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Covering 160 miles of Oregon coast travel: Seaside, Cannon Beach, Manzanita, Nehalem, Wheeler, Rockaway, Garibaldi, Tillamook, Oceanside, Pacific City, Lincoln City, Depoe Bay, Newport, Wadport, Yachats & Florence.

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Oregon Travel Secrets: Funky Coastal Facts

(Oregon Coast) - There's often more than meets the eye to the Oregon Coast than just the lovely scenery and great chow. There are often some interesting stories behind what you see. And for trivia buffs, the coast has got more than enough interesting facts to fill a hungry mind. The following is a compilation of various fun facts about the coast.

Cape Meares

Breaking Records: Did you know Sea Lion Caves, just north of Florence, is the largest sea cave in the world? The Guinness Book of World Records confirmed that in the 90's, noting the cave clocked in at 310 feet long, 164 feet wide and about 50 feet high.

The D River in Lincoln City shares the distinction of being the shortest river in the world with one in Montana. It actually had that honor in the Guinness Book of World Records until a bunch of 5th graders in Montana disputed it, causing Guinness officials to eventually hand that honor to both in the 90's.

And the shortest lighthouse on the west coast? That's Cape Meares, near Tillamook, clocking in at a stumpy 38 feet high. Size doesn't matter here, however, as it stands on a 217-foot-high cliff.

Road at Hug Point

Building of Hwy 101 and Beaches Made Public: You probably haven't stopped to think about it, but there was a time when Highway 101 didn't exist. Plus, we don't always know how lucky we have it here in Oregon, with pristine beaches open to everyone (unlike most other coastal states, where the good beaches - that aren't private - all charge a cover.)

These two situations are connected.

Before the 30's, all that settlers of this area had for public roads were the beaches (evidence of which can still be seen at the road carved out of the rock at Hug Point, just south of Cannon Beach.) In 1914, Governor Oswald West declared the beaches public highways, and construction on what was to become Highway 101 began shortly after. The Columbia Highway was to run from Seaside to Astoria and then along the Columbia River to Pendleton. The Oregon Beach Highway was to run from Seaside down to the California line.

In 1915, an unpaved highway between Astoria and Portland opened up. And after several name changes, Highway 101 was paved and finished in 1931. Then, and only then, could coastal towns connect with each other. According to some state documents, Oregonians at the time discovered incredibly different cultures had evolved in each coastal town, the result of decades of isolation from each other and the rest of the state.

After West's declaration that beaches were to be public, several laws were passed giving the Highway Commission more control over the beaches over the years. The Oregon State Parks system was an offshoot of this legislation, starting under the highway department in 1925. All this helped pave the way for Gov. Tom McCall to finalize Oregon's beaches as public in the 60's.

The pipe in 1999

Changing Face of Seaside: For at least a few generations, big pipes have often been seen around the tide line at the beaches of Seaside. One has been gone since the 60's, but since the early part of the century the other has been a constant. That one, found just a tad north of the Turnaround, once sucked seawater into a natatorium. In the 30's, the Seaside Aquarium began utilizing it and still does to this day.

The pipe in summer 2004

But regulars may notice changes. These photographs, taken in 1999 and then in 2004, show it as distinctly different shapes. When you go there now, you’ll probably find it a different shape. That, according to Aquarium officials, is because sand levels change and that requires changing the shape of the pipe to continue the flow of water. All it takes is screwing on a new section of pipe and/or moving it a different direction. Hence the changes, which may puzzle some.

Kooky Coastal Rumors: Sometimes you'll hear the strangest things if you hang around the coast long enough. One oddball rumor that somebody out there is trying to perpetuate is that Cannon Beach's Haystack Rock was constructed by people. Sorry, the Oregon Coast and its sea stacks aren't a manmade amusement park. And let's not even address the physics involved in trying to manipulate such as a massive amount of basalt rock.

Also, beware of talk of a secret military base or UFO's in the Van Duzer Corridor or a sea monster beneath Cape Kiwanda. That stupid story about Bandage Man (a sort of low budget mummy) near Manzanita is also one to ignore - unless you're as drunk as the fellow next to you who’s trying to feed you this story.


