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Three Curiosities of Seaside's The Cove - North Oregon Coast Oddities

Published 12/27/23 at 5:05 a.m.
y Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

(Seaside, Oregon) – One of the most popular towns on the entire Oregon coast has been so for about 150 years now, with tourism going back to the 1870s, nearly 100 years before Lincoln City even had its name. Seaside is well known to hordes in this state and from elsewhere, yet not everyone knows its different sides that go well beyond the main street bustle at the center. (Graphic / photo Oregon Coast Beach Connection)

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Seaside has a few quirky tales to tell – numerous, in fact. Some of those belong to The Cove: that beautiful, almost-secret spot at the very southern corner of Seaside. Here's three oddities of this place:

The Cove Got Bigger in the '80s

Those who've lived on the north Oregon coast for decades remember this, but plenty of people under 50 years of age don't have any clue it even happened. The famed Cove in Seaside had about 100 yard added to it as recently as 1987. Before then, it looked much different.

Seaside geologist Tom Horning not only studied this kind of thing, but he lived it. In '87, a large landslide on Tillamook Head caused tons of debris to fall into the ocean, and a lot of it was carried to this little corner of town. Rocks and boulders piled up here, pushing the tides way out. Eventually, it formed a new spit, which was a delight to local fishermen for awhile as it gave them a new place to cast a reel.

The proto Cove in '87, courtesy Tom Horning

However, huge pools of ocean water were also left behind this uneven terrain, and those began to stink as the sea life trapped in there died and began rotting. Slowly, over the course of a few seasons, tidal action brought in more sand and other material, elongating the shoreline by around 100 yards, Horning told Oregon Coast Beach Connection several years ago.

Over time, it all filled up to what you see today, with all those cobblestones around the edges and lots of sandy shore. The Cove, with all its surfing possibilities and scenic wonders, is like a newborn compared to other coastal geologic tales. More on Seaside Land Changes

Unmarked Gravesite That is The Cove

As local historians like Gloria Linkey and Robin Montero tell it, The Cove has a lot of unmarked graves scattered throughout.

Back in the 1800s, as Euro folk were first settling here, Astoria had already become a major trading destination, but the area began to get its reputation as the “Graveyard of the Pacific,” with numerous ships downed in the region. Numerous times, their bodies washed up here, below the north face of Tillamook Head. Residents sometimes picked up the bodies and buried them around the shoreline and even just inland where the streets and neighborhood are. A variety of nationalities came through and their dead would wash up here, such as Dutch, Russian, German, Brits and more.

One incident was well documented, with a local man watching a small group come ashore in a boat, grab supplies and then head back out before they should have. A storm hit and capsized the little craft, with at least one of them washing up here.

That unknown person is buried in the “Sailor's Grave,” a memorial found at the cove. It's a local tradition to maintain that grave, now going all the way back to 1865. More on Sailor's Grave on north Oregon coast's Seaside.

Painted Rocks Beach

Courtesy Angi D Wildt Gallery of Astoria

A little to the north of the Cove, tucked away behind some bushes and a neighborhood street, lies a wacky, whimsical tradition. The Painted Rocks area of Seaside is filled with colorfully-painted stones, dressed in all kinds of colors and usually sporting a positive message of some sort or a little memorial with dates.

The tradition goes back to the '80s, say local historians, although for at least a couple decades it's been a kind of underground trend. How it started in Seaside is quite uncertain, but many believe it began with two families living nearby who would periodically leave painted rocks there to entertain each other. Dates on some rocks there go back to the '80s, but some locals say the tradition started before that.

No one will ever know for sure, but now it's a kind of geocaching / treasure hunt thing that's taken on its own life, and in fact you'll find it happening all over the country. More on Painted Rocks Beach, Seaside

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Andre' GW Hagestedt is editor, owner and primary photographer / videographer of Oregon Coast Beach Connection, an online publication that sees over 1 million pageviews per month. He is also author of several books about the coast.

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