Although only the hardiest swimmers go into the ocean without wetsuits, Cleawox and Woahink Lakes warm up sufficiently to make summertime swimming enjoyable. Cleawox, the smaller of the two, is especially well suited for swimming. Woahink, which has a boat ramp and canoe rentals, is good for paddling. Both lakes are located within Honeyman State Park, three miles south of Florence ($3 per vehicle day use fee).
If you want to learn to scuba dive, Florence’s Central Coast Watersports (1901 U.S. 101, 541/997-1812 or 800/789-3483) offers scuba instruction at Woahink Lake. But the most popular local dive spot is at the North Jetty, off Rhododendron Drive, which has been designated an underwater park. Divers typically go after crabs and clams and must pay careful attention to the tides.
Surfers head to the beaches at South Jetty; the waves are best when small—they can often become overwhelming and unsuitable for novices. Look for more protection from the wind at the mouth of the river. Check with Central Coast Watersports for conditions and rentals; this company also rents kayaks.
South of Florence, in the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, the Siltcoos River invites kayakers and canoeists to explore the two-mile stretch between Siltcoos Lake and the sea. Meandering two miles through dunes, forest, and estuary, the Siltcoos is a gentle Class-I paddle with no white water or rapids, although a small dam midway must be portaged. Wildlife that you may encounter along the way include mink, raccoons, otters, beavers, and even bears. In the estuary, sea lions and harbor seals are common.
For more information on the Siltcoos area, contact the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area Visitor Center (541/271-3611) in Reedsport.
by Judy Jewell and W. C. McRae from Moon Oregon, 8th Edition, © Elizabeth & Mark Morris and Avalon Travel