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Secrets from Beneath Rockaway Beach: Hidden Oregon Coast History

Published 08/19/2018 at 5:07 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection Staff

Secrets from Beneath Rockaway Beach: Hidden Oregon Coast History

(Rockaway Beach, Oregon) – Every winter, sand levels drop – some years more than others.

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In Rockaway Beach, on the north Oregon coast, some winters mean the emergence of incredible things – really eye-popping parts of the town’s past. If sand levels get low enough, you can discover a 100-year-old shipwreck that has rarely been seen since the '70s, and a puzzling hint of an attraction once revered.

The shipwreck (that of the Emily G. Reed) gets all the attention, but the tiny remnant of a structure popular with tourists almost 100 years ago gets overlooked.

Periodically, you may find little chunks of wood sticking up out of the sand near the creek at the main access downtown, known as Ocean’s Edge. They look like old pilings, or stumps. They’ve even been confused with the ghost forests seen in some areas like Cape Lookout, Newport or near Pacific City.

They’re actually part of a sort of barrier, a bulkhead is probably the best word. It protected a once-famed attraction not from the sea, oddly enough, but from the creek itself, according to local historian Don Best in a 2011 interview with Oregon Coast Beach Connection.

Somewhere in the early part of the century, as Rockaway Beach got its start, the town acquired a natatorium – a heated salt water pool, the kind that was all the rage before the 1940s. Newport’s Nye Beach had one, Seaside had two, and a now-swallowed up ghost town called Bayocean – on the Tillamook Bay – also had one.

“When they built the natatorium in Rockaway Beach, where the wayside is today, they also built a bulkheaded channel for the creek - Rock Creek,” said Best. “It was about three feet wide and 8 to 10 feet tall, with 2 x 12 inch planking on the sides and even a covered top so that the creek would not ‘wander’ back and forth with the seasons.”

What you’ll see is a small, circular wood structure, comprised of what look like little pilings jutting up from the sand, located close to Rock Creek as it comes spilling out from the land above.

Best said several creeks in the area had a structure like this, including the creek that comes out of Spring Lake.

In the aerial photo Best provided (below), dating back to 1928, you can see a longer bulkhead and a shorter bulkhead. The one that’s visible in winter is the longer version. More photos below: Lodging in Rockaway Beach - Where to eat - Maps - Virtual Tours


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