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Cape Meares Loop Rd. Reopens, N. Oregon Coast's Three Capes is 'Loop' Again After 10 Years

Published 11/30/23 a 5:35 a.m.
y Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Cape Meares Loop Rd. Reopens, N. Oregon Coast's Three Capes is 'Loop' Again After a Decade

(Oceanside, Oregon) – A north Oregon coast favorite is back, and it only took a decade. The name Three Capes Loop is reinstated to the Three Capes Route (or Tour), after Cape Meares Loop Road closed some 11 years ago this month, finally reopening last week. (Photo FHA, taken during construction)

Tillamook County Road Department (TCRD) just announced the opening, bringing back the roadway that had made it more convenient for people to navigate the area – a closure that had turned the Three Capes Loop into a non-loop. For 11 long years, decades of fun had been cut off, making it impossible to get directly from Tillamook or Bayocean to Cape Meares without the longer route to Oceanside first.

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Now, the county road department has swung open the gates that shut the Cape Meares Loop Road down, after 9 or so years of fiddling with funding and two years of painstaking construction.

The reopened portion starts at the bottom of the hill where Cape Meares Loop Road had always intersected with Bayocean Road. The other side of the closure was just north of Cape Meares.

Not that residents and visitors to this north Oregon coast haven weren't already somewhat used to the longer drive. This final section of the Three Capes Loop had a habit of sliding away and getting cut off, one that seemed to increase in frequency and intensity.

Much of the big issue here was the capability to do the road repair correctly. In order to reopen this stretch, it had to be moved significantly eastward. That took a lot of funds and a lot of time, in coordination with the Federal Highway Administration (FWA).

“This road was built and funded by [a] Federal Highway fund with the Road Department providing a 10% match,” said Tillamook County's public works on social. “The road is now officially open with the completion of the last guardrail on the afternoon of Monday, November 20, 2023.”

Photo Tillamook County

For decades, that small section of extremely winding coastal roadway was showing more and more large cracks. One major bump in the pavement that was hard to see in the southbound lane resulted in occasional dents to some lower vehicles. It certainly made a horrible noise and put wear on shocks. It even caused Oregon Coast Beach Connection to publish a small warning to motorists.

In November of 2012, Cape Meares Loop Road crumbled under a significant landslide, which included “severe deformation and opening of numerous pavement cracks,” the FHA said. Slide progression continued, more of the roadway degraded, and Tillamook County finally shut off the area for good – or at least seemingly so.

Finally, in December of 2021 the first surveying for construction began, with MA DeAtley Construction, Inc. getting the job.

Photo Tillamook County

Currently, according to the FHA, there is “1.7 miles of bypass to avoid historic landslide areas and allow access to Oceanside and Bayocean.”

Nan Devlin, Executive Director of Tillamook Coast, told Oregon Coast Beach Connection now the area can gets its famed moniker back.

The old viewpoint along the road, circa 2007 - Oregon Coast Beach Connection

“It will return to Three Capes Loop,” she said. “That’s always been the official name; we renamed it unofficially 'route' to keep from disappointing people there wasn’t a loop while being funded, engineered and rebuilt.”

One of the highlights of this section of road that was missing for a decade was the viewpoints, one of which was right near the center of the landslide action. That pullout had the money view, looking north over the Bayocean Peninsula, but it was not obtainable after the closure.

Devlin said there are new ones being built.

Photo FHA

“Light work still remains on top of the Cape just off the road, most notably grading the Scenic Viewpoint, so expect to see construction workers,” the county said.

Devlin said she obtained a sneak peak of the road recently and was blown away.

“The two pullover spots are being constructed now, but you won’t miss the views,” she said. “And they are knock-out beautiful. I actually gasped at first sight. One is toward the ocean with an overhead view of Three Arch Rocks. The other is toward the north with a miles-long view of bays, and on a clear day, you can see all the way to Manzanita.”

Photos from the county and FHA found here show the road is definitely no shirker in the looks department.

There is a slight caveat to the new route. For one thing, the gates that closed it off are still there. The county said the new section has a 12% grade, and that combined with the winding configuration will cause the county to occasionally close the road because of snow or ice events.

Photo FHA

“We do not intend to close the gates for other reasons,” TCRD said. “Constructing a road with a flatter grade would likely double the cost and the road would never have been built.”

Devlin called the engineering and construction impressive.

“The loop road was one of the most beautiful drives on the coast, linking capes Meares, Lookout and Kiwanda,” she said. “I’m sure it will once again get a lot of visitors.”

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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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