The Overland Monthly/Series 2/Volume 23/Northern Seaside Resorts

From the February 1894 issue


LOOKED at from the Western ocean, the shore of our continent presents a generally mountainous outline, the Coast Range, as it is called, being thrown up at no great distance from the sea, while in many places it laves its feet in the surf. The altitude of these mountains is not great,—about two thousand feet, with here and there a peak of sufficient elevation to merit and receive a particular appellation. The coasting steamers in good weather run so close in shore as to afford a view of these hills, which on the coast of northern California, of Oregon, and of Washington, approach very near the ocean, having long green ridges stretching down from their summits, separated by rugged ravines crowded with trees of many species. In some higher altitudes are seen large bodies of timber of the different pine families, redwood, fir, cedar, and spruce*; the more open hillsides being dotted with oaks, invariably contorted by the prevailing winds. Near the beaches may be found the Pinas contorta, which, when it has secured a sheltered place takes the liberty of growing straight.

From a vessel's deck are frequently seen herds of cattle grazing on the grass and herbage kept succulent throughout the year by the mists which the trade winds daily drive over them. This condition, united to the cool mildness of the climate, makes the western side.of the Coast mountains a region favorable for dairying, as it is for cattle-raising and lumbering. The soil, which is excellent, produces vegetables and fruit in perfection. But owing to the rough and broken character of the mountains, communication between the coast and the interior is difficult. Good harbors affording sea approaches are rare, and owing to these joint obstacles to settlement, an otherwise delightful portion of the Northwest is but slowly coming into favor. This reserve made by Nature of some of her choicest demesnes is really a matter on which we may congratulate ourselves. Time enough when the fatness of the valleys has jostled their own rightful denizens out of place, to explore these magnificent sea frontages for homes, where the absence of fatness is more than compensated by the presence of grandeur united to beauty, and where intrusiveness is discountenanced by the impossibilities of the place itself.

A summer spent in visiting the seaside resorts between the forty-fourth and forty-seventh degrees of north latitude will give a good knowledge of the peculiarities of the northern coast, and of the pleasures to be enjoyed at this distance from the tropics. It is true the attractions do not cease or diminish still farther north, but may be found all about the Straits of Fuca, the Fucan Sea, and the Gulf of Georgia; but for the purposes of this article I prefer to keep within certain limits.

To begin with Astoria is unavoidable if you have entered Oregon by any of the overland routes, or by the mouth of the Columbia. In either of these cases you have the opportunity of adorning the chambers of your memory with more noble and beautiful views than it will often fall to your lot to find in one hundred miles of travel, as you steam from the mouth of the Wallamet to the city by the sea named after the New York fur trader.

Astoria is not in a strict sense a seaside place. It is, on the contrary, ten or twelve miles inside the bar of the Columbia, and fronts the Washington shore of the river, which is here half a dozen miles in breadth, with a volume that makes it resemble an inland sea. The town is built upon the side of a steep point formed by a deep inlet where the waters of Young’s River unite with the Columbia, except that part of it which is supported upon piles, and consists of wharves and fishing establishments, a by no means small portion of this municipality. The residences fringe streets that pursue wavering lines over greater and lesser hills to the summit of the point, or which run parallel with the river. But while the unpracticed pedestrian is compelled to stop to get his wind quite often in exploring Astoria, he is rewarded for his exhausted oxygen by the grandeur of the view he takes in while he recovers his breath. It is not my intention to attempt a description of the scenery about the mouth of the Columbia, the object of this article being to suggest to the readers of the Overland the pleasures awaiting them when they come to spy out this part of the Pacific frontage for themselves.

