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Rocking out in Bandon

Bandon’s rocks rock.

I’ve viewed the rocky islands off the beaches south of Bandon before, but the views have usually been from overlooks, including Face Rock State Park — views taken too quickly while moving on to other destinations.

That changed recently when a friend and I spent three days traipsing along Bandon’s beaches, focusing on those that front the islands of Face Rock and Bullard’s Beach State parks — islands with names like Fish Rock, Table Rock, Cat Rocks, Elephant Rock and Face Rock.

Spreading out beach walks over multiple days permitted a variety of experiences. High tides kept us from wandering around some of the small islands, or sea stacks, close to shore. But during low tides we and other beach walkers meandered around exposed mazes of the erratically formed rock formations. Adding to the enjoyment and changing mood were sun-filled days, which helped offset the often chilling daytime breezes, but even more resulted in brilliant, sky-flaming sunsets.

Our beach walks began from two directions, which provided different perspectives. From Bandon State Park, three access points lead to the beach and the ragged area known as the Devil’s Kitchen and Fish Rock. It’s also a short walk from the Face Rock State Park overlook to the beach and its cluster of prominent rocks sea stacks. And from the town of Bandon, a place to enjoy fresh seafood and art galleries, the offshore delights include flat-topped Table Rock, which was noisy with seagulls and cormorants, and Elephant Rock, so-named because it, with a vivid sense of imagination, appears like a huge, big-eared elephant.

From Bandon or beaches farther south, the island that draws the most attention is Face Rock, which received its name because the rocks resemble an uplifted face.

Although details of various tellings of the legend vary, a Coquille Tribe legend says the face belongs to Ewauna, the beautiful daughter of Chief Siskiyou. He and his daughter had traveled to the coast, where he was being honored with a potlach feast. And feast it was, with great quantities of mussels and clams, eight fat bears, 100 salmon, the meat of deer and elk.

Guards watched for Seatka, the ocean’s evil spirit. Ewauna, who had never seen the ocean, was warned of evil Seatka but ignored their warnings. After the feast, with most drunk from food, Ewauna strayed from the celebrants, taking her dog and her cat and kittens in the moonlit night, wanting to see and swim in the ocean. But once in the water she was snatched by Seatka. The kittens, who were in a basket by Ewauna, were batted from her hands. As they floated away, their heads just above the surface, they were immediately turned to stone, stones now known as Cat and Kitten rocks. Ewauna’s dog, Komax, who had made cries of danger to warn Ewauna, bit Seatka when he grabbed his mistress, but he was thrown off toward shore.

Again, versions vary. Some say Seatka woke Siskiyou that night, some say the next morning. But what he saw was Ewauna turned to stone, still — and now forever — gazing skyward.

Knowing that if she looked in his eyes she would be under his control, Ewauna averted her glance. Some versions say she focused on the North Star, others the moon. Either way, her gaze continues these centuries later, as Face Rock.

Reach freelance writer Lee Juillerat at 337lee337@charter.net or 541-880-4139.

The Cat and Kitten rocks remain as memories off the shore of Bandon. Photo by Lee Juillerat
The beautiful Ewauna, now Face Rock, forever looks to the sky. Photo by Lee Juillerat