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Digging Into Claims of Oregon Coast Towns: What's Up With Those?

Updated 10/31/20 at 4:41 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Digging Into Claims of Oregon Coast Towns: What's Up With Those?

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(Oregon Coast) – One calls itself the “Gem of the Oregon Coast,” another claims “Dungeness Crab Capital of the World,” or some say they have smallest or largest this or that. (Above: Depoe Bay)

There’s no doubt every Oregon coast burgh has plenty to offer, but some of the spin may be more in the realm of fish tales.

What is the truth behind these claims? Sometimes, it’s obviously a slogan, but some towns defend these rather fiercely. And, as it turns out, several towns don’t have to defend anything – because the truth is a lot more complex than you’d imagine.

Perhaps the biggest misnomer was that of Cannon Beach until about 2012 or so. For a long time, perhaps decades, it claimed Haystack Rock was the “third largest monolith in the world.” That claim has disappeared with the decade, and actually many Cannon Beach longtimers couldn’t remember when or from whom the claim sprung.

It turned out, as discovered by Oregon Coast Beach Connection in 2009, the claim was not true. Pacific City’s Haystack Rock was taller, by about 100 feet. In fact, talking to regional geologists it was discovered that if you went strictly by the term monolith – well, that wasn’t really an official word for rock structures.

However, Haystack Rock did not share the fate of poor planet Pluto and get bumped out of any category, because – well, that category never really existed. Whatever the height and geologic category, Haystack Rock is a treasure of bird life and a non-stop scenic wonder. It does have the title of “most photographed” Oregon landmark, however. Well, it may share that with Multnomah Falls, but who’s really counting?

Other claims on the Oregon coast we’ve noticed (and looked into):

Yachats – “Gem of the Oregon coast.” So is there room for someone to claim “Diamond of the Oregon coast?” In the final analysis, we can’t argue that one for all sorts of aesthetic reasons. It is really awesome.

Newport – “The Friendliest” and “Dungeness Crab Capital of the World.” No one can really quantify “the friendliest.” The Dungeness Crab claim comes from its crabbing fleet, which did break some state records periodically for crab catches. That moniker is registered to Newport now.

Depoe Bay – “Whale Watch Capital” and “World’s Smallest Navigable Harbor.” Can you see more whales here? While that’s a slogan, the answer is probably yes. Part of that is there are actually more whales here, but also because the Whale Watch Center is staffed with people to help you see them. That’s pre-COVID, of course: it’s difficult to know when the center will open back up.

Essentially, a whole mass of “resident” whales hang out here throughout the year. Its plethora of higher vantage points make spotting a little easier as well.

Depoe Bay promotes itself as having the “world’s smallest navigable harbor,” and at around 350 feet wide and 750 feet long that may not be a stretch. There is no actual category for this claim, but it’s certainly among the smallest if not the tiniest.

Lincoln City – “D River is World’s Smallest River.” The short story is: nope, never was certified by Guinness as such. According to Guinness’ Sara Wilcox, a PR assistant with the organization, D River never had that title.

The longer version is really odd, especially considering there were many articles about this subject. According to various articles in the early 2000s, for a time Guinness Book of World Records supposedly named the D River as the shortest in the world. Then, also supposedly, the claim was for a few years taken away from them by a river in Montana, and when Lincoln City residents challenged this, Guinness gave them both the title for a while, based on the fact the D River can get much lower at low tides.

If someone else decided the Roe and D Rivers should both have that honor – who knows? But Guinness never recognized this for either, according to Wilcox. The truth is, the Oregon Highway Department (precursor to ODOT) set up this sign decades ago as a kind of publicity thing, and it simply got stuck.

Oregon’s Adventure Coast – Charleston, Coos Bay, North Bend. It’s a slogan-like title and you really can’t argue with the validity of adventurism here. The place has the wildest wave action spot on the entire coastline with Shore Acres, lots of dune buggy wackiness, fishing, and long stretches between beach access.

Other claims:

Astoria - It not quite the first town west of the Mississippi: that goes to a town in Missouri. Astoria was founded in 1811 by the Pacific Fur Company, owned by John Jacob Astor. In 1847 the first post office west of the Rockies was established here by James Shively. The first U.S. Customs house was established in 1849 in this spot as well. But it IS the first town west of the Rockies.

Sea Lion Caves near Florence - Wilcox, with the Guinness Book of World Records, confirmed this is indeed true: they recognize the Sea Lion Caves as the largest sea cave in the world. “The Sea Lion Caves have a chamber 95m 310ft long, 50m 165ft wide and around 15m 50ft high in a wave cut passage 400m 1315ft long, close to Florence, on the Oregon coast, USA,” she said.

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