Covering 180 miles of Oregon coast travel: Astoria, Seaside, Cannon Beach, Manzanita, Nehalem, Wheeler, Rockaway, Garibaldi, Tillamook, Oceanside, Pacific City, Lincoln City, Depoe Bay, Newport, Waldport, Yachats & Florence.
Still Some Misconceptions about Oregon Coast Conditions
(Oregon Coast) – Things are back to normal along the coastline after the big storm in early December that created a lot of damage and power outages, but it seems there are plenty who are still cautious about heading to Oregon’s beaches. Traffic has been exceedingly slow for businesses on the Oregon coast, causing it to suffer economically more than usual in the slow season, even though the roads have been clear since days after the storm.
Good ski conditions often take a chunk of the tourism business on the Oregon coast during winter, so some of the blame is going to that, as well as some possible economic factors and the fact people are busy with Christmas shopping. But this month’s storm and its aftermath of blocked roads and power outages seemed to scare people away a while after all that ended. Some coastal business owners are noting there are still some misconceptions among visitors and potential visitors.
All this is in spite of the rather historic sights still available to tourists, such as the abundance of downed trees by the sides of Highway 101, remnants of damage to buildings, and those masses of forestland snapped in half along Highway 26 – things that are probably once-in-a-lifetime photo moments. There have also been a number of oddities washed up on the beaches, and subsequent storms this last week have created more major drama to check out – yet all creating little or no buzz among tourists.
The final week of the month is looking up just a bit, however.
Carolyn Plummer, owner of Pacific Retreat Vacation Rentals in Lincoln City, noted one call that stood out.
“The recent storms at the coast were exciting, to say the least, as they always are,” Plummer said. “Some trees and signs came down, but damage was minimal and most local streets and roads were easily navigable. Lincoln City's been rather quiet recently, as potential visitors thought the worst after the storm. One lady called us and asked, ‘We'd like to come to the beach. Is your road open yet after the big mudslide?’ I had to explain that the ‘big mudslide’ had occurred on Highway 30 near Clatskanie, well over 100 miles northeast of us.”
Most owners haven’t received any such inquiries lately, however. But Keith Chandler, manager of Seaside Aquarium, said the facility has received calls about snowy conditions on Highway 26 to the coast. “We’ve gotten a few asking if there’s still snow on Highway 26,” Chandler said. “We have to explain that’s the other Highway 26 – the one towards the mountains. There’s been a lot of news coverage of that lately on TV, and they get that mixed up.”
Peggy Leoni, owner of Trollers Lodge in Depoe Bay, gets frustrated by media coverage of coastal weather and the routes to the coast. She believes it doesn’t cover the whole picture like it should, and thus enforces any lingering bad impressions people may still have.
“Drives me nuts when news people and weather pros say things like they said during a recent storm: ‘may be trees down and power outages on the coast,’ “ Leoni said. “That's right up there along with the thinking that Highway 26 is the only road to the coast, and ‘snow in the coast range’ applies to the entire range, and ‘the coast’ runs from Seaside to Cannon Beach.
“Please note, the highest point on Highway 18 is Murphy Hill at 760 feet. Snow is very rare there.”
Leoni said Depoe Bay had minimal damage and very few power outages. She admits it is the season for slow times anyway – just not this slow.
“Except for Christmas week, December can be very lonely here,” she said. “We need all the good publicity we can get.
“Actually, it's been nice to be able to get across 101 on the first try and not have a long wait in a store or restaurant. Don't know why more people don't take advantage of reduced rates and no crowds.”
Many in Lincoln City and elsewhere on the coast have taken to touting specials to coax people in, while expressing concern about tourists staying away more than usual.
“We are open and everything is back to normal,” said Connie Barradas, manager of Liberty Inn. “It’s been very slow since the storm. We are offering winter rates starting at $69 during the mid-week, Sunday through Thursday. This is a great time for storm watching. The ocean is so beautiful to watch during a storm and after a storm is the best time for finding really cool stuff on the beach.”
At the D Sands Condominium Motel, manager Kevin Winter gazed out at a stormy ocean earlier this week and talked about what he saw. “We have been trying to get the word out that the 'D' Sands Condominium Motel did not have any damage at all, and that all roads to Lincoln City are open,” Winter said. “Now is a great time to come to the beach: All businesses are open and the ocean is wicked looking right now.”
