One of the lesser known gems of the Oregon Coast is the Otter Crest Loop, a scenic road that was once an alignment of US 101
between Depoe Bay
. The Otter Crest Loop takes you past incredible coastal views, a gorgeous historical arch bridge, sweeping cliffs and beach communities, just within a span of 4.2 miles. The Otter Crest Loop winds just west of the highway and offers a leisurely chance to experience the views from Cape Foulweather, along with a stop at Devils Punchbowl, one of the more interesting geological formations on the Oregon Coast. I recently checked out the Otter Crest Loop during a trip to the Oregon Coast, driving southbound. I'll recommend driving this road going southbound, as this will allow you to explore all parts of the Otter Crest Loop. Let's take a little tour, shall we?
One of the first things that you will encounter along the Otter Crest Loop is the Ben Jones Bridge, which was originally named the Rocky Creek Bridge. Designed by famed bridge engineer Conde McCullough
(he designed many of the famed art deco bridges
along the Oregon Coast) and named after Ben Jones, who is known as the “Father of Highway 101” for his work on legislation regarding the creation of US 101's predecessor, the Roosevelt Military Highway, during the 1910s. There is a small pulloff for a few cars here, where you can check out the bridge and even watch the waves roll in from the ocean.
|Ben Jones Bridge (also known as the Rocky Creek Bridge)|
|Some views from the overlook at the Ben Jones Bridge. Look how close the bridge gets to the Pacific Ocean.|
|Watching the waves roll in from the ocean...|
|Then those waves crash along the cliffs near the viewpoint.|
|Another view of the Ben Jones Bridge|
Continuing south, the road gets narrower, and eventually becomes an one way road, with only southbound traffic. The twisting, winding road that we now call the Otter Crest Loop was originally part of US 101 when it opened during the 1920s. But in the 1950s, when the modern alignment of US 101 was built, state officials actually cordoned off the Otter Creek Loop and abandoned it. However, in 1956, locals protested enough that it was reopened as a scenic drive. This was, of course, when it was still a two way road. You may notice quickly after the Ben Jones Bridge that this becomes a one way road, only for southbound traffic. In the 1990s, two major landslides here finally took their toll on the Otter Crest Loop and the roadway started to shrink considerably. The western, or seaward side of the road had retreated several feet. The second landslide caused a van to slide down the muddy sludge, causing a the man and his son inside to get out of the van and crawl their way back up to the road.
After that, for a number of years, this stretch of the Otter Creek Loop was just a footpath and was blocked off by a concrete barrier. Work was delayed on it for a long time and then proceeded slowly once work began. This was a surreal chapter in the road's history. It didn’t take long for nature to start reclaiming that spot. By the late 1990s, this hiking-only road became more and more covered by fir needles and drifting soil. Finally, in the early 2000s it was reopened again, this time only big enough for one lane, with some space dedicated for bikers and hikers.
|The end of the two way section.|
|A rather tame section of one way roadway.|
|Which goes through some narrow bits. I cannot envision why this stretch of the Otter Crest Loop was ever more than one way.|
|It certainly gets close to the edge.|
|Not much is separating the Otter Crest Loop with the steep and high cliff over the Pacific Ocean. Just some guide rail, but as you will see, the views are incredible.|
|That's Cape Foulweather, which is perched 500 feet above the Pacific Ocean. Cape Foulweather was named by Captain James Cook in 1778, during his exploration for a northwest passage from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean. The weather was dismal the day that Captain Cook sailed by, which led to the naming of Cape Foulweather.|
|The weather certainly wasn't foul on this Veteran's Day that I drove on the Otter Crest Loop. It was sunny and close to 70 degrees Fahrenheit on this day in the middle of November, so I will accept that.|
|Not much separating me from the ocean. That's a steep drop off!|
|At the turn off for Cape Foulweather. Turn right to see the famed cape. Turn left to go back to US 101, or go straight to continue on the Otter Crest Loop towards Otter Rock and the Devils Punchbowl. Somehow, I continued on instead of seeing the famed cape first. I made up for it by stopping at Devils Punchbowl|
|Back on the southern two way portion of Otter Crest Loop, which has no imminent danger of falling off a cliff.|
Just a few blocks away from the Otter Crest Loop is Devils Punchbowl State Natural Area
, which I feel is worth the detour from the scenic road. It is said that the Devils Punchbowl
is about 18 million years old and was formed when two sea caves eroded into one larger sea cave. Nowadays, you can go there to see scenic views, the awesome effect that nature has on our coastlines and even watch some surfers ride the waves at a nearby beach. You may even spot the Yaquina Head Lighthouse
in the distance to the south.
After the detour to Devils Punchbowl, I headed back to the Otter Crest Loop and headed south, where the old road quickly joined back with US 101 on my way to Newport. The Otter Crest Loop certainly proved to be an enjoyable little ride for me.
How to Get There:
Sources and Links:
BeachConnection.net - Otter Crest Loop, Oregon Coast
BeachConnection.net - Ben Jones Bridge Viewpoint near Depoe Bay
Coast Explorer - Otter Crest Loop