Pistol River, Pistol River State Park

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Pistol River, Pistol River State Park

by | Dec 17, 2019

The Pistol River is a coastal stream that meanders for 21 miles (34 km) through the Southern Oregon Coast Range to the Pacific Ocean near the community of Pistol River, about 10 miles (16 km) south of Gold Beach, Oregon. In 1853, James Mace, a militia soldier, lost a pistol in the river in a skirmish with local Native American tribes, and the river has since been known as the Pistol River.

The river flows generally southwest from its origin near Sugarloaf Mountain in the Siskiyou National Forest to Pistol River State Park where it enters the sea. Pistol River State Park is set in the dunes of the southern Oregon coast. The river has changed its course numerous times in recent history and resulting pothole ponds attract waterfowl and shorebirds. The river supports populations of chinook and coho salmon, steelhead, and coastal cutthroat trout. The river flows generally through forests where industrial logging has damaged fish habitat, and work to restore the habitat is ongoing.

In March of 1856, a decisive battle of the Rogue River Wars was fought here called the Battle of Pistol River. A group of 34 volunteers was besieged in an improvised log fortress for several days by Rogue River and Pistol River warriors. The Rogue River Wars were an armed conflict in 1855–1856 between the U.S. Army, local militias and volunteers, and the Native American tribes commonly grouped under the designation of Rogue River Indians. This was preceded by numerous skirmishes, as early as the 1830s, between European-American settlers and Native Americans over territory and resources. Following the war, the United States removed the Tolowa people and other tribes to reservations in Oregon and California. In central coastal Oregon, the Tillamook, Siletz and about 20 other tribes were placed with Tolowa people at what is now known as the Siletz Reservation, located on land along the Siletz River about 15 miles (24 km) northeast of Newport, Oregon. Read more here and here. Explore more of the Pistol River here:

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