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Yes, There Is Now an Exploding Whale Park in Florence, Oregon Coast

Published 06/15/2020 at 6:24 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Florence Celebrates Oregon Coast Incident with Exploding Whale Park

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(Florence, Oregon) – The central Oregon coast of Florence is celebrating a new addition with a particularly famous name. Exploding Whale Memorial Park. Named after the famed and infamous incident in 1970, the park is actually a somewhat new park with an even newer name. It was opened up officially last year as Siuslaw River Beach Access Park and recently acquired the new name after a contest was held by the city. (Photos courtesy City of Florence)

It is not, however, the actual site where the town got to experience the blasting of “blubber beyond all believable bounds.” That spot is a few miles away closer to the south jetty of the Siuslaw River. This new park is located along the Siuslaw River on the south side of Rhododendron Drive (612 Rhododendron Drive).

These days, November 12 is unofficially a holiday called “Exploding Whale Day,” after state highway authorities attempted to get rid of a beached whale that date in ‘71 by blowing it up with dynamite. The actual footage of this was hilariously put down for posterity by KATU-TV back then, reported by a young Paul Linnman. It was a bit of a media stir at the time, and although periodically talked about over the next decade was largely forgotten until humorist Dave Barry picked up on it in ‘80s and made it nationally famous. It wasn’t until advent of the Internet in the early ‘90s when the KATU footage was uploaded and it became what was for many years the most viewed video in the world.

See Wacky Oregon Coast History: Nov. 12 is Happy Exploding Whale Day, New Facts , including footage

In actuality, the exploding whale incident occurred outside of city limits.

Fast forward a few decades, and there has been an unmarked beach access to the river in the central Oregon coast town that has gone largely unnoticed.

Now, with great pride Florence takes on its incendiary heritage and it was planning a massive whoop-de-doo for the 50th anniversary of the incident. “Blast from the Past” was the theme of this year’s Rhody Fest, but COVID came along and “blew” that idea out of the water.

As part of the planned party, the city held a contest for the new name of the park over the year.

“We received 124 unique suggestions that were narrowed down to 9 options for a community survey,” said city project manager Megan Messmer. “Of the 856 votes received on that survey, 439 of them went to Exploding Whale Memorial Park. We had great ideas for unveiling the park name with a celebration. Unfortunately, 2020 swept in and blew those plans out of the water. It may be a little less of a spectacular announcement, but it is fun all the same.”

The City of Florence hosted the Siuslaw River Beach Access Park grand opening on May 14, 2019.

Exploding Whale Park had simply been undeveloped land owned by the Port of Siuslaw. It was purchased by the city in recent years and refurbished last year with numerous new features. The grassy, tree-smothered area features hiking opportunities, picnicking possibilities, kayaking along with two ADA parking spots and places for 11 bicycles to lock up. It’s a wildlife hotspot and accessible by boat, and the massive dunes of the area are in full view from the riverside beach.

A gate was installed to prevent vehicles from driving down what is now a gravel, multi-use path, yet open enough to allow wheelchair access or those taking canoes down. More or the park below.

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