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Seaside Attraction Digs Deep Into Tales of North Oregon Coast


Covering 180 miles of Oregon coast travel: Astoria, Seaside, Cannon Beach, Manzanita, Nehalem, Wheeler, Rockaway, Garibaldi, Tillamook, Oceanside, Pacific City, Lincoln City, Depoe Bay, Newport, Wadport, Yachats & Florence.


Secrets of the Season

Seaside Attraction Digs Deep Into Tales of North Oregon Coast

(Seaside, Oregon) – At the northern edge of Seaside, in an unassuming brown building, there’s a gateway to a massive array of discoveries about the Oregon coast. All kinds of amazing facts about its natural history lie inside, such as geology, animals, trees and foliage – basically why you see what you see as you wander the beaches or play in the forests.

If OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry) was located on the coast, it might be a bit like this.

“It’s a clearing house for the natural history of the region,” said Seaside geologist Tom Horning, who helps run what is called the Coastal Natural History Center, which also goes by the name of Gateway To Discovery. It’s crammed with stuff on the natural sciences of the area, a place where tourists can stop briefly to find out the secrets of the north Oregon coast, how and why things look as they do, and how to really appreciate the natural surroundings they’ve just driven tens or hundreds of miles to see.

Sunset from the deck of the Coastal Natural History Center

“We want to make them aware of what they’re recreating in, and then go and play in it,” Horning said. “The real value of learning is in the experience of it. Tourists like the outdoors. That’s what they’re here for. We’ll show them what they can find out there, or maybe take them out to see it. Then when they’re done here, they go out and do what tourists do. But they have a greater understanding of it and a greater appreciation.”


THE TIDES BY THE SEA, Seaside. For over 80 years a favorite of Seaside visitors. 51 oceanfront condos, individually owned and decorated. Suites for couples, small apartments with fireplaces and kitchenettes, one or two bed family units with fireplaces, kitchens and dining rooms. Oceanview cottages sleep anywhere from two to eight, w/ two bedrooms, some with lofts, fireplaces and kitchens. Heated outdoor pool, enormous grounds w/ picnic tables - all at quiet southern end of Seaside. 2316 Beach Drive. 800-548-2846. www.thetidesbythesea.com.

The Coastal Natural History Center has a myriad of displays about nature and geology, showing you a multitude of fascinating things about the beaches, wetlands, hiking paths, forests, marine gardens and all the animals and fish you’ll find there. It sits right on the Necanicum Estuary, which in itself yields some amazing nature moments, when one kind of beastie or another wanders by. There’s a deck here that’s used for showing the public natural goodies firsthand, or in the warmer, drier months they’ll give talks here on a variety of subjects.

Horning, who is also president of the Seaside Native American Project, said the center also concentrates on the history of the native tribes here as well as the natural history. He says these are all connected.

Longhouse replica

“The natives and their culture across the continent always reflected the environment they lived in,” Horning said. “Unlike the white people, who imposed their presence on the land, the natives lived within their landscape. So the center not only covers the natural aspects but the Native American history. Basically, it covers everything but the Euro-American culture. Everyone else does that already.”

One of the big points the center tries to get across is how interconnected the entire environment is, especially in the coastal region. Displays and exhibits explain much about the fish, birds, plant life and geology of the area. But it shows how closely related all these facets are to each other, and to the forests, its watersheds and the animal life that’s just a ways inland.

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Horning gets excited as he talks on this subject. He points to the fish that swim upstream from the ocean. They in turn are eaten by the coyotes or bears. These animals then fertilize the land with their feces after these meals, as well as by dragging fish carcasses onto the land. This allows for the continuation of plant life, which in turn feeds many of the species the animals feed on. It’s a circle of life that’s incredibly intertwined with the ocean and the land.

There are microscopes plugged into television monitors which allow visitors to look at rocks, shells, plants and other objects very closely. A glass display case shows what various fish inhabit the near shore ocean and the coastal rivers. Another case shows off a myriad of objects found at local digs, with replicas of native artifacts thousands of years old. At the other end of the spectrum, a telescope is sometimes used to spot the creatures which wander around the estuary, in the distance, like elk, birds, otters, etc.

100 yards were added to beach in front of The Tides after 1987The deck often serves that purpose, as well as for hosting lectures on things like lighthouses or other natural aspects of the area. These happen during the spring and summer months and are usually free.

This building hosts a large replica of an Indian longhouse – a structure that was rescued from certain destruction after it was used in a Lewis & Clark bicentennial in St. Louis.

The native history is so intertwined with the natural history of the area it cannot be ignored, Horning said. This aspect of Seaside yields yet more unbelievable surprises.

“Did you know Seaside has more archeological sites than anywhere on the West Coast?” he asks. “They are hidden below the ground all over Seaside, and they’re in danger.”

A small walking path wanders off into the forest, which center personnel sometimes use for giving small walking tours. Then, Horning points to a bit of forestland in the distance and notes a major archeological site was discovered there in the 90’s – a village some 2,000 years old.

Then there’s the whole world of geological aspects of Seaside – a mind-blowing trip through time that really gets Horning excited. After all, Horning can recount with a sort of haunted glee how he lived through the 1964 tsunami that slammed through Seaside, back when he was in fourth grade.

