Saturday, February 28, 2015

Rewitness Card #56

1/4 corner common to Sections 30/29 of 1N10W on Bayocean
On January 1, 1987, a Tillamook County survey crew made up of Al Duncan, Al Dvorak, and Dan McNutt "rewitnessed" the monument for the quarter corner common to Sections 29 and 30 of Township 1 North, Range 10 West of the Willamette Meridian. On February 24, 2015, I found and photographed the brass cap they had set in concrete to replace a wood post that Samuel Snowden and his crew had placed there April 1, 1857, as part of the first General Land Office (GLO) survey of Tillamook County. It's the GLO monument that remains on Bayocean Spit.

This monument survived, while the others did not, because it served as the "Initial Point" for Bayocean Park. When the Potters drew up their subdivision plat in 1906, this was the place from which all lots were surveyed. Zoom in on the plat map and you'll see it at the far west end of 22nd Avenue. The Government Reservation border is the line dividing Sections 29 and 30.

Samuel Snowden GLO Field Notes April 1, 1857
In 2008, Terry Jones, of Bayside Surveying, surveyed the property discussed in Bayocean Eco-Park Rejected. His report refers to Rewitness Card # 56, which details the 1987 event discussed above. Jones also provided Oregon State Plane Coordinates for the monument, which Dan McNutt (now Tillamook County Surveyor) kindly converted to latitude/longitude (N  45.5442559 / W 123.9471265) so that I could find it.

Rewitness Card #56 discusses the conditions relative to what deputy surveyor Snowden wrote in his field notes on page 43 of OR-R0053. Snowden and the five other members of his crew hiked the entire length of Bayocean in one day, setting posts on dunes and in the hills along the way. He noted salal underbrush and forests, so this involved some serious bushwhacking. Snowden reported earlier in his notes that one crew member had quit because "he could not stand the thick brush and wading the swamps."

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Bayocean Then and Now

The shape of Bayocean Peninsula has changed dramatically since the town was platted in 1907. At that time, the connection to Cape Meares was a strip of sand west of where the beach is now (in the ocean) as shown in my earlier post, Bayocean Lots in Pacific Ocean . Going north, the peninsula grew wider, the dunes taller. The main hotel and a few of the nicer homes were 100' above the ocean. Stand on the beach sometime, look out and up, and see if you can imagine a hotel in the sky.

Bayocean Peninsula shifted east
The dike we now drive in on, the parking lot, and the Dike Road up to the gate at the base of the hills, were all in Tillamook Bay when Bayocean was a town. About a half-mile north of the parking lot, Dike Road crosses where the dock would have projected into the bay from the end of 12th Avenue. After skirting the east (bay) side of town, Bay Drive took a hard right at 15th Avenue to avoid climbing the hills and to keep out of the tidal flats. It turned back north where the gate is not, and from that point on Bay Drive and Dike Road were the same.

After decades of eating away at the entire western shore of the peninsula, the sea totally wiped out what was left of the thinner southern section of Bayocean in 1952. The northern hills were left as an island until the dike was built in 1957. These hills were platted, and some sites sold, but no building was ever built there. They'd still be there if they had been because their topography has changed little, including the sand gap and U-shaped turn on Dike Road that is shown just north of the gate on the diagram.

To create the diagram I spliced together two Tillamook County Assessor maps: 1N1031a and 1N1031d. The original town plat shows the boundaries of Bayocean as it was then, which I highlighted in red. Dike Road and the current shoreline is highlighted in blue. The reason the blue line crosses the open part of the U on Dike Road is that the interior of it is a wetland.

The building locations were taken from a drawing provided by Bert and Margie Webber on page 42 of the 1999 edition of  Bayocean: The Oregon Town that Fell Into the Sea. I added more notes of my own to give perspective. 

My method is admittedly crude, but it helped me understand  Bayocean then and now, and I hope it will do the same for others.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Bayocean by Foot, Bicycle, and Horseback

Motor vehicles are not allowed on Bayocean Spit, except for maintenance and official business for those who have keys to get through the gates. If you want to enjoy the wonders of Bayocean it has to be without the aid of a motor.

