Estuary Study Trails (South Slough Estuary)

Length: 3 miles (loop) 

Difficulty: Easy 

Surface: Dirt, gravel


From Coos Bay or North Bend, follow signs to Charleston, Shore Acres State Park and Ocean Beaches.  From Charleston, head west on Cape Arago Highway and in 0.1 miles turn left (south) on Seven Devils Road  following signs to South Slough Sanctuary and Bandon.  Continue 4.5 miles and turn left at the Interpretive Center and continue to parking area.  The trailhead is  located past the interpretive center to the left of an interpretive panel “Journey to the Sea” with a nice view of the watershed.

Setting and Attractions: 

The South Slough watershed covers 19,000 acres.  The area spans from steep ridges which divide the watershed and to the north it joins with the Coos watershed where it meets the Pacific ocean.  There are multiple viewing areas and interpretive panels featuring estuaries, fresh and saltwater marshes, mudflats, and floodplains.  The old pilings along here supported a railroad trestle which transported logs to nearby mills.  Wildlife includes blue herons, egrets, Pacific Mountain Salamander, Rough Skinned Newt, and frogs.

Trails descriptions: 

Beginning in the uplands,  this trail system follows Hidden Creek down the valley to the slough.  After crossing the creek a few times the trail turns into a boardwalk that winds through fresh and saltwater marshes, including a portion called the skunkcabbage walk.  Vegetation includes salmonberry, thimbleberry, Lyngby’s Sedge, and Eel grass.  The “Saltwater Overlook” and “Lookout” offer views of mudflats and open-water channel, ideal for wildlife observation.  On the edge of the estuary are several trails that lead to the shoreline including Rhodes Dike, Sloughside Pilings and the Marsh trail.  Heading back towards the interpretive center is the Big Cedar trail which has remnants of the former train trestle.

For more information, trail conditions and maps contact: South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR) at (541) 888-5558 or visit their website at