Oceanfront building at The Tides, 2006: lots of beach exists here now

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An enormous aerial photograph of Seaside tells about a whole other side to Seaside. Horning points out that a tsunami and other natural catastrophes have seriously changed the landscape here in just the last one hundred years. The mouth of the Necanicum River, which now sits nearly a half-mile north of the end of the Promenade, was actually right about where the Seaside Aquarium is now, back before the tsunami of 1700. Horning uses the photograph to point out these facts and other amazing changes.

“A huge landslide in 1987 added about 100 yards to the southern end of Seaside, where the cove is now,” Horning said.

He explains that Tillamook Head sometimes drops tons and tons of rocky material into the sea, which periodically changes the landscape. Boulders and rocks from this particular landslide slowly filled in the cove area, extending one part out hundreds of feet. A new spit was formed by the rocks for a while, which locals used with glee to catch loads of fish. Fairly quickly, that space between the spit and the land filled in, creating an enormous dead tide pool for a few months. Eventually, sand and rocks filled all that in, as well as down the beach. The entire southern end of Seaside's beaches became wider after that.

Horning points to the building at the cove that is the beachfront section of The Tides by the Sea hotel. “Back when they first built this, the sea practically came right up to the building,” Horning said. “They had boulders and rip rap there to keep it away. After 1987, 100 yards of beach was created in front of that area.”

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This small center of science has some big plans. It is run by three nonprofit partnerships: the North Coast Land Conservancy, the Seaside Native American Project (of which Horning is the president), the Clatsop-Nehalem Confederated Tribe and the Seaside History Museum. The five entities hope to expand the building someday and along with the city of Seaside, create a bigger park out of neighboring land. Horning said they’re also hoping the Gateway To Discovery center will become the big tsunami education outreach for the area.

oregon coast lighthouses on dvd“We hope to grow and become a major element in the north coast's outdoor focus and community resource for citizens and education,” Horning said. “With a regional National Heritage Site designation for the area near the mouth of Columbia River hopefully coming up soon, this kind of center will fit perfectly and naturally with everyone else in the region.”

Horning again points to how everything is interconnected, and how there is not only a coming together of the various science disciplines, but of various civic and governmental agencies as well – all pointing to a more interesting future for this center and the public’s ability to enjoy what it has to offer.

“It used to be, long before geology, geology, weather, etc., became separate science disciplines, natural history was the subject taught to students,” Horning said. “We need to get back to that. Our focus at the center tries to reunify all these topics, including Native American culture and history. Landscape culture and science for the masses is our goal.”

Aerial photographs courtesy Seaside Helicopiters.

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Lincoln City Vacation Homes There’s something for everyone among this selection of wondrous homes: smaller homes with a view to a large house that sleeps 15. All the homes are either oceanfront or just a few steps away from the sand – all with a low bank access and fantastic views. Most are in the Nelscott area; one is close to the casino. You’ll find a variety of goodies, depending on the home: fireplaces, multiple bedrooms, dishwashers, Jacuzzis, washer/dryers, hot tubs, cable TV, VCR, barbecues; there’s a loft in one, and another sprawling home has two apartments. Pets are allowed in some homes – ask ahead. Each comes with complete kitchens so you’ll have a home away from home. Most have the seventh night free. Prices range from winter $85 to summer $230 per night. www.getaway2thecoast.com. 541-994-8778.

Inn At Spanish Head, Lincoln City. Lincoln City’s only resort hotel built right on the beach with all oceanfront rooms - nestled against a rugged cliffside overlooking a soft, sandy beach. Dine in the penthouse restaurant and bar - for a casual meal or a candlelight dinner. An array of seafood specialties, juicy steaks and other Northwest favorites, including a decadent Sunday buffet. Rooms range from bedrooms to studios to one-bedroom suites with microwaves and refrigerators to full kitchens. Hotel include wi-fi, spa, saunas, exercise room and a year-round heated swimming pool. Kids will love the game room and easy beach access. Full-service conference/meeting rooms for that inspirational retreat; extensive, gorgeous wedding possibilities. 4009 SW Highway 101, Lincoln City. 1-800-452-8127 or 541-996-2161. www.spanishhead.com


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STARFISH POINT Newport - Offers only the finest in luxury condominium lodging. Every unit is focused on the beauty of the sea and the beach.
All units boast two bedrooms, two bathrooms, designer kitchens, wireless broadband Internet, fireplaces, Jacuzzi’s and private decks. Friendly staff dedicated to high quality and superb customer service. 140 NW 48th Street, Newport. (541) 265-3751. (800) 870-7795. www.starfishpoint.com


A1 Beach Rentals, Lincoln City. Perfect for large family vacations all the way down to a getaway lodging for two - with over 25 vacation rental homes to choose from. A breathtaking collection of craftsman or traditional beachfront homes, or oceanview houses – from one to seven bedrooms. In various areas of Lincoln City and overlooking the beach, with some in Depoe Bay. All kinds of amenities are available, like hot tubs, decks, BBQ, rock fireplaces, beamed ceilings and more. Some are new, some are historic charmers. Lincoln City, Oregon. 1-(503)-232-5984. www.a1beachrentals.com.