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Where Were the '20 Miracle Miles?' Quirky to Cool Central Oregon Coast History

Published 06/01/23 at 12:42 a.m.
y Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Where Were the '20 Miracle Miles?' Quirky, Cool Central Oregon Coast History

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(Lincoln City, Oregon) - Where are the “20 Miracle Miles” along the Oregon coast? The answer to that involves when as much as location, making for some slightly amusing history tidbits for the region. (Above: the rock structure at the end of Roads End called Old John Silver. Courtesy Oregon Archives)

Suffice it to say that Lincoln City, on the central Oregon coast, was almost named Miracle City because of it.

Starting somewhere in the '50s, the 20 Miracle Miles referred to a stretch from the Otis junction down to Depoe Bay – including Lincoln City and Gleneden Beach. Was it a marketing slogan? A branding framework? A term of endearment by locals, and maybe even a semi-official name? Probably yes to all or most of it.

The actual borders included Rose Lodge up on Highway 18, which allowed them to tout the Salmon River's recreational possibilities as well as the Drift Creek covered bridges. To the south, the Miracle Miles went beyond Depoe Bay into Otter Loop Road and its high points, and it included Whale Cove.

The trick here is that when it all started there was no Lincoln City, just a grouping of small villages. Cutler City, Taft, Oceanlake, Nelscott, and Kernville along with the short-lived Wecoma Beach and Roads End were just some of the names you may now recognize as various sections of Lincoln City. These were separate and tiny towns, some incorporated and some not. Lincoln City was formed in '64 out of just about all of these, and Depoe Bay wasn't an official town until 1973. Lincoln City Formed from Six Small Towns: Intricate Oregon Coast History]

Courtesy Oregon State Archives. Apparently the end of Roads End was known as Devils Den. That's Wizard Rock jutting up beyond the photo edges.

Articles and newspaper ads for the “Miracle 20” seem to begin about 1957, with that being the first mention in any regional coverage (Oregon Coast Beach Connection looked found numerous sources such as the future Statesman Journal in Salem, Corvallis Gazette-Times, Medford Mail Tribune, etc). References seem to stop about '73, so you could venture to guess the official incorporation of Depoe Bay might've had something to do with abandoning the Miracle Mile idea.

Somewhere along the line these little places got together and came up with a way to promote themselves with one of the first big slogans for any of the region's individual areas (although the Tillamook Coast is mentioned as early as 1910 or so).

And promote it they did. Ads ran all over the place, especially with real estate folks and hoteliers touting it in various Oregon newspapers. There's even an ad for the now-beloved Ester Lee Apartments (yes, those were lodgings then) back in the '60s boasting the Miracle 20.

This concept even resulted in the 20 Miracle Days annual event held in April, which as far back as 1958 included a really wide variety of activities. There was a Mermaid Ball, a skin diver spear fishing contest, fishing derbies for kids, an agate show, a US Coast Guard open house, golfing and a beachcombing contest. The whole lot sounds fun even today. Some Oregon coast pastimes are timeless.

Over the years, there were mentions of Minnie the Mermaid being part of the Miles promotions, and there was a Miracle Shopping Center at the north end of Lincoln City after it had formed.

Beaches of Lincoln City in the '30s, courtesy North Lincoln County History Museum

In 1958, the region acquired its first serious mention on the national level. Arthur Godfrey was a bigtime celebrity in the U.S. with multiple shows on network TV and a host of radio shows under his belt. On one show, Godfrey was talking national trivia and tidbits and giggled about something called the Friday Club which met on Tuesdays along the 20 Miracle Miles. Stating he had no clue where that was, a host of locals set out to inform him.

In a rather public display, mayors of Oceanlake, Delake and Taft signed a letter to him. This came in a large case they had specially made from Oregon coast myrtlewood, which contained an actual salmon caught here, some crab, agates and other items from these miles. An airline offered to fly the case for free, and it was then delivered to the celeb by limousine.

His reaction wasn't reported regionally, if it all.

In '64, as the newly-formed town struggled to come up with a name, various contests were held. Among the serious contenders were Miracle City, although Lincoln City actually came very close to being called Surfland. The vote there was incredibly close.

Depoe Bay in the '50s

Sometime just before or after Lincoln City coalesced all those little villages and was properly named, the first visitor center was actually named the 20 Miracle Miles Ad Club Visitors Information Center. Back then it was led by a former Navy commander named Carl B. Kole, who was reportedly a whiz at local promotions. It covered the entire 20 miles.

Sometime about '73, the concept was retired. Yet every once in awhile you see Explore Lincoln City make a reference to these “miracle miles” as well as touting its actual 7.5 miles of beach.

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Andre' GW Hagestedt is editor, owner and primary photographer / videographer of Oregon Coast Beach Connection, an online publication that sees over 1 million pageviews per month. He is also author of several books about the coast.

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