Area B/Fort Stevens
Area B is located in Fort Stevens State Park on the very northwest coast of Oregon. Bordered by the Columbia River Jetty on the north and Camp Rilea nearly 6 miles to the south, Area B is the collective name for the following sites from north to south: Area B, Area A, the Iredale (shipwreck), Delaura Beach, and the north part of Camp Rilea.
Find your way to the northwest end of Oregon, and follow the signs to Fort Stevens. From Ridge Road, take Jetty Road west and follow it to Area B. Jetty Road is the 'middle' entrance to the park. (If you are coming from the north, turn left at the four way stop onto Jetty Rd. That's probably the most common missed turn.)
'Area B' comes from the state park area naming conventions. Near the very north end of the park about 3/4 mile beyond Area A, you will find Area B. (Be sure to visit the viewing platform at Area C and bird blind and river views at Area D while you are there.)
While the entire 9 mile length of the dune has only been flown a few of times, the northernmost 2 miles, from the Jetty to the middle of Area A, as well as the 2 mile section from the Iredale to Delaura Beach, form the primary flying areas, with Area B the most popular place to launch in the winter, and at the Iredale in the summer months (when it works).
The highest and easiest part of the dune to soar is at Area B which works best is a WSW wind of about 12-14 mph. In stronger and more westerly winds, the Iredale, and even Delaura Beach have frequently provided great soaring back and forth, doing wagas, and 'high fiving' the kids on the beach. All of these areas require good ground handling skills, and some different approaches to soaring. The highest flights here have ranged up to approximately 75' on perfect days. (Yes, that's a two digit number!) Most of the time, 50' high and lower keeps you flying very close to the terrain. While this teaches brilliant control of the wing, both on the ground and in the air, it can be a bit frustrating for those that are out of their element in the stronger winds.
Normal launch procedure is to inflate the glider on the beach and then either kite your wing up the dune, or to launch directly from the beach by running along the base of the dune with the glider in the lift band.
This is a predominantly pre and post frontal site, with the best flying coming either just before, or right after a passing low pressure system. While it has worked on higher pressure days, the winds have to be stronger to get the same amount of lift. Important, when the winds need to be at 10 mph or above to soar.
'Few Showers' to 'Scattered Showers' are ideal forecasts for Area B. The showers tend to be brief when they come through, and quite often you can fly until just before it rains, stuff the gear in the car to wait out the squall, then be flying again 10 minutes after the cell passes. There tends to be a lot of blue sky on days like this.
Conveniently, there is an online weather station less than 1/4 mile from the main soaring at Area B. Here is the link:
Also useful are the offshore buoys found here:
These sites have been immeasurable help in deciding when to go there and fly.
This site has proven time and again to be a great place to fly on those days when the higher sites tend to be too strong or risky given the instability of the day. It can be very reassuring to be able to be on the ground in 10 seconds if you see an unexpected gust of wind coming.
Since you are commonly flying close to the dune, back protection and helmets are recommended. Light harnesses with speed bar, but without reserves, are also recommended.
Tides are a serious concern. During the winter months, the highest tides can easily be splashing the base of the dune. This accounts for the annual variations in the shape of the dune, but remove all possibility of safe flying during the highest tides.
Keep an eye on the surf! If you are playing after a stormy event, (some of the best soaring happens then), sneaker waves can be dangerous. They can sneak up from behind you and grab you and your wing and drag you in. Don't fly when the high tide is near the dune!
From Area B north, the dune has a 'razor back' nature and can provide for some painful landings if you get blown over the back. South of Area B, the dune progresses to a nearly flat top provides a much safer option in the strongest winds.
Logs and debris. During the winter months, a new batch of logs/debris invariably washes up. Oddly they all seem to congregate in one area or another. If the beach is too littered where you are, try one of the other locations. Again, Area B and south of the Iredale are normally the most 'log free' areas.
Soaring tips: (Odd things that are different when soaring so close to the ground.)
When the wind is fairly cross, it can actually be easier to stay up flying downwind that upwind. (It's a lot safer/easier to fly upwind although!)
To launch and make the turn downwind takes a special trick. Instead of waiting until you are flying to start the turn downwind, do it before you leave the ground. This will save you valuable altitude and keep you in the lift band once the turn is completed. To do this, run towards the outside of your turn, as you are braking on the inside. Time it just right, and an aggressive run will put you into the air just as you are finishing the turn.
Practice your landings before turning downwind! Make sure you know the turn radius of your glider and how much altitude it takes to make the turn back upwind.
Don't get blown over the back in strong winds!
If you find a patch or air that is going up, turn out! (Turn immediately away from the ridge.) You have probably blundered into one of our tiny thermals that lift you up into the stronger wind layer and set you up for being blown over the back.
On days with 'thermal' lift, the lift can be better (at least as good) over the base of the dune as compared to over the top.
From the month of May 1st to September 15th, driving on the beach is prohibited north of the Iredale. This plays a major factor in deciding where to fly during the summer months. If you have a selection of wings/gear to fly/play with, the Iredale can be the better choice. If you only have one wing/kite/buggy/ect., then Area B becomes an easier choice.
Realistically though, wind direction and strength should be the biggest factor in choosing your place to fly. Study the map of the area and see the slight crescent shape of the dune. Pick the spot where the wind is coming in the straightest. Oftentimes, a drive down the beach will help to pick out the best spot for the conditions of the day.
Trying to soar with a extra large or tandem glider on light days doesn't work well as the longer lines tend to put the larger glider out of the lift band. (Or put the pilot on the ground.) They turn too slowly as well.
Feel free to contact Brad or Maren at Discover Paragliding for a local opinion about the current conditions, or for training in the specific techniques to maximize flight time at this great location.
Submitted by Brad and Maren November 18, 2010