View of Tillamook Bay midway along Dike Rd, by Jerry Sutherland
Follow the Dike Road north from the parking lot all the way out the south jetty and you will have travelled about 4.5 miles. If, instead, you take the trail west from the parking lot across the peninsula to the ocean side, and follow the beach out to the jetty it's about 3.5 miles. 

View of Pacific Ocean from South Jetty, by Jerry Sutherland
So, a round trip from the parking lot to the jetty can range from 7 to 9 miles. A steady but leisurely hike, with a break for lunch on the jetty, would take you four to five hours. Along the way you'll meet others packing fishing gear on their bikes, walking their dogs, riding horses, and taking photos. 

from Bobcat at Oregon Hikers
Many other routes of various durations are enabled by trails crossing the peninsula along its length. Wandering off-trail through the low dunes on the south end is not difficult, but once you pass the locked gate about a mile north of the parking lots it's another matter: wetlands cover the lowlands and dense brush covers the hills. But if you really like bushwhacking read Bayocean's Highest Point.

Online Bayocean field guides and maps are available in several places including Oregon Hikers and Every Trail. If you have dogs (on a leash, not chasing wildlife, of course) Ellen Morris Bishop features Bayocean in her Best Hikes With Dogs: Oregon. Bill Sullivan describes a route across the sand gap, between the forested hills, and adds a nice historical perspective in Hiking Oregon's History. 

The Tillamook County website and posted signs say that overnight camping is not allowed on Bayocean. Seeing evidence of these on hikes, and reading websites claiming the overnight camping prohibition only applies to vehicles, prompted me to get some clarification. So, I called Del Schleichert, Tillamook County Parks Director. He said that all of these activities are indeed prohibited and enforced. Overnight camping is illegal anywhere on the spit, whether you drive or backpack to the spot. You might not see the county sheriff or a deputy patrolling along Dike Road, but they can, and will if they suspect a violation is in progress. One of the main reasons for the prohibition is campfires. They could get out of control and wipe out Bayocean's forest before any fire trucks could get there.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Birds of Bayocean

Over 200 species of birds are listed at Bayocean hotspots, as shown on the map at eBird. The common murre is most frequently seen, followed by the northern pintail.

Common murre, by Andreas Trepte,

Tillamookbirder provides additional information that bird watchers might find useful,  including a calendar of events, best seasons and locations to view specific species, maps, and photo gallery.

A pair of northern pintails, by J.M.Garg, Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Pre-historic Geomorphology of Bayocean Peninsula

The forces of nature that tore away much of the Bayocean Peninsula during the middle third of the Twentieth Century have been analyzed at length. But the explanation of how a spit of sand grows to such great size in the first place is much harder to come by.

The most recent and comprehensive analysis I found was Beaches and Dunes of the Oregon Coast, produced by the Oregon Coastal Conservation and Development Commission (OCCDC) in 1975. It turns out that when Bayocean Park was built the spit had already shrunk: it was just a remnant of a much larger dune that had once reached Barview, the community across the current bay inlet to the north. OCCDC said Bayocean reached its maximum size 3000 to 6000 years ago, after the last maximum submergence when the global ice melting had reached its peak. They cite William Cooper, who describes Bayocean, on page 84 of his 1958 analysis Coastal Sand Dunes of Oregon and Washington, as a "parabolic complex...represented by a single short massive ridge [that] rises 75 m [246'] above sea level." Since the inlet to Tillamook Bay could not then have been where it is now, Cooper suggests the south end as the most likely location.

In an email exchange, Jonathan Allan, mentioned in Changes In Bayocean Beaches Studied By DOGAMIthought Cooper's south inlet a reasonable possibility, because Bayocean Road is "backed by marine cliffs, which were likely cut by the ocean."

