and volcanic rock, mostly greywacke, sandstone, and mudstone that formed during the Jurassic period.

Most of Oregon’s remaining coast redwood forest lies within the Winchuck drainage, and the watershed also supports forests of Douglas fir, bigleaf maple, and madrone, typical of the Southern Oregon Coast Range. These forests were bombed by a seaplane of the Japanese Imperial Navy during World War II. According to local lore, these attacks prompted the construction of an airfield on land leased from Bill Crissey who grew lily bulbs on the land at the mouth of the Winchuck River. The airfield was supposedly used as a refueling base for submarine-seeking airplanes towards the end of the war, and for many years after the war, was the most southwestern airfield in Oregon. In 1962, the airport lease was not renewed and consequently, in 1963, a new airport was constructed at Brookings, and Crissey Field was abandoned.

In 1993, the State of Oregon acquired Crissey Field in a land exchange with a private timber company, but the park remained undeveloped until lottery funds for a new visitor center were allocated. In 2008, a visitors center of 4,500 square feet (418 sq m) was completed which is a model of green technology, including geothermal heating and cooling and solar panels. Today, Crissey Field is a coastal state park administered by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department that starts on the southern shore at the mouth of the Winchuk River and extends to the California state border. The old runway is now a beach access footpath. Read more here and here. Explore more of the Winchuk River and Crissey Field here:

About the background graphic

This ‘warming stripe’ graphic is a visual representation of the change in global temperature from 1850 (top) to 2021 (bottom). Each stripe represents the average global temperature for one year. The average temperature from 1971-2000 is set as the boundary between blue and red. The color scale goes from -0.7°C to +0.7°C. The data are from the UK Met Office HadCRUT4.6 dataset. 

Credit: Professor Ed Hawkins (University of Reading). Click here for more information about the #warmingstripes.

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