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Four Unusual Aspects of Seaside on N. Oregon Coast

Published 03/16/2020 at 4:44 AM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Four Unusual Aspects of Seaside on N. Oregon Coast

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(Seaside, Oregon) – While Seaside may be the most visited spot of the entire Oregon shoreline, it still has its unique secrets and curiosities. Sometimes it’s in the past: others it’s right out in the open and even beneath your feet.

Here are four fun and funky revelations about one of Oregon’s favorite destinations.

More Razor Clams Than Anywhere Else

90 percent of the state’s razor clam population lives in this stretch of Oregon coast, known as Clatsop Beaches. This extends from Tillamook Head in Seaside to the southern edge of the Columbia River. The razor clam stock for a particular year can be at one million to as high as nine million of these tasty little mollusks hiding beneath the sands.

2006 had around five million estimated razor clams, while 2008 jumped up to a record more than nine million.

90 percent is indeed an extraordinary amount, as if the Seaside, Gearhart and Warrenton areas are hogging it all. But it comes down to two things: extra food for them and the beaches are more stable and don’t get as battered by winter storms as other places. It doesn’t get scoured out as much, so they have steadier areas to reside in.

When it comes to chowing down razor clams eat phytoplankton, and there’s plenty of that in the area because of so many nutrients coming down the Columbia River and Necanicum River to feed the phyto's.

In fact, the massive amounts of phytoplankton - especially diatoms - results in so many that the waves sometimes turn a weird, globby brown. This also seems to affect the sand dollar beds in the area around northern Seaside and southern Gearhart, making for more sand dollars than other places on the Oregon coast.

The caveat here, however, is that the State of Oregon bans razor clamming on these prolific beaches during the busiest months, usually July through September. This is to keep that population from being depleted and allowing them to set (meaning reproduce and find a spot).

Kooky Tales of Terrible Tilly

There have been more than a couple of books written on that mysterious sentinel offshore that pokes its head out from behind Tillamook Rock. The Tillamook Rock Lighthouse is famed and infamous.

One exceptional historical tidbit of the north Oregon coast icon is how badly it all started. When construction began in the 1880s, the first man to step on the rock to do some surveying drowned, creating an immediate public outcry that perhaps this wasn’t a good idea.

As construction continued over the years, conditions were so dangerous and so many injuries took place that workmen waiting to do their rotation of shifts on the rock were actually sequestered for a time to keep them away from newspaper reports. Some were even housed in a ship just offshore at one point.

Once it was built, lightkeepers lived there in shifts too: four of them, usually a few months at a time. It was a gnarly existence, and one keeper reportedly went mad from the solitude.

The “commute” to work was brutal. A giant winch was used to bring supplies and personnel up onto the rock, which was dangerous under any conditions.

There were a variety of ghost tales that sprung up and disappeared over the decades, but one small one survived. Supposedly, on some dark and foggy nights you can hear a dog howl from somewhere around the tip of Tillamook Head. Indeed, a ship called the Lupatia missed the lighthouse’s directions over 100 years ago and plowed into the headland. The only survivor was a dog. See more Tillmook Rock Lighthouse tales.

The Doomed Pier at Seaside

If it sounds insane, it is: Seaside once had a massive pier like that at Santa Monica. What could go wrong here on the Oregon coast?

It was built in 1904, stretching from about where the Prom is now out into the sea a few hundred feet or so. You must also remember Seaside’s beach was completely different then: a mix of rocks and cobblestones and only about 150 feet wide (now it’s about 1,000 feet wide).

They called it the Pacific Pier and it was made of wood, which of course didn’t fare well in the tempestuous seas of winter. It was beat up every season and refurbished again each time, and finally the town fathers let it fall into the sea around 1914. See Beginning of the Promenade, Pier at Seaside

Wild and Surreal Sunset

It’s probably one of the more unique sunset sights on these shores, and it was captured for posterity (by a publication that was the precursor to Oregon Coast Beach Connection).

It’s the same effect as crepuscular rays, a phenomenon where particles are lit up by the sunset in an interesting way. Except here it was reflected in the surf to create a kind of Pink Floyd album cover reference. Hotels in Astoria/Seaside - Where to eat - Astoria Maps and Virtual Tours

You can see a video here of the evolution of this oddity.


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