Why Coos Bay? Four Reasons...

December 2014. When my wife Kasey and I went searching for the best place to live we cast our net wide. We didn't want to struggle with shifting OR: South Coast Region, Coos County, Coos Bay Area, City of Coos Bay, Waterfront Boardwalk, Welcome sign [Ask for #271.118.] our furniture to the other side of the globe, but everything else was on the table. We evaluated places by four factors that mean a lot to us: weather, beautiful scenery, urbanity, and reasonable cost of living. Hot weather, snow, high costs, high taxes, too rural, too suburban — one by one, locations got knocked off the list. Ultimately it wasn't even close. Coos Bay, Oregon was the winner, and there was no runner-up.

Reason One: The Land of Perpetual AutumnOR: South Coast Region, Coos County, Coos Bay Area, Cape Arago Area, Cape Arago State Park, Cliff view [Ask for #271.157.] 

Autumn is our favorite time of year, and autumn never leaves the Oregon coast. The ocean currents that cool and moderate the entire Pacific coast level out at perfection in Oregon: never too warm, not too cold, not too wet, not too dry. Summer afternoons are typically dry and sunny with highs the sixties and seventies, while in winter the highs are mainly in the forties or fifties. Hot summer weather and cold winter freezes are equally rare. Way over on the Atlantic coast this is the sort of weather we get for the three best months in a good year, but autumn lasts forever at Coos Bay.

Reason Two: Not Too Small ... Not Too Big

It takes more than bunches of people to give a place an urban character. You need good places to eat, nice shops, a handsome downtown, an attractive waterfront, interesting parks, and an atmosphere that working artists find nourishing. We lived for four years in the vast subtopia that surrounds Washington DC, and trust me when I tell you that Coos Bay is 'way more urbane than that endless stretch of franchises and planned developments. When a small city serves as the center of a large, lightly populated area — the way Coos Bay does — it will have a surprising sophistication, far in excess of its size.

Mind you, Coos Bay is no playground for the one percent. It's a working town with a large, active port. Several ships a day stop at the various docks to load raw timber, stacked high on deck.OR: South Coast Region, Coos County, Coos Bay Area, City of Coos Bay, Waterfront Boardwalk, Fishermen's Seafood Market floats just off the boardwalk, offering fresh local fish [Ask for #271.117.] One of the docks is right in the center of North Bend, a happy throwback to the days when towns once gathered around their ports. There are two commercial fishing docks as well, one in downtown Coos Bay and the other on the far side of the penisula, at Charleston, with fresh catch for sale at both. This is a different type of urban-ness, the sort that comes from being a place where ordinary families settle to earn a living.OR: South Coast Region, Coos County, Coos Bay Area, City of North Bend, Waterfront, Logs are loaded onto an ocean-going ship; panoramic view. [Ask for #271.159.] 

OR: South Coast Region, Coos County, Bandon Area, Town of Bandon, Coquille River Mouth, South Jetty, Large hoodoos emerge from the beach and ocean at South Jetty County Park [Ask for #271.150.]How big, then, is Coos Bay? The incorporated city of that name occupies the southern part of the peninsula that separates the bay from the ocean, and had about 16,000 people in 2010. The incorporated town of North Bend takes up the northern half (including the airport and the weather station, so it gets the weather forecasts), and had nearly 13,000 people. The 2010 Census counted another 9,000 people in the unincorporated areas immediately surrounding these towns. All in all, the Coos Bay urban area had about 38,000 people in 2010. That's a good size, not too small and not too big.

Reason Three: Natural Beauty and Outdoor Recreation

The massive Oregon Dunes sweep southward for forty miles to the mouth of Coos Bay, a National Recreation Area spacious enough to absorb ORV and nature lovers alike. Its 500 foot dunes shelter campgrounds, picnic areas, beaches, boat ramps, and both hiking and horseback trails. Behind the dunes, streams blocked by the drifting sands have pooled up into large freshwater lakes. South of the bay, the cliffs of Cape Arago shelter sea lions and seals and host three state parks, a county park, and a lighthouse. Further south, beaches and cliffs meet at Bandon, with impressive hoodoos, protected by a state park, a county park, and a national wildlife refuge.

OR: South Coast Region, Coos County, Coos Bay Area, Cape Arago Area, Sunset Bay State Park, Cliffs [Ask for #271.152.]Mountains rise straight up from the sea. By western standards these are small mountains, about the size of the Pennsylvania or Virginia linear ridges with 1,500 feet of local relief. They are quite a jumble, and discerning any pattern or trend is pretty tricky. They are owned by large timber operations — private companies, the Bureau of Land Management, and Elliott State Forest — and lack the paths and backcounty you'd expect to find in a multiple use area. There are nevertheless waterfalls to explore, backroads with deep forests and dramatic views, and some lovely river valleys. Ninety minutes south of Coos Bay lies the Rogue River Valley, one of the coast's premier wilderness and whitewater destinations.

Reason Four: Affordable Cost of LivingOR: South Coast Region, Coos County, Coos Bay Area, City of Coos Bay, Empire District, View west over Coos Bay towards Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, from the deck of a vacation rental [Ask for #271.111.] 

This is pretty straightforward. Places that offer access to power and prestige — rich cities, successful resorts — charge a premium for it, and you have to pay that premium whether or not you care. Compared to the Washington DC area, Coos Bay allows us to shave a thousand dollars a month off our housing costs and perhaps another thousand off our other living expenses, with no sacrifice of quality. Of course, we give up the possibility of ever attending an opening night at the Kennedy Center ... not that we'd go if we had a chance. Opening night at the Coos Art Museum will be a lot more fun. OR: South Coast Region, Coos County, Coos Bay Area, Coos River Mountains, Gold and Silver Falls State Park, Silver Falls, panorama [Ask for #271.135.] 

Bonus Reason: Nostalgia

If you are over sixty you may dimly remember a time where cities were compactly built and linked together with two-lane highways that ran from one town center to the next. If you do you may also remember people strolling downtown to do their shopping.

And if you've lived your entire life in Coos Bay you are probably thinking I am nuts. Remember what? That's the way things are now. This is a place where the suburbs never happened.

OR: South Coast Region, Coos County, Long, narrow map of the Coos Bay coast, with land areas transparent. Shows Reedsport to Bandon, with Coos Bay, North Bend, Charleston, Coquille, and Lakeside. [Ask for #990.103.] 
 
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