Allan explained that I was having a hard time finding a comprehensive study of the geomorphology of Bayocean because none had ever been done. But he offered some general background and comments on what I had read. He said that at the peak of the last ice age, some 18,000 years ago, the sea level was 400' lower than it is now. In effect, the continental shelf was the Oregon Coast. As ice caps melted, and seas rose, sediments of the continental shelf, as well as new sand delivered by coastal rivers, were transported landward by waves and wind and moved up and down the coastline unhindered. As the Pacific Ocean approached the modern coastline, sands were entrained by rocky headlands in littoral cells. Bayocean is part of the Rockaway cell, bounded by Cape Meares and Neahkahnie Mountain. When I asked, Allan answered that the dunes of the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area are larger than  Bayocean because they are part of a much larger littoral cell, fed by sands from a much larger river - the Umpqua.

Lloyd Ruff, who wrote Preliminary Notes on the Geology of Bayocean Peninsula for the Corps of Engineers in 1939, in response to erosion on the spit, illustrated how five rivers that drain into Tillamook Bay would have then joined into one river before entering the ocean; and that at maximum submergence the bay would have reached far up into each river. Allan thought this made sense, adding that Oregon's climate was warmer and more humid then, resulting in greater river flows. 

Plate 2, # 1 and #2, Preliminary Notes on the Geography of Bayocean Peninsula

Where bay and ocean meet, the movement of water of course slows, and sediment from both drops out of suspension to form a bar, much like at the mouth of the Columbia River. Allan said that spits typically form from discrete barrier islands joining. He agreed with Huff's conclusion that boulders falling from Cape Meares, pushed north by powerful winter storms, gave Bayocean Spit a solid foundation.

Plate 2, # 6, Preliminary Notes on the Geography of Bayocean Peninsula
Geological studies indicate that the thawing of the ice caps was uneven. As the ocean receded a bit, sands of Bayocean spit would be exposed. Tectonics plate movement, slowly forcing the Oregon coastal area upwards, could have also factored into exposing the spit. Sands from both the ocean and rivers and/or bay would have continued adding to it at high water and during storms. Winds are predominantly from the west, so they would have blown the sand farther and higher inland, with the east slopes steeper than the west, as seen on topographic maps of Bayocean. 

Allan also pointed out that "during the past 8000 years there have been at least 19 great earthquakes (magnitude 9 or greater) on the Cascadia subduction zone and their associated tsunamis, all of which would have significantly influenced the evolution of the coast."  The 315th anniversary of the last great earthquake and tsunami was celebrated by the Cape Meares Community Association on January 26, 2015. Perhaps such an event explains the sand gaps on Bayocean, or how it shrank from 246' to 152'.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Changes in Bayocean Beaches Studied by DOGAMI

Jonathan Allan, a coastal geomorphologist with the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries (DOGAMI), is leading the Oregon Beach and Shoreline Mapping and Analysis Program which is mapping and analyzing changes in beach profiles along the Oregon coast, including seven sites on Bayocean. Their mission is to “provide important information concerning the temporal (time) and spatial (cross-shore) variability of the shape of a section of beach.” Bayocean is one of three sub-cells within the Rockaway littoral cell, which spans the shoreline between Cape Meares and Neahkahnie Mountain.

"Littoral” is defined as the area from where waves splash on a beach, just above the high water mark, out to the continental shelf. As for "littoral cells", let's turn to the Scripps Institute of Oceanography :

All coasts are divided into natural compartments called littoral cells. Each cell contains a complete cycle of sedimentation including sources, transport paths, and sinks. The presence of sand on any particular beach depends on the transport of sand within the cell. When structures such as dams or harbors interfere with sand transport, downcoast beaches will erode. Therefore, the littoral cell and its budget of sediment are essential planning tools for regional and coastal management.

