Kayaking Siltcoos river on the Oregon coast

Some places on the Oregon coast just have to be explored. Through the dense coastal forest or through the windswept dunes adventure always waits. For many of these places you can only see them from a kayak or a boat. Luckily Siltcoos river is one of those places and I have a kayak. The river meanders through the coastal forest and sand dunes for just over 4 miles to finally run into the Pacific ocean.

For todays journey I started at the boat ramp on the main lake to try my luck for some large mouth bass, but there was an algae bloom starting and all I had was just a couple bites. Normally the river section produces a few bass through out but it was such a quiet day I just enjoyed the view going through the trees. one of the best things about floating the river is that no matter how windy it is the river is still always calm and protected by trees and dunes.

When you start at the lake you will first go under a small bridge before hitting the main river section. Then after a short half mile you will pass under the highway 101 bridge. For the first mile and a half the river is actually a dammed section and the it is a true peaceful float. Throughout this sections there are several downed trees that you will need to navigate around or over if you can. As of the summer of 2021 they are doing some repair work on the highway 101 bridge but it is easy to navigate around their work.

Once you get to the dam on the river there is a portage area to move into the lower section with a canoe or kayak. Getting from your watercraft onto the dam is a bit tricky as all you have is a wooden bar on the cement and about three feet of water below. After you are on the dam you then pull your kayak across some plastic rails and onto a lined metal portage that you can sit down in and slide down into the lower river.

Not a very large dam, but it brings the level of the lake up quite a bit from historic levels. To the right side of the picture there is a fish ladder to allow Coho salmon and Steelhead over the dam

The lower part of the of the river is very shallow in many sections and you have to be careful of where you are paddling to so not to get stuck in soft mud just under the water level. Once I hit the lower section I saw a pod of otters playing in the downed trees. Surprisingly this is the second pod of otters I have seen this year. Nice to see them along the rivers. Now if only the beaver population would rebound back up. If you are looking for a nice easy float I do recommend floating on Siltcoos river. You can go all the way to the ocean but during the majority of the year the dune area is closed to getting out of the kayak due to Snowy Plover nesting in the area.

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Oregon’s invasive Purple Varnish clam

When camping for my birthday on the Oregon coast, I found a nice area that had a very large bed of Purple varnish clams.  What is a purple varnish clam you ask? It is a clam that was first found invading Oregon’s estuary’s in the 1990’s.  The assumption is that it came over in the ballast water of large ships from Asia.  While this clam is an invasive species it is also a very easy one to dig, and the current regulations allow for up to 72 per digger to be harvested. Some studies have shown that this clam able to produce densities exceeding 800 per square meter I don’t think that they are going to get over harvested. Since these clams are high in the inter-tidal zone and in soft sand my toddler was easily able to help me dig these up.  And surprisingly once we cooked them up she wanted to eat all of them.

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A quick limit of clams on a not very low tide

Kayla and I were able to get our limit in less than 30 minutes.  The deepest clam we found was only maybe 12 inches down in the sand.  The area we dug for them was a three foot by three foot section.  It seemed easiest to dig a small hole until you got to the depth they were at then just use your hands to start digging the hole wider.  The shells can be a little sharp so a pair of garden gloves help prevent any cut fingertips.  After the clams are dug you have to let them soak in seawater for 24 hours so the clams expel out the sand they have inside them.  We steamed some up before we realized that, and it was almost as much sand as clam inside them.  To soak the clams all you need to do is fill a bucket up with bay water and put the clams inside so the water is over all of them, just make sure that you have them in the shade so the water doesn’t heat up and kill them.  After the soak we steamed, and dipped them in garlic butter, they were delicious.  Just like steamer clams but a little bit sweeter.  They would probably make a great clam chowder. Which I will try at some point when I have time to make it.

My helper and her clam. They are not a very big clams, but are great eating.
My helper and her clams. They are not a very big clams, but are great eating.

One thing to note for anyone eating these is that many of them have pea crabs inside of them.  If you are allergic to crabs these would be a bad clam to harvest to eat.  A good book to read if you are interested in clamming in Oregon is this book of Clamming the Pacific Northwest or some recipes on how to cook them The Pacific Northwest Seafood Cookbook: Salmon, Crab, Oysters, and More  the cookbook doesn’t have anything specific to the Purple varnish clam but any steamer type recipe will work for them.

Quick little video digging in for purple varnish clams

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