Seven miles east of Waldport  are the nearly 5,800 acres of the Drift Creek Wilderness, which protects the Coast Range’s largest remaining stands of old-growth rain forest. Here you can see giant Sitka spruce and western hemlock hundreds of years old, nourished by up to 120 inches of rain per year.
These trees are the “climax forest” in the Douglas fir ecosystem. They seldom reach old-growth status because the timber industry tends to replant only fir seedlings after logging operations. There is also perhaps the largest population of spotted owls in the state, along with bald eagles, Roosevelt elk, and black bears.
Drift Creek sustains wild runs of chinook, steelhead, and coho salmon, which come up the Alsea River.
Steep ridges and their drainages, as well as small meadows, make up the topography, which is accessed via a couple of hiking trails. The trailhead closest to Waldport is the 3.5-mile Harris Ranch Trail (Siuslaw National Forest Waldport Ranger Station, 541/563-3211, www.fs.fed.us/r6/siuslaw/recreation/tripplanning ), which descends 1,200 feet to a meadow near Drift Creek.
The local access to Harris Ranch Trail and the conjoining Horse Creek Trail is via Highway 34; turn north off 34 at the Alsea River crossing seven miles east of Waldport . Here, pick up Risely Creek Road (Forest Service Rd. 3446) and Forest Service Road 346 to the trailhead.