The Famous Exploding Whale: In 1970, a whale carcass washed ashore at Florence and caused quite a stir (and smell). But the Oregon Highway Division (soon to become Oregon Department of Transportation) decided to stick dynamite next to it and blow it to bits. In one extremely famous film clip, still available on the Net, a very young Paul Linneman from Portland's KATU-2 comments as the whale is blown up. He is suddenly forced to run as it rains various sized chunks of blubber onto a cheering - then panicking - crowd. One flying slab wrecked a car a quarter of a mile away. The Highway Division's head of the project will still not speak to the press to this day.

On the Internet, do a search on "exploding whale" and you'll find film footage of it and various articles, including one by humorist Dave Berry.

Did You Know?

  • Parts of Fort Stevens didn't exist before the jetties? The building of jetties at the mouth of the Columbia in the 1890's allowed chunks of land to come into existence. The ponds and wetlands you see along the road going to the south Jetty weren't there when Lewis & Clark wandered these shores.

    In fact, large chunks of Astoria didn't exist originally, either. Large boulders - ballast from ships coming in the bay - helped fill in much of where downtown Astoria is now. The original shore was up as far as Exchange Street.

  • The wreck of the Peter Iredale at Fort Stevens is one of the most photographed shipwrecks in the world? Also, the Heceta Head Lighthouse near Florence is one of the most photographed lighthouses in the world.
  • There are two "Haystack" rocks on the coast? One sits in Cannon Beach, and is actually known as the highest sea stack in the entire world. The other is at Cape Kiwanda, just offshore.
  • Singer Pat Boone used to have an interest in a hotel in Waldport? The relationship to the hotel is unclear, but in the early 70's it was called the Pat Boone Motel, located in the Bayshore district. The marquee even featured a picture of Boone wearing a pink leisure suit. In the late 70's it became the Bayshore Inn, and the Heaven's Gate cult held a gathering there (the UFO cult that became infamous in the 90's for committing mass suicide in California).


Living "La Vida Local:" Oregon Coast Not Just Touristy Anymore Part time residents and travellers interested in digging in deeper are on the rise

Little Known Tips for Winter Trips to Oregon Coast You can say 'whatever' to the weather on the coast

Oregon Travel: Fun with Nocturnal Beaches Something new awaits the coastal traveler at night

Fun & Funky Restaurant Opens on North Oregon Coast Guido's Ristorante in Wheeler seems destined for great things





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In Awe of AstoriaASTORIA
Where the Columbia meets the Pacific, Land of Lewis & Clark and loads of atmosphere & history
Serenity in SeasideSEASIDE
The Promenade, Tillamook Head, family fun & broad, sandy beaches
Cavort in Cannon BeachCANNON BEACH
A mysterious lighthouse, upscale yet earthy, a huge monolith, fine eateries & an art mecca
Annihilating  Beauty of Nehalem BayNEHALEM BAY
Manzanita's beaches, Nehalem and Wheeler's quirky beauty; laid back Rockaway
Time Trip Around Tillamook BayTILLAMOOK BAY
Garibaldi, Barview, Bay City, Tillamook & an oceanfront ghost town
Triple the Pleasure in 3 CapesTHREE CAPES LOOP
The hidden secret of the coast: Cape Meares, a lighthouse, Oceanside, Netarts and Pacific City
Miles & miles of unbroken beaches, Cascade Head, Neskowin and many manmade attractions
Divine Depoe BayDEPOE BAY
A spouting horn downtown, freaky hidden cliffs and whales, whales, whales
Nature in NewportNEWPORT
Time-tripping Nye Beach, a bustling bayfront, marine science-central and two lighthouses
Staggering Seal RockWALDPORT / SEAL ROCK
Pristine, even secretive sands and wild geologic landmarks
Aargh, there's no alliteration with Yachats - but it IS unbelievableYACHATS
Constantly dramatic wave action, a mix of the rugged & upscale
Unsurpassable Upper LaneUPPER LANE COUNTY
25 miles of deserted beaches & oodles of wonders
Fine Times in FlorenceFLORENCE
A lighthouse, ancient bayfront and miles and miles of fluffy dunes




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