From the vantage point of U.S. 101 between Port Orford and 10 miles north of Bandon, you’ll notice what appears to be reddish-tinged ground in flood-irrigated fields. If you get closer, you’ll see cranberries, small evergreen bushes that creep along the ground and send out runners that take root. Along the runners, upright branches 6–8 inches long hold pink flowers and, later, deep red fruit.
These berries are cultivated in bogs to satisfy their tremendous need for water and to protect them against insects and winter cold. Bandon leads Oregon in this crop, with an output ranking third in the nation. Oregon berries are often used in cranberry juice production by Ocean Spray because of their deep red pigment and high vitamin C content.
It is possible to arrange a visit to see some of these bogs — the most interesting time is during the late autumn harvest. Faber Farms (519 Morrison Rd., Bandon, 541/347-1166) offers free tours through bogs 10 a.m.–4 p.m. Monday–Saturday June–mid-November. A sweeter encounter can be found at Cranberry Sweets (1st St. and Chicago St., Bandon, 800/527-5748, 9 a.m.–5:30 p.m. daily). For sale are confections ranging from cranberry fudge to cranberry truffles.
Oregon bogs were producing wild cranberries when Lewis and Clark first traded with the Indians for them in 1805. Shortly thereafter, cultivated bogs were developed in Massachusetts, which, like Oregon, has acidic soils with lots of organic materials conducive to berry production. By the time of the California gold rush of 1849, East Coast growing and harvesting techniques had transformed Bandon’s marshes into commercial cranberry bogs.
In the years to come, much of the modern equipment for harvesting these bogs was developed in Bandon. Wet-picking, for instance, is facilitated by the water reel, which is rotated to create eddies on the bog to shake berries off the vines. After they float to the surface, the cranberries are pushed by long booms toward a submerged hopper. They are then transferred by conveyor belt onto trucks.
Walking through the bogs without trampling the berries is possible by fastening wooden platforms with short pegs to the soles of boots.
by Judy Jewell and W. C. McRae from Moon Oregon, 8th Edition, © Elizabeth & Mark Morris and Avalon Travel