As I have said, Astoria is not strictly a seaside resort, yet it has some of the features of one. It is a sort of capital for all the several resorts in the vicinity; and many persons prefer the partly inland climate to that of the coast. Perched on the covered balcony of a west-end house, one may pass the whole day in idle enjoyment of the scene before him, which, as a river view, is unsurpassed anywhere in the world. To be at its best, however, the day should be in July, after the rainy season is past, and when the summer flood of the Columbia has gone out over the bar, leaving the blue beauty of this majestic stream unclouded by dissolving mud-banks, and undisfigured by drift. On such a day you may swing in your hammock, or recline at ease in your extension chair, and mock at weariness, while your eyes wander dreamily from Tongue Point to the Capes, finding ever something new and ideally charming in the panorama. Perhaps the prettiest scene of the day is when the fishing boats start down the river, a hundred or more at one time, their white sails flashing like birds' wings against the blue of the river, or momentarily catching a ruddy tint as the sunset light flares up behind Cape Disappointment, tinging the ripples that dance about their bows. Into the midst of this white-winged fleet every now and then forges the long black steamship just in over the bar from coastwise or foreign ports, trailing after it its longer black streamer of coal-smoke, and saluting the custom-house with a harmless shot as it passes our balcony. Our dreaminess turns to curiosity then, and our handkerchiefs flutter as the passengers, glad to be in from the sea, regard us with friendly gaze. Perhaps we take a stroll down along the wharves and search among the arrivals for a familiar face.

As everyone has read Irving's Astoria, it is quite the thing to seek to know the location of Astor’s old fort; but it is now built over, and the little cove where the Dolly was put together and launched, in front of it, is also so disguised by piling and plank roadways as to be unrecognizable. For reference you turn to your latest edition, and smile as you read of Duncan McDougal's espousal of the daughter of King Comcomly of the Clatsops, trying to fancy the scenes enacted here over eighty years ago.

One feature of the great river is that it seldom releases him who falls into its embrace; and so it happened that one of the partners of the Northwestern Company, to which Astor's interests were sold out, was drowned in crossing it not long after the transfer. A visit to the cemetery on the hill above the town will reward us with a look at the oldest tomb of civilized man in all this Northwest. The stone is somewhat crumbled and moss-grown, but the inscription is still legible, and reads:

MAY 22d, 1814.

From this hill you obtain a very satisfactory view of that part of the Coast Range which lies to the south and east of Astoria, and which throws up a group of peaks that, seen from the Columbia, seem to constitute a single massive mountain, and is known to most persons as Saddle Mountain. Its true name is Necahnie; and it forms one of the most picturesque elevations in the mountainous regions of the Northwest, its blended outlines making a sharp peak at one extremity, a domed peak at the other, with a lower but greater bulk connecting them. In the foreground are the foothills covered with timber, descending gradually to the level of the sandy plains that abut upon the sea.

Astoria has no beach or speed tracks, no means, in fact, of touring for pleasure, except such as depend upon boating of some sort. Besides, except the passenger steamers which run on the river above this point, and during the summer "season" venture below as far as Fort Stevens on the Oregon side, or Fort Canby on the Washington side, there are only the sort of steamers called tugs available for passenger service. These inelegant but more seaworthy craft are made necessary by the heavy waves encountered about the mouth of the Columbia when the wind is fresh and the tide coming in against the current.

If we wish to get to the seaside from Astoria we embark in one of these tugs, either for Tansy Point where there is a railroad wharf, and where we take passage for different points on Clatsop Plains and Clatsop Beach; or we steam over to Baker's Bay on the north side of the river, and take a train there for points along Ilwaco Beach.

The Seaside, on Clatsop Beach, is the oldest fashionable summer resort on the Oregon coast. To the visitor who is curious about the history of a country, the Clatsop Plains are full of interest. Neither will the student who is not indifferent to how the world was made, is unmade, and made over again continually, fail to find this corner of Oregon interesting. The plains have been formed by the action of the sea and river, being a deposit of sand divided by lagoons and small lakes, a portion of the peninsula being still tide land. They extend from the Point Adams Lighthouse south about fifteen miles, and have a breadth of from one to seven miles. To the south the land rises gradually towards the Coast Mountains which are covered with timber, and which send down numerous streams into Young's Bay and the Pacific Ocean. One of these small rivers has a historic interest, as being the stream on which the United States explorers Lewis and Clarke wintered in 1805–06. To stand upon this spot inspires one to re-read the story of that winter, and strengthens the imagination to behold the discomforts of the party, detained not only by the weather in so cheerless a spot, but in spite of the weather having to hunt and dry the provisions which were to supply them on their homeward journey, to wade the lagoons, and carry home the carcasses of elk, deer, and bear, on their backs, or to make salt from sea-water to preserve the meat. What time they were not doing this, they were endeavoring to acquire enough of the Chinook language to enable them to obtain some information about the country from the squalid Clatsops that crowded their very limited quarters. It is a fact which surprises one that the chiefs who visited Lewis and Clarke could give them the name of every trading vessel which had up to that time been on the Northwest coast, with the name of its master.