Not everyone came out unscathed, however. In Yachats, motel Soma on the Oregon Coast sustained some fairly heavy damage and is out of commission for a while. The Inn at Seaside lost a sign – a totally cosmetic damage. The Ocean Lodge in Cannon Beach reported minor outdoor damage as well.
Nearby, on the more humorous side, the Inn at Cannon Beach found a few fish missing from its koi pond. The bandit was a local heron notorious for scoping out their waters; he took advantage of a lack of guests to spot him and employees being too occupied to run him off.
But most any damage on the coast has been long been taken care of – lots of it within 24 hours of the big storm on December 2. So businesses are wondering what is keeping them away, as only a small handful express misconceptions about conditions there. Seaside has been a ghost town and its gift shops are hurting, as displayed on several TV news reports. Officials in Lincoln City are complaining of an extraordinarily slow time.
“Although large numbers of trees fell, no damage was done downtown,” said Patty Coomes, owner of Haystack Gallery in Cannon Beach. “Many people seem to think the roads are closed as are the shops. This is not true. We are open: galleries, shops, restaurants, hotels and the Chamber of Commerce are more than ready to help customers in any way we can. In fact, this time of year, parking is not a big issue and you can get fabulous customer service. The surf is great to watch as the wave action is much better than in the summertime.”
Manzanita’s Brian Hines is reporting his worst December ever, in spite of November having been up from last year.
Hines runs the motel San Dune Inn, and said he stopped receiving calls about the shape of the coast a few days after the power came back on. He thinks most people realize it’s no longer medieval conditions and it’s something else keeping them away.
“We mostly got calls along the lines of ‘I hope you’re OK,’ “ Hines said. “Christmas week is looking pretty good, but this December has been our lowest since we took over five years ago. I think it’s the mortgage market and economic news that’s keeping people away.”
For Judy Joubert, owner of Stonecrest Cellar B&B, just south of Newport, the lack of business has given her the opportunity for a break, although her log cabin-like castle is still doing brisk wedding business. She said it’s also a great time for visitors to have some down time on the coast.
“Take a break and indulge in great room rates, shopping, uncrowded restaurants, and a guaranteed romantic time on the coast.”
Coomes said some are doing exactly that.
“One lady came in from Seattle this week - she had come to Cannon Beach to decompress and relax the week before all the hustle of Christmas,” Coomes said. “Another gentleman came in and said he never comes during the summer, instead prefers the fall colors driving over from Portland and loves the winter storms. And remember whale watching is about to start again.”
Interesting finds and moments – aside from the abundance of whales – are to be found these days as well.
Storms cause erosion on the beaches, and this makes your favorite beach spot look just a bit different, as well as increases your chances for astounding beachcombing discoveries.
This is especially true on the lower central coast right now.
“The beaches have been stripped of so much sand it has uncovered fossil rock and trees,” Jourbert said of her area just south of Newport. “Great time for agate and rock hunting as well as viewing unusual beach and bluff erosion. The wild ocean, beach and bluffs are providing great opportunities for any amateur or professional photographer."
Guy DiTorrice, a beach and fossil expert in Newport, noted that beaches north of Newport have not changed much. But south of there is another story.
“Spent the weekend at low tides, checking out exposed sites at Thiel Creek, Lost Creek, Seal Rock and Coal Creek,” DiTorrice said. “South of Newport beaches are showing good rock, a wide color selection of agates and jaspers - and nice sizes - as well as some fossils.”
In Rockaway Beach, Rick Cheek runs Rick’s Roadhouse Bar & Grille. He said – in a rather humorous fashion - some of his favorite things about the beach happen in the summer, but there are high points to winter as well. “Great seafood, great night life, salty old timers to listen to, and just a short walk to bars, bonfires and babes,” he said.
Cheek said dinners by candlelight after a storm knocks the power out are especially lovely, and he joked how lumberjacks right now don’t have to do much cutting in the nearby forests.
“How can you not want to be the first to feel the oceans fury?,” he said. “The beach: where the speed limit is less than the wind speed.”