Beaver Creek, Ona Beach

Beaver Creek, Ona Beach

by | Jul 25, 2022

Beaver Creek starts at an elevation of about 1,400 feet (427 m) in the Oregon Coast Range and flows generally west for 16 miles (26 km) draining a watershed of 32,500 acres (13, 152 ha) and enters the Pacific Ocean at Ona Beach, about 9 miles (14.5 km) south of Newport and 7 miles (11.3 km) north of Waldport, Oregon. Ona Beach is named after the Chinook word for razor clams. Beginning about 60 million years ago, the Siletz terrane accreted to the western margin of North America creating the foundation of the Oregon Coast Range, and over the next few million years, the offshore subduction zone moved westward further into the Pacific Ocean to the present-day position. Over the following tens of millions of years, the sea level went up and down, nearby volcanoes erupted and were eroded away, and species arose and went extinct. Throughout this time, ocean sediments accumulated steadily and were compressed into a thick stack of sedimentary rocks. Today, many of the older rocks remain beneath the water offshore, but uplifting, folding, and faulting associated with the subduction zone have pushed up others to form much of the Coast Range. The eastern part of the Beaver Creek watershed is underlain by the Tyee Formation which consists of siltstones and sandstones that are more resistant to erosion than the rocks to the west, creating ridges that are higher and steeper, and streams that are more confined in deeply incised tributary valleys. The western part of the watershed is underlain, from east to west, by the Nestucca Formation, Alsea Formation, and Yaquina Formation, the latter mostly buried by Quaternary marine terrace deposits. These formations and deposits are made up of more erodable sedimentary rocks creating a wide flat valley that allowed for wetland development and prehistorical human habitation.

Beaver Creek was the site of an Alsea village, although the territory of these Yakonan-speaking people overlapped with the Yaquina people to the north, so both may have used the creek lowlands for seasonal fish camps. They collected fish and shellfish in large quantities, but catching an abundance of salmon was the principal purpose of the village, as well as being able to dry the fish for winter storage. They also made inland trips to hunt and gather camas and berries in the mountains. Midden excavations indicate they also hunted marine mammals, but probably not frequently. In 1855, an executive order created the Siletz Reservation which closed the coastal area to non-Native settlements from Cape Lookout in the north to near Reedsport in the south. However, later that year, another executive order opened the reservation between the Yaquina and Alsea River estuaries to form a corridor for a railroad, which was followed by a rush of Euro-American settlers who immediately made land claims and the Natives were literally driven out of the coastal area. Commercial logging operations began in the 1870s and 1880s, and small family ­based sawmills were established to supply local building lumber. Euro-American settlement increased steadily in the 1880s and 1890s. Homesteaders moved far up into the local valleys and cleared forests, grazed dairy cattle, and raised hay and garden crops. In 1907, 630,000 acres (254,952 ha) of forest lands for the Siuslaw National Forest were created by President Theodore Roosevelt. After World War II, the demand for lumber increased and political pressure was exerted on national forests in Oregon to provide more wood. The harvest of national forest acres increased rapidly after the 1950s. The vast majority of the logging activity after 1960 was clearcutting with the regeneration of Douglas fir which is the fastest growing timber-producing tree in this area. In the 1970s, the use of cable logging allowed the logging of trees from very steep slopes. By 1995, nearly 5,000 acres (2,023 ha) of national forest land in the Beaver Creek watershed had been logged.

The land for Ona Beach State Park was purchased between 1938 and 1968 from private owners and includes one gift of 10 acres from Lincoln County made in 1963. Before the Coast Highway was established in 1926, the beach between Newport and Seal Rock was used as an access road. Motorists would travel at low tide, following the mail carrier who knew the best way to cross Beaver Creek. Ona Beach became well known for fossils, agates, and beach walks. Beaver Creek State Natural Area was purchased from several different private owners between 2007 and 2009. The properties were acquired with lottery funds and a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Coastal Wetland grant. The land acquisition was a key component of the multi-partner management strategy for connecting old-growth forests in the upper watershed with beach, coastal dunes, estuary, and marsh habitats downstream. Natural Areas like Beaver Creek are part of a worldwide program to set aside areas within existing parks that have unique scenic, geologic, or ecological value and will be maintained in a natural condition by allowing physical and biological processes to operate usually without direct human intervention. These areas are set aside to provide locations for scientific observation of natural systems, protect examples of typical and unique plant and animal communities, and protect outstanding examples of natural interest and beauty. These areas are specifically reserved from development and may include trails and signs to educate and guide visitors. A house on the property was remodeled and turned into a visitor center and opened to the public in 2010. In 2013, Beaver Creek and Ona Beach were made part of Brian Booth State Park to honor the first chair of the Oregon State Parks and Recreation Commission. Read more here and here. Explore more of Beaver Creek and Ona Beach here:

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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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