Submitted to : Oregon Department of Transportation



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Recreation


Recreation along the Oregon Coast has greatly evolved over time. During the early 20th century, it was relatively popular to drive along the beach route via stagecoach. People enjoyed the experience, and it was also the only reliable north-south route – particularly along the Northern Coast. By the 1910s, motorists attempted to travel along the coast using the coast’s notorious maven of local roads. The road conditions, and resulting mechanical failures and lack of automobile services, caused intense frustration. Motorists were unable to recreate freely, without constant fear of vehicle failure, until the 1920s.

The best available roads for recreation were situated to the area from Astoria to Hebo and from Marshfield in Coos Bay to Crescent City, California. In 1918, an automobile dealer drove the Oregon Coast from Marshfield to Crescent City to surprise those delivering of a shipment of Maxwell cars. The 161-mile journey took him 51 hours, destroyed seven tires and ruined three sets of chains.195 His journey illustrates the difficulty of traversing supposedly improved roads. The lack of improved roadways along the coast minimized interest in recreation and impeded the growth of many, now-popular, coastal towns. Prior to the highway’s completion, these communities relied extensively on the railroad for most recreational and tourism travel.

The coast’s natural features represented some of the most significant draws for urban recreationalists. A major recreation site in Newport before the establishment of the highway was Jump-off Joe. Jump-off Joe was a sea stack at Nye Beach in Newport, composed of middle Miocene concretionary sandstone of the Astoria Formation.196 Around 1890, construction of the jetties at Yaquina Bay caused the tides to change, and this sandstone landmass, jutting 150 feet into the surf, eroded significantly. Within a decade, a stone mass with an arch remained and became known as Jump-Off Joe. The formation became famous as Nye Beach grew into a popular destination. Around 1900, Dr. A.L. Thomas turned photographs of the formation into a profitable postcard business. In July 1914, after residents complained, the State Land Board determined that Jump-Off Joe was state property and ordered that advertisements be removed from the rock. Erosion of Jump-Off Joe continued, and the arch crumbled around 1916.197 Geologist Warren Smith took a coastal road trip in 1925 and wrote that “One of the most striking features on this part of the coast of Oregon is a sea stack, known to old-timers as Jump-Off-Joe. Less than ten years ago Jump-Off-Joe consisted of a great arch formed in the sediments by the cutting of waves, which since that time has caved in at the top, leaving now to smaller stacks that are not as picturesque as the former rock. And in a very remote time Jump-Off-Joe itself was connected with the mainland by a mass of connecting rock, but the ceaseless pounding of storm waves has gradually cut through, probably along some weak lines, leaving these remnants now completely surrounded by water at high tide and disconnected from the land.”198 By the 1940s, nearly all traces of the formation had disappeared.199

The Three Arches Rock, a geological feature near Oceanside, was able to garner federal attention to preserve its features for future public enjoyment. In 1907, President Roosevelt declared the Three Arch Rocks geological feature a National Wildlife Refuge. These early efforts to conserve the coast’s distinctive natural features had a significant role in its attractiveness as a recreational destination. Distinctive scenic areas with unique features such as the “Devil’s Punchbowl”, “Seal Rock”, “Sea Lion Caves”, “Humbug Mountain” and many others have attracted visitors with their dramatic nomenclature and the wide circulation of scenic photographs in newspapers and on postcards. Roosevelt’s 1907 declaration was the first to formally elevate the status of one of these natural features, and laid the ground work for their protection and ongoing admiration.200

Highway-related scenic waysides, parks, or geological features were not formally established prior 1920. Inland travelers may have visited various points along segments of the highway during this period, but these parking areas lacked formal designation and municipal maintenance. During this time, before the coast offered easily available lodges and motels, many visitors planning to stay overnight stayed at private campgrounds or small cottages. These early campgrounds were soon joined by modest motor courts and auto parks, but these automobile-oriented lodging options remained uncommon along the coast during this era. Early examples of primitive camp grounds include the “tent lots” that were sold in the town of Rockaway.

In 1920, the railroad reached the town of Rockaway. Property owners began selling tent lots adjacent to the railroad. The railroad parallels the present highway and the tent lots remain visible from US 101. While the lots have private owners, they remain significant as having greatly influenced the physical dynamics and street pattern of the community. These tent lots led to small and closely-spaced private homes being built on the lots. The proximity of lots to the railroad made them attractive to visitors from Portland, who could catch a train and then disembark at their campsite.201

Although recreation lacked a direct connection with US 101 between 1913 and 1920, the industry did propel the growth of many Northern Oregon Coast towns. The accessible recreation sites were linked together with existing railways and were located along established vehicular routes. Gearhart, Seaside, Ecola, Cannon Beach, Roackaway, Tillamook, Cape Lookout, and Neahkahnie Mountain drew many seasonal visitors enjoying respite from the inland summer heat. The first train arrived in Tillamook in 1911 and soon thereafter visitation escalated. During the 1910s and 1920s, the train from Portland constituted the main transportation mode to the coastal communities. 202 A 1917 issue of The Oregonian describes a record year for seasonal travelers visiting the Clatsop and Tillamook County areas:

The cottages are nearly all occupied and many who had anticipated spending their vacations here are disappointed in their efforts to secure furnished accommodations. The beautiful groves afford fine camping grounds, and many city folk avail themselves of the opportunity to live the simple life and at the same time delight in the various wonders of beach and woods.203

Many families had coast houses, where they would live seasonally to ‘escape the heat’ of the city. Youth enjoyed frequenting the dancehalls and many people simply enjoyed wading out into water along Seaside and Cannon Beach’s sandy shores, or enjoying climate controlled waters in the local natoriums (indoor swimming pools). People would also take day hikes or pay for a motor tour along the shore to visit natural sites.204

The 1917 article also mentions a few vacation spots in Newport, accessible by a ‘well-traveled’ road from Corvallis heading west (See the Biennial Collection Map for 1918, Appendix C). Highway 20, which now serves the Corvallis to Newport route, was not established until 1945. The accessibility of an east-west route extending from the Willamette Valley likely helped Newport establish its early tourism industry. The article discusses Newport, but does not mention any other coastal town south of Tillamook County. Historic Nye Beach is mentioned as a popular attraction within Newport for sunbathing and picnicking but the article suggests that Newport Beach was quieter and less dynamic than beaches in Clatsop and Tillamook County.205

The only recreation-related destination specifically related to US 101 from this time period is Three Arch Rocks. All of the other resources were privately held. This time period is marked by limited recreational opportunities along the US 101 corridor with most development occurring along the Northern Coast and mostly restricted to campsites and individual hotels and modest cottages. This would change, however, during the next period of highway development.


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