One never fails to find in any Indian habitat legends to fit the topography of the country, and the most interesting one I have ever heard of in this region is, that away back in that remote past which forms the proper atmosphere of such talcs, a vessel which carried a large amount of treasure was driven ashore below the mouth of the Columbia, whose crew saved not only themselves but a box supposed to contain much riches. This box was taken to Mount Necahnie anti buried with great ceremony, one of the crew being slain and his bones placed on the casket to keep away the natives, whose superstition would not allow them to violate the burial-place of the white man. Like the story of Captain Kidd's buried treasure, this legend has induced several parties to search for the casket hidden on Mount Nechanie. So far, nothing has been discovered. Had any treasure been deposited, as related by the Indians, it would be interesting to know what became of the men who placed it in hiding. No record of their adventures has ever come to light, the nearest approach to an explanation being another story told by the Indians farther in the interior, who relate that a party of shipwrecked men many years ago had come up the Columbia and attempted to go overland to California, but had all been killed except one man named Soto, who was held a captive by the Cascade Indians until he was an old man, when he died.

Photo by Eldredge, Crescent City


There is nothing improbable in either of these tales, but indeed the evidences of an ancient wreck have frequently been found on Clatsop beach, in greater or lesser quantities of beeswax which had become imbedded in the sand. Some persons have mistaken this wax for a rare mineral. It is, however, often found in the manufactured forms, as, for instance, altar candles. The wick has rotted out, leaving the orifice filled with sand which is easily removed. This was, undoubtedly, part of a cargo intended for the early Spanish missions, and it may have been the crew of this wrecked galleon to which Soto and his shipmates belonged. The proverbial obliterating power ascribed to sand fails to apply at Clatsop, where a good deal of history of one sort and another is indelibly inscribed in this fugitive substance, and where may be seen the foundations of a village which was the home of a very primitive people who subsisted upon raw mollusks.

Photo by S. B. Crow


Photo by S. B. Crow


Three or four miles down the coast from Seaside is Tillamook Head, a high promontory which overhangs the sea; and about one mile out from this headland Tillamook Lighthouse, erected only a few years ago on a rock which seems designed by nature for such a purpose. The height of Tillamook Rock is eighty- eight feet,and of the tower forty-eight; yet in some winter storms bowlders of the size of cannon balls have been thrown quite over the top, such is the force of the waves which beat about its base. The party of nine men placed on the rock in October, 1879, to prepare the foundations of the lighthouse, first made a shelter for themselves by drilling holes in the rock, to which they fastened ringbolts with canvas tied to them as a temporary protection from winds and waves. The next step was to quarry out a sufficient space in a nook on one side for the erection of a shanty, which was bolted to the face of the cliff. They had then to cut stairs in the rock to reach the top, which, when leveled off, was about the size of a city lot. While excavating the stairs they were sometimes compelled to work on staging suspended from the top of the rock, with the brine dashing over them; and at other times the weather was such that on work could be done. But worse was to come, for in January huge waves dashed to the very top of the rock, and fell in masses of water on their canvas house, threatening to carry it away. By this storm their supplies were swept away, while for more than

two weeks there was no connection with the shore, no boat being able to come to their relief. They were at last rescued by a ship which passed near enough to be signaled, and which picked up a line cast from the summit of the rock. This line being fastened to the mast of the vessel, conveyed provisions to the prisoners of the sea. The corner stone of the lighthouse was laid in June, 1880, and in February, 1881, the light was kindled,—a month too late to save twenty lives that went out when the Lupata went ashore within a mile of Tillamook Head, and so close to the rock that the creaking of her blocks could be heard, with the voices of her officers. A bonfire was hastily built to warn off the vessel, but too late, and she went on the rocks. Such are the tragedies of the great deep.

