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Four Quirky, Kooky Moments of Oregon Coast History

Published 11/18/2019 at 5:25 AM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Four Quirky, Kooky Moments of Oregon Coast History

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(Oregon Coast) – Written history around these shores doesn’t go back very far: Europeans hadn’t really touched this place much until decades after Lewis & Clark. It makes for about 150 years of worth of records. But local tribes passed on some more ancient moments by mouth, and geologists started putting other parts of the puzzle together in the ages before tribes could remember.

In all of that range of time – thousands of years, really – so much more is coming to light. Some of it is on the wacky side, or at least the utterly surprising. (Above: skeleton of a "giant" found at Cascade Head)

Mysterious Giant Skeleton and Shipwreck of Cascade Head

One of the weirder historical tales of the Oregon coast starts back in the 1700s when a ship wrecked in Three Rox Bay beneath the gaze of Cascade Head. Exactly what ship or nationality isn’t known for certain, but the legends go way back with local tribes. They talked of a mysterious giant man with very dark skin, who arrived here via a ship that wrecked in that bay. He was worshiped as a god for a time, until he started hooking up with local girls and getting lots of them pregnant, producing offspring that had his darker features. They wound up killing him and his two white men friends.

Those legends were known to white settlers, and in the '30s a local homesteader came across human bones with his plow. They had found the skeleton of a very tall African man and two white men whose bodies had been discarded in garbage piles and buried without respect. This was not only almost certain proof of the tribal legend, but it again heralded a rush of people trying to find the ship and possible buried treasure. Another rush had happened several years back when they discovered part of an ancient ship.

More gold fever broke out in the ‘70s when other expeditions to find the ship hit the bay. See Oregon Coast Mystery Involves Giant Skeleton, Pirate Ship near Lincoln City

Yaquina Head Was Once a Dune

It’s impossible for us to accurately imagine the Oregon coast decades ago, much less eons ago. But some geologists can, and one wild surprise about the area is that Newport’s Yaquina Head was actually beneath a dune.

Oregon geologist Roger Hart (now deceased) found strong evidence of that over a decade ago. In 2008, he told Oregon Coast Beach Connection that apparently there was a dune covering the headland some 4,000 years ago. They had discovered loads of discarded shells almost back that far, and that along with other archaeological finds led experts to believe native tribes had walked down a gradual slope to the shore to fish and dig.

The apparently started building up about 4,000 years ago and then disappeared sometime not long after.

Third of Manzanita's Trees Are Missing

In October of 2016, the rather unusual occurrence of a tornado hit the north Oregon coast town of Manzanita. It was even documented in video by a man watching from the Neahkahnie Overlooks, showing it descend on the town as the twister took out transformers with dramatic explosions and flashes. (Above: old Manzanita)

The tornado tore up main street – Laneda Ave. - veering off now and then, taking out several structures, including a few businesses. No one was seriously hurt, and the town recovered nicely.

The end result, however, was a third of the town’s trees were gone – knocked down. Before and after pics show quite a difference on Laneda.


Photo courtesy Sunset Vacation Rentals

Joe the Sea Lion

In the early ‘30s, for about two weeks a little village where Lincoln City would later come to be had a major tourist attraction in the form of a rogue sea lion. Joe the Sea Lion was his official name, and there’s even a statue of him at the SW 35th Street access in town.

He showed up in the little town of Nelscott one day and just wouldn’t leave. He actually liked interacting with humans, including having his back hosed off or scratched with a broom. They quickly took to putting him into a cage at night, but every morning he’d be out somehow, and would find his way into people’s homes if they left the door open. Numerous residents noted waking up to a sea lion bouncing around the kitchen.

Joe soon became a major attraction, being the Keiko the whale of his day. Tourists flooded the village and practically overwhelmed it. Then, when wildlife officials came to take Joe away, he returned to the spot twice, not wanting to go back to the wild.

A few years later he was found dead by the people who ran Sea Lion Caves down near Florence. See Odd Oregon Coast History: Lincoln City's Citizen Sea Lion

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