We blew into Winchester Bay on a lazy Thursday afternoon at the invitation of Joe Mirvis of the Reedsport/Winchester Bay Chamber of Commerce. Backed by a small army of volunteers and assistants, Joe organized Dunefest 2009 and in a few days turned the very small, Oregon towns of Reedsport and Winchester Bay into very much larger towns, with thousands arriving for the event.
Driving down Salmon Harbor Boulevard, which grants access from the North to the Oregon Dunes Recreation Area, we passed through a series of checkpoints and traffic control points into the event site. Workers stopped traffic to allow quads and other sand toys safe passage over the road that snakes its way through the dunes.
The Oregon Dunes are sandwiched between the Pacific Ocean and small coastal mountains. The tree-covered shoulders of these mountains descend towards the Pacific, giving way to deep sand, forming dunes which afford clear views of the beaches from the seat of your sandrail or dirt bike. The region boasts around forty miles of dunes to explore either via ORV or on foot. This is the largest area of coastal sand dunes in North America.
The week-long event, which seemed a bit long upon hearing of its duration, was actually a welcomed surprise. Five days definitely lends a leisurely more vacation-like pace to the event. Though there is plenty happening each day, there is opportunity to wind down on the beach or just cruise the dunes.
An aspect of Dunefest that sets it apart is mélange of other things to do on the Oregon coast. It's very easy to base yourself at one of the many campgrounds near the event and explore the mountains, rivers and beaches of Western Oregon. From whale watching or fishing to ripping it up in the sand, there is more than enough to entertain a family or crew of friends for a week.
We would have liked to have seen more street legal off-road toys out there (like some fullsize trucks!) but this specific event caters more to vehicles with a green sticker. That doesn't mean you can't go invade and have a great time in your 4x4! Maybe next year's event will have a bunch of OFF-ROAD readers taking over Dunefest in trucks! And if not during Dunefest, the Oregon sand dunes are open all year long for you to visit