Originally inhabited by the Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indian Tribes, Winchester bay was first seen by Spanish and British explorers in the late sixteenth century. In the early 1700's contact became more frequent between the traders and the local Tribes and by 1791 the Lower Umpqua Indian Tribe was conducting trade with ships stopping at the mouth of the Umpqua River. In 1828, conflict arose between the Umpqua Indians and fur trapper Jedediah Smith, which resulted in the loss of several of Smith's men.
The fur trapping and trading business continued to grow in the Winchester Bay area and in 1836 the Hudson's Bay Company established the trading fort, Fort Umpqua several miles upriver in what is known today as Elkton.
Now an unincorporated community of the city of Reedsport, Winchester Bay was originally known as a trading point called West Umpqua before being named in 1850 after Herman Winchester, a member of an expedition out of San Francisco. Winchester Bay was the original County Seat for Douglas County, but due to popular vote the town lost its status in 1854 when Deer Creek (known today as Roseburg) was voted to be the new County Seat. At this time, many of the local businesses left Winchester Bay and relocated to Roseburg.
The Dean Creek Elk Viewing Area located just a few miles east of Reedsport and Winchester Bay is a beautiful place to stop and take in the magnificent beauty of wild Roosevelt Elk. The herd consists of approximately 150 elk on a 1000 acre reserve and can be viewed year round. Reedsport is home to the Umpqua Discovery Center located on the banks of the Umpqua River.
Located within the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, a 50 mile stretch of sand dunes that includes hiking trails, beaches, fishing, swimming, horseback riding, ATV access, and 30 lakes, and several campgrounds, Winchester Bay is home to a variety of activities.
Winchester Bay provides several access points for fishing and crabbing from the jettys or docks of the bay and Salmon Harbor Marina. Clamming for mussels, softshell, bay, butter, cockie and gaper clams is also a popular sport in the Bay. You will find easy access to the famous Oregon Dunes as well as camping sites for your ATV fun. The historic Umpqua River Lighthouse offers tours in the summer months and supplies spectacular views of the bay and the Pacific Ocean all year round. From this point it is even possible to see the whales as they migrate past Oregon beaches on their trek from the Arctic Sea to Baja California and back again. The bay area also has ocean beach access, wind surfing on the river and great kite flying beaches. Winchester Bay provides the perfect Oregon Coast experience all in one small little package.