To the ordinary pleasure-seeker the attractions of seaside are hunting on Tillamook mountains, fishing in the pretty rivers Neahcanicum, Elk, and Lewis and Clarke, with boating and bathing. Horses can be used to a considerable extent, but driving on the sandy or marshy plains is not much of a pastime, although there are some really fine farms in favorable situations, which make roads necessary, of rather primitive fashion.

Photo by Moores, Astoria


The beach at Seaside is not extensive, and is roughened by bowlders and driftwood, but is comparatively safe from the strong wind that sucks into the opening made by the Columbia, eighteen miles farther north. The climate here has the usual morning fog, or rain of mist, which redeems it from drought nearly all through the season, although the months of July, August, and September, are agreeably clear and mild all along the coast. Gearhart Park, a few miles north of Seaside, is a resort which has come into existence within a few years, and also into high favor. It is modeled after the plan of Pacific Grove in California, having a large hotel in modern style in connection with an extensive tract of woodland, which is sold in lots to those who prefer cottage homes of their own, or who annually encamp for a few weeks at this place. The approach to the beach at Gearhart Park is over shifting sand-dunes; but this difficulty is obviated by plank walks leading to the bathing places. The beach here seemed to me the least desirable of any on Clatsop Point, being too boldly exposed to the wind. But the grove, a fine piece of woodland, compensates for this defect. It has been cleared of underwood, and has walks laid out with a good taste which has not destroyed the effect of the natural forestry, but, on the contrary, reveals its beauties. As at Pacific Grove, the Chautauqua Association has an auditorium in this delightful retreat, on the steps of which I sat during an hour, enjoying the flickering sunshine falling between the branches of the noble old trees, and discussing with a friend, not literature, but ghosts! not of the uncanny kind, but those that, like the sunshine between the branches over our heads, flicker in and out of our consciousness at unexpected times, leaving a not unpleasant impression behind. A friend or two, some books, and the dolce far niente of this place, are sufficient means to a satisfactory summer holiday at Gearhart Park, although at the height of the season the latter feature is broken in upon by restless crowds in search of gayety rather than repose. Other places there are on Clatsop Plains, where one may find rest and contentment in close neighborhood to the sea, and where every summer may be found the inland population seeking it.

Photo by Mooers


On the north side of the Columbia are a number of resorts, to reach which from Astoria the tourist steams, as I have said, about a dozen miles to Baker's Bay, stopping at Fort Stevens en route. The jetty thrown out by the south channel of the Columbia has caused the north channel, close under Cape Disappointment, to be filled with the sand thrown over by the current of the river to the north side. This was formerly the entrance used by sailing vessels, which, in the early part of this century, came in under the shelter of the Cape and anchored in Baker's Bay, where they lay in safety. Now to get into the bay at all, with a steamer, requires care not to run down or run into a forest of piles placed in the shallow water about Sand Island for the convenience of the fishermen, who hang their enormous nets here to dry. As the seines are cast at night, and the fish taken to the canneries in the morning, one may sec during the afternoon many boats dancing on the tide, whose oarsmen are fast asleep in them, apparently oblivious of the danger of being carried out to sea, as very many are every year, and lost despite the faithfulness of the life-saving station at the Cape which has saved not a few.

