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Garibaldi Mystery Answered: Historic Boathouse on N. Oregon Coast's Tillamook Bay

Published 06/26/020 at 3:44 AM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Garibaldi Mystery Answered: Historic Boathouse in N. Oregon Coast's Tillamook Bay

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(Garibaldi, Oregon) – Just what is that building practically in the middle of one north Oregon coast bay?

That’s a common question from visitors and armchair tourists viewing videos or other Garibaldi-related content on the net. A long wooden and railed walkway juts its way out into Tillamook Bay from the Garibaldi side, ending in a building that puzzles many. (Historic photos courtesy the Boathouse)

Currently, it’s officially known as the Historic U.S. Coast Guard Boathouse, although it has been known as Pier’s End until recently - now an interesting mix of art gallery and event space. That title about sums it up: it started out as a boathouse for the coast guard. Before that it had been a bait and tackle shop on and off over the decades.

It’s the place’s life as a part of the U.S. Coast Guard that gives the somewhat mysterious visage a whole new light, however.


Rockaway Beach’s Mike Arseneault has been active in the north Oregon coast arts and cultural scene for several years now. Running his own firm, RecreateNow Marketing, he’s also served as marketing director for the boathouse and gallery curator. He’s become the defacto expert on the place.

The boathouse was built in 1936 to house the boats for the local life-saving station, he explains, back then using two motor-powered lifeboats and one oar-powered boat. The bigger boats were 36-footers.

“Lifeboats were launched from rails in this building when there was lifesaving to be done in the Bay area,” Arseneault said.

At the time it served the Barview Coast Guard Station, which was built in 1907, just a bit north of this boathouse. That building still stands too, although it’s privately owned and boarded up.

The boathouse stopped being used by the Coast Guard when it acquired 44-foot lifesaving vessels about 1963, and a year later the Coast Guard started using a larger dock facility on Tillamook Bay.

This building is rather unique and worth saving. It had deteriorated over the decades, and even though it had some refurbishing done by state officials since its shutdown in ‘63, it needed a whole new level of loving care in the 2010s.

“This structure is the last of its kind on the Oregon coast over water - expanding a 170-foot pier and sitting on over 100 pilings,” Arseneault said.

In 1991, the Port of Garibaldi and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife added turnouts for wheelchairs and replaced some of the deteriorating pilings. It’s long been a favorite fishing spot on the north Oregon coast.


Photo courtesy Joshua Stills

For a time it was used for diving research and as a private residence – all around 2012 or so. But by the end of that year it had been closed due to chunks of it falling apart.

“Work has been going on led by volunteers since the non-profit, the Garibaldi Cultural Heritage Initiative (GCHI) was formed in 2015 and preservation and restoration take place,” Arsenault said. “The building had been closed for several years and was badly deteriorating. It re-opened to the public in June 2018 with the ‘Living Boathouse’ Gallery Exhibition and community programming."

The volunteer groups involved have done quite a bit already.

“To date, through some local grants, private donations, and minor fundraising, we've been able to re-wire the main floor, do minor repairs, painting and have converted the main floor into a gallery for storytelling and events,” he said.


It’s a fascinating place, full of atmosphere and with many stories to tell. Beyond a great fishing spot, the site is simply outta sight after dark: nighttime proves a stunning set of visual and auditory revelations along that pier. Waves lap quietly beneath you in a particularly amazing fashion at night, becoming strikingly obvious as the traffic on Highway 101 has died down.

There’s still much more to do, however, some of it involving major structural work that will be expensive. The Garibaldi Cultural Heritage Initiative is still in need of donations, which you can help with that at its website.

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