“Littoral drift” refers to the migration of sand up and down a coastline, caused by wave action. Because of the sand that accumulated north of the north jetty at Barview, the Corps of Engineers assumed that there was a southward littoral drift along the Oregon coast; but in in1973 Thomas Terich, a doctoral candidate in the Oceanography School at Oregon State University showed that there was the littoral drift in the Rockaway cell was net near zero. He and his advisor, Professor Paul Komar, made Terich's findings public the same year in  Development and Erosion History of Bayocean Spit, Tillamook, OregonThey pointed out that if sand were continually moving south, the beach at Barview would have continued growing until it reached the end of the jetty, which is obviously not the case. And the south side of Cape Meares is made up of rock and gravel rather than sand. They also broke a long-held belief that jetty construction had no effect in cases of net-zero littoral drift. 
Komar's next student, master's candidate Jose Roman Lizarraga-Arciniega, confirmed that net-zero drift applied to all of the littoral cells along the Oregon Coast. Their 1975 co-authored  Shoreline Changes Due to Jetty Construction on the Oregon Coast helped me understand that building a jetty replicates the geological process of creating a small cape. The established, seasonally-reversing, littoral cell is cut in two, and two smaller cells are formed on each side. If you look at any cape along the Oregon Coast, you will see that sand beaches round off the edges on each side. That sand comes from the shores between the capes. Those natural processes engage very quickly to create the same effect on each side of a new jetty. 
In the summers following the construction of Tillamook's north jetty, the sand that accumulated north of it came from such a long expanse of coastline (up to Neahkahnie) that the loss of it was negligible in any one location. The distance from the jetty to Cape Meares, on other hand, was very short, so sand removed in the winter was more noticeable, and it never returned because bay waters flowing out the inlet washed it all out to sea twice a day. As soon as construction of the south jetty began, in 1969, sand began filling the "embayment" created by it and continue to do so until a new shoreline ran parallel to predominant winter wave crests. Only then did Bayocean erosion come to an end. 
Oregon coast beaches naturally fluctuate on an annual cycle. Winter storms pull sand offshore and the milder waves of summer move it back. But the beach is never exactly the same. In The Pacific Northwest Coast (1992) Professor Komer explained why this is important for potential beach home buyers: “New retirees arrive from the Midwest in summer to settle into the comfort of a beach home fronted by a wide beach and gentle surf, only to see the sand disappear during the next winter and the waves lapping at their doors.” 

This is the dynamic that Jonathan Allan is studying for DOGAMI. He has co-authored several publications with Paul Komer 

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Bayocean Lots in the Pacific Ocean

Several books, journals, and newspaper articles say individuals own Bayocean lots now located in the Pacific Ocean. I wondered if this was still the case, and what taxes were being assessed.

A perusal of documents and maps available online at the Tillamook County Assessor's webpage shows 46 private tax lots (not including county and federal) owned by 43 individuals, trusts, or corporations, located in "Bayocean Park". Only 12 of them are on land. The other 34 are in the Pacific Ocean. 

On page 120 of Bayocean: The Oregon Town that Fell Into the Sea (1999) Bert and Margie Webber reported owners explaining "their lot was willed to them 'and it wouldn't be right to part with it.'" Unsettled estates held some property. A few people were willing to pay the small annual tax just because of emotional attachment. Bert's son Dale recently told me by phone that folks his father called were insulted when he asked them if they realized the land they were paying taxes on was in the ocean. Because, of course, asking the question implied Bert thought they were stupid. So, he quit calling. Some thought the land might someday rise again from the ocean and be cherished by their descendants. Sand accretion after the construction of the south jetty fueled their hopes.

Today, maintaining a Bayocean lot for emotional reasons doesn't cost anything because Tillamook County values them at zero because nothing permanent can be built on them. The Summary Report for many of the lots in the Pacific Ocean includes this note: "EXEMPTION: WEST OF VEG LINE, ALL 307.450". One exception is Bay Ocean LLC, the company that proposed an eco-park; and it's only paying $18.75 per year for 53 acres. 

The map below is from the Tillamook County Assessor's web page. It shows lots in the ocean located west of what is now the beach connecting Bayocean spit to Cape Meares, parallel to the Dike Road. The jagged, dotted line roughly approximates the modern shoreline. Additional maps cover property ownership on Bayocean north of this. Posting them all would take up too much space.