Passing Fort Canby, our steamer lands us at Ilwaco, where a train awaits our arrival and carries us to our destination, whether it be Seaview, Ocean Park, Long Beach, Sealand, or Oysterville on Shoal water Bay. Ilwaco Beach is about twenty miles long, and unobstructed by rocks or drift for the greater part of that distance, so that driving is one of its chief pleasures. I studied its features for two weeks last summer, and found it, aside from the good driving, the least interesting sea-beach I had ever visited. Day after day when the tide was out there was the brown level stretch of sand extending northward out of sight; the sea, bluish green and foam-lined, lazily rolling against it on one side, and on the other a bank of sand, with here and there a log protruding from it which invited the pedestrian to be seated and yield to the spell of inanition which the scene flings over the beholder. What a naked, spiritless coast scene! To the south of my position (at Long Beach,) the green headland of the Cape stands with its feet in the sea. Some large rocks and bowlders are scattered for a little distance above that, and then, nothing! Not a shell, or wading bird, not even a rope of kelp on the sands, or a bit of colored seaweed to catch the eye; only the ever-restless, but at this season unimpassioned, sea. Even the wind has ceased to buffet us, and only the free motion of our clean-limbed roadster makes a breeze to quicken the blood in our cheeks.

Still it is a picture full of quiet power and suggestiveness. Great possibilities are lying dormant here: tempest and terror only await for the spirit that broods over the face of the waters to utter its command, and lo, the shore trembles with its assault. So dull, so apathetic, is the soul at times, to be roused by the breath of emotion to ungovernable discords. Today nothing more moving is in sight than a few straggling clam-diggers, and even they are spiritless, for the fresh-water floods of last winter have destroyed the young mollusks near the Columbia.

The sea to me is not an object of love. It is an emblem of remorseless strength used without love or pity. It is cruel, cold, often beautiful, but never to be thought of with a tender longing. So we turn away from the beach and plunge into a forest pathway overhung by shrubby cliffs on one side and a wealth of arborescent beauty on the other. A cool green light sifts softly through the interlacing branches, a delicate fragrance of ferns and woodsy plants and flowers pervades the air that breathes over us as we bowl along. Ah, to linger in these sylvan woods with the friends of our choosing, to dream, to utter our soul secrets, and bare our hearts as we never can in the glare of a work-a-day world! What is the charm of Nature that so wins our confidence when Humanity fails?— our loving mother Nature, to whom we refuse no secret, on whose bosom we yearn to lay our heads when weary of the strain and stress of living.

On we go, pausing a moment by a cool and shaded spring, following roads little traversed by visitors to the beach, over marshes bridged or crossed by sandy highways, through thickets of spruce, hemlock, alder, eider, willow, crab-apple, wild rose, and spirea, emerging now and then on little plains, grass-covered and sheltered round by dense groves of spruce, where the air is sunny, yet soft and cool. And so home.

It is this amplitude of choice in a day’s pleasures which constitutes the popularity of Ilwaco Beach. A trip to Sealand or Shoal water Bay, by rail, or a drive along the shore of that beautiful sheet of inland water, to reach which you must take a delightful route through a forest rank with the growth of centuries, and which leads you, if you choose, to that novelty,—a cranberry farm. And speaking of edibles, the oyster of Shoalwater Bay, fresh from its native bed, is the most delicious morsel to be found anywhere,— small, delicate, dainty, delectable.

Boarding houses and private cottages, with some quite capacious mansions owned by Portland people that come here to summer, make this beach populous from the Cape to Sealand several months of the year. I n addition to those features of the peninsula which make it a comfortable residence at any time, it offers, as does Clatsop, the attractions of good fishing and hunting in the vicinity. Porgies and rock-cod are taken in salt water,and brook and salmon trout in the small rivers debouching into Shoalwater Bay, while elk and bear furnish good sport for huntsmen on the head-waters of these streams. In the late autumn months ducks, geese, and snipe, resort in great numbers to the marshes about t he bay. Deer are no longer numerous, but are occasionally taken away from the vicinity of the settlements, while pigeons and other game birds are plentiful in their seasons.

