Book Review: The Oregon Coast

The Oregon Coast, by Ray Atkeson, text by Archie Satterfield

Fortunately, this book mostly has what its intended reading audience would appreciate, namely beautiful photographs of the Oregon coast in this classic coffee table book [1] published in Portland in 1972.  There is some text in the book, which mostly defends a certain environmentalist ideal, and includes some comments casting aspersion on the coastal management of other West Coast states and also insulting sportsmen who supposedly lured some elk off a state park and into a private area where they met their reward of becoming future elk steaks.  That said, when the most irksome and irritating part of a book consists of a reasonable appeal for a balanced approach to competing interests along the Oregon coast, this is an excellent book overall.  And as someone who appreciates the Oregon coast myself [2], even if it did take me a long while to explore it after moving to Oregon, this book offers some good reasons why we should appreciate the coast of our state even if it is frequently cold and stormy.  There is beauty to be found among the storms of life.

The contents of this book are relatively straightforward.  After a preface there is about thirty pages of beautiful photographs followed by some text about the Northern coast of Oregon, about thirty more pages of photographs, some text about the Central coast of Oregon, another thirty pages or so of photographs about that section of coast, some text about the Southern coast of Oregon, more photographs of that coastline, and a short epilogue presenting an anecdote about children wondering if the entire beach will be fenced off.  The coastal photography includes a wide variety of natural and human sights ranging from the action of waves, the dunes near Florence, the sight of elk feeding on grass below a snow-topped peak in the Coastal range, boats rushing in from the sea before a storm, and what was perhaps the most touching scene for me, a small deer transfixed by the sight of a glorious sunset.  Most people are going to like this book, if they like this book, because of its photographs and it is good that the author realizes this and keeps text a minimum aside from the explanatory captions that describe where various photos were taken.

This book comes with a clear conservationist message, as the photographer’s efforts almost scream out to the reader to protect the beauty that is being shown on the page.  Even more than forty years after the book was published, this book holds up as a gorgeous reminder of Oregon’s immense treasure of fierce natural beauty.  In fact, this book is itself an example of the fact that the best way to advocate for the preservation of natural beauty is to show that beauty rather than tell.  When people talk about conservation it is easy to show the cost of such efforts and given the great deal of mistrust that some people have for our government agencies, the efforts of people to save the sights of the beautiful photos in this book are likely to garner more goodwill than the writing of many politically minded people.  This is a lesson for people today–we would do far better with more photographers and less protesting.  It is a shame that this book did not pave the way for more efforts of its kind, because instead of seeing more gorgeous books of Oregon’s beauty, we have hipsters protesting in Portland every time something does not go their way politically speaking, unfortunately.  We would be better off, a lot better off, with books like this one showing the gorgeous creation we in the Pacific Northwest get to enjoy if we choose.

[1] See, for example:

[2] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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7 Responses to Book Review: The Oregon Coast

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