A battle between humans and nature is the theme of the epic science fiction novel Dune, published by Frank Herbert in the mid-60s. The novel, considered one of the best in its genre, was partly inspired by Herbert’s visit to the dunes of Oregon in the late ‘50s.

Herbert was supposed to write an article about the city of Florence's efforts to battle the dunes that were reaching the town's structures. The author was so awestruck by the scenario that instead of publishing the article, he became interested in learning more about the “battle” that he wrote a novel and six sequels.


Fans of the book should visit the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area and see why it's the source of a magnum opus – aside from being a piece of artwork itself.

Planning Your Visit To Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area

Before embarking on a journey to this special place, here are some reminders to keep in mind for a hassle-free trip:

  • The area is part of the Siuslaw National Forest, so fans should make sure to have a pass ($5) or the Oregon Pacific Coast Passport ($35)
  • The western snowy plover’s nesting season starts from March 15 until September 15, so certain restrictions are in place in the area. Said bird species are already threatened, so the United States Forest Service encourages guests to be extra careful during this season.
  • Whatever the season, tourists should practice the “Leave No Trace” principle.

Are the Dunes Threatened?

The Oregon Dunes is approximately 100,000 years old and is the largest system of its kind on the West Coast of the United States. This magnificent place, however, is not safe from ecological woes – primarily the presence of invasive plant species.

A century ago, locals introduced European beachgrass to the area to “stabilize” the dunes that were reaching the residents’ structures. There was a success for a short while, but years later, the grass quickly spread, affecting the shaping of the dunes and contributing to the suffering of some animals that need open sand – such as the plovers.

A restoration effort has already been launched to mitigate the effects of the attempts to stabilize the dunes. Tourism in the area is not just about taking pictures but more about learning and helping the community save this magical land.

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Activities To Try At The Oregon Dunes

The dune complex is like a large playground where tourists can run all day and take in everything their eyes see. Tourists should wear their sunglasses – it’s time to have a sandy saga.

Beachcombing And Sand Play

In this kingdom of sand, what else is there to do but play with the sand? Add the coast to the scene, and beachcombers will have a field day – literally.

  • There are at least 10 recreational areas where guests can camp and explore the coast and the dunes.
  • Tourists can busy themselves beachcombing along the Baker Beach Trailhead, Siltcoos, South Jetty, Horsfall, and Umpqua.
  • Tourists can also play with the sand at Loop Trail 1334, Sandtracks, Spinreel Sand Camp, Eel Creek Campground, Hall & Schuttpelz Lake Trail 1357, and John Dellenback Dunes Trail 1339.


Camping is an ideal way to get the most out of Oregon dunes. Setting up a tent is the start of something wonderful because, in this sandy paradise, there’s a lot to do. RV campers are welcome, too!

  • At Baker Beach Campground, campers can sign off because there are no water, sewer, and electrical hookups here.
  • Campers can wade and throw a line as they enjoy fishing at the Siltcoos River, where two campgrounds are located nearby.
  • At South Jetty, tourists can reach their daily walking needs, thanks to the seemingly endless stretch of beach.
  • Those who will bring their off-highway vehicle can opt to camp at the Spinreel to Horsfall Area, a great place to rest and relax.
  • At Sutton, meanwhile, campers can drain their phone's battery taking photos of the scenery – from the Pacific Ocean to the line of trees.
  • For hikers who want to venture into the heart of the forest, they should choose to camp at Tahkenitch, which is near a creek and a trail.
  • At Umpqua, tourists can have the best of the dune system's offerings: the sand, the beach, and the ocean.

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OHV Riding

The Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area is a wonderland for OHV enthusiasts. From open area riding to trail adventures, anyone can have a fun time in this giant playground. Here, they can have their fill of adrenaline while revving and zooming all day and into the sunset.

  • The Spinreel to Horsfall Area is highly recommended because it has the largest and most diverse riding area.
  • Riders can also venture into the meandering trails of the Siltcoos Area, where a pine forest can give them some shade.
  • Riders can also take on the challenge of the South Jetty open area or the trails of Tahkenitch and Umpqua.

Water Activities

Only in Oregon can tourists see a mixture of forest, ocean, and dunes, making it a perfect place for active travelers. Aside from activities on the land, visitors can also make a splash in the waterways.

  • For boaters, there are ramps at Siltcoos, South Jetty, Spinreel to Horsfall, and Tahkenitch Lake.
  • Surfers can also hang ten at South Jetty Beach 7.
  • Fishers are in for a treat because they have a variety of waterways at their disposal: saltwater, estuary, lake, pond, river, and stream. They should get their bait ready!

Hiking, Biking, And More

The dune complex is like a planet on its own – a place of action and adventure, of calm and peace, combined. Here are some other things to try at this stunning destination:

  • Bikers can enjoy the ups and downs of the trails at Siltcoos and Tahkenitch.
  • It's hiking galore in this place, and thanks to the lush forest, trekkers and birdwatchers can check out some critters like squirrels, herons, ospreys, warblers, and kingfishers, among others. Those with a green thumb enjoy observing plant species such as huckleberries, blueberries, manzanitas, skunk cabbage, and more.
  • Picnics are fun, too, for those who want a laid-back afternoon, while sandboarding is perfect for those who want to break a sweat.

Enjoying a wild ride and a smooth journey is always possible in this Oregon destination. It’s a place of comfort and effort, of stillness and movement. An author was inspired by the dunes’ magnificence, and it’s easy to understand why. So travelers should pack their bags and get ready for an adventure!

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