Photo by Cherrington, Salem


These are some of the most prominent characteristics of the coast country and seaside resorts near the mouth of the Columbia. South of these, on the Oregon coast, are several points where the inhabitants of the Wallamet Valley repair for an outing during the warm weather, namely, Tillamook Bay, Nestucca and Salmon Rivers, Yaquina Bay, and Siletz River. Of these, Nestucca and Yaquina are the principal resorts. The latter, a seaport of some consequence since the advent of a transcontinental railroad and steamship lines, takes the lead. The initial point of the railroad is at Yaquina City, four miles inside the bay, but Newport is the watering place. It is a pleasant little town, on a plateau elevated some distance above the beach. A comfortable steamer plies between the two towns, and a roomy hotel crowns the cliff at Newport. The name Yaquina is said to signify "smoky water," and was given to the bay several generations ago by the Indians who were witnesses of a great forest fire, which denuded the

coast mountains for miles, and which for weeks darkened the sky with smoke and embers. The country is covered with a second growth of shrubby timber, that in contrast with the original forest, gives it an appearance of baldness.

The general direction of the bay is east and west, Newport being on the north shore. There is a hotel also on the south shore, and visitors are divided between North Beach and South Beach. The jetty which the government has constructed at Yaquina is on the south side, and on it lies the wreck of the steamer Yaquina, carried there by the force of the wind in the winter of 1889. There is a good deal of picturesque coast scenery in the neighborhood of Newport. At Brasfield's, ten miles below, we see seal rocks, natural bridges, and towering cliffs. There is a lighthouse at the entrance to Yaquina Bay, and another with a first-class light on Cape Foul weather which is visible from here. Fishing is good at this point, and the central valley towns arc supplied from Yaquina. But the beach is not interesting, the "sea agate "alone is an object of search on the sands. This rare "agate" is a small clam petrified into a pellucid stone that holds a little water in its center, visible to the eye and audible to the ear. As curios they are much sought after, and command a good price. The rock oyster, a soft-shelled variety of the genus Ostrea, is found in the rocks of this part of the coast, and always exercises the intellect of visitors with presenting the problem of how it got there. Let the naturalist come forward and explain that "hard sum,"—also how it enlarges its stony cell as it grows.

North of Yaquina is the Siletz. Indian Reservation, extending about thirty miles along the coast, and eastward to the summit of the Coast Range, with a small reserve known as the Grand Rond, just over the mountains. These reservations hold the remaining representatives of these warlike tribes, whose hostility to white men made Southern Oregon a battlefield from 1851 to 1856. Their characteristics may be studied in a modified form by summer visitors at Yaquina, who desire a lesson in evolution and heredity.

Camping parties find the coast of Nestucca more attractive than at Ya- quina. The bay at this place is only a small inlet at the mouth of the Nestucca and Nestachee rivers; but there is a grand forest here and many fine coast views. The most prominent local object is an immense rock standing in the edge of the ocean, and only connected with the shore by other submerged rocks, which at times are bare and afford a pathway to the promontory,— known as Proposal Rock an appellation slightly more novel and cheerful than the oft- repeated and tragic Lover's Leap.

The interest attached to this rock lies in the fact that it has apparently been moved from its original situation. It is a problem for the study of cataclysms. Extending out into the sea for some distance beyond Proposal Rock, is a submerged forest, the trees still standing erect. But it is on shore that the story of a gigantic land-slide is most easily and plainly written and recorded. Extending back from the sea for a mile is a tract of land worthy to be made a show place by the government. Large trees are standing on naked roots which must have once clasped fallen timber of enormous diameter, pieces of which are still remaining in their embrace. A horse-man could ride under them, or a party could make a camp beneath them. They began to grow generations past on the rotting trunks of trees which must have rivaled the sequoias of California, and which had been thrown down at one time. As the giants decayed and soil formed upon them, these later trees sprung up in that soil, sending their roots down the sides of the prostrate trunks and finally into the earth, growing stronger from year to year until that on which they had first fed had turned to dust, leaving them supported as upon many curiously curved legs. The present effect is one of great beauty, wild vines garlanding these roots with a grace no art could imitate, and mosses wrapping them in sheaths of velvety softness and many hues, which the moist atmosphere of the coast constantly feeds.

Salmon River, Alseya Bay, Siuslaw River, Umpqua River, Coos Bay, Coquille River, Port Orford, and several smaller inlets, have attractive features, which in time will make them better known to tourists and pleasure-seekers. Meanwhile there is room for all who come, and sport as well as space.

Frances Fuller Victor.