Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Oregon Coastal Atlas

1953 USACE  aerial photo of Bayocean from
 a now-defunct Oregon Coastal Atlas web tool. 

Anyone interested in Oregon's coast should know about the Oregon Coastal Atlas. Whether your focus is history, environmental issues, shoreline changes, storm and/or tsunami planning, or photographic timelines, this site offers a plethora of data, and digital tools that bring it all to life. Some of the information is not available elsewhere. For example, their Estuary Data Viewer is the only place I've found that provides a township and range map layer for Bayocean.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Stand Under Bayocean Hotel Annex's Chimney

Would you like to stand on the beach precisely 100' below the spot where the chimney of the Hotel Bayocean Annex stood 100 years ago? Well, you can, thanks to NOAA's National Geodetic Service (NGS) and its database of survey control station datasheets kept on file even after the actual station (monuments similar to those by surveyors) no longer exist. 

Excerpts from the datasheet for KINCHELOE (RD2010):



Photos show the chimney to be about 33' tall. So, the station would have been at an elevation of about 133', the highest man-made point on the spit.

Coordinates translated into decimal degrees are 45.52982, -123.954258. The chimney appears well out to sea on the NGS map, but you can reach it at medium to low tide. Everything west of the vegetation line (including the beach) is evidently colored blue.

Web sites like ORMAP and Coastal Atlas project the Bayocean townsite onto current areal views, so are more realistic; but they don't label the streets. Just keep in mind that the Annex was in the large block just southwest of 14th Street and Laurel Avenue (see the map at Bayocean Then And Now).  

The other historical datasheet of significance is for CORN RD2011, coordinates  45.52683, -123.951464. Excerpts from it:

This was the Bayside Inn (see Bayocean Then and Now ). If you visit the coordinates today you'll find that the Reeder family and Tillamook County surveyors have installed signs nearby to locate what had once been the center of Bayocean commerce. After the 1952 storms made an island of Bayocean, the Mitchells hung on for a while but had left by the time "FN" visited the site in 1954. When the dike was built to reconnect Bayocean with Cape Meares in 1956 the store and other ruins were bulldozed and burned. The area was then leveled with sand dredged from Tillamook Bay.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Cape Meares and Bayocean

Much of Cape Meares was platted with the Bayocean resort as part of the same Bayocean Park subdivision. Their fates have been intertwined ever since.

Mears [sicStreet and 2nd Street shown on the original plat map above were both lost to the sea the same way, and over the same time period, as the townsite of Bayocean.  This is why modern-day Bayocean Road ends at 3rd Street. You can see more clearly what fell into the sea at Bayocean Lots In Pacific Ocean.  

Though concrete roads had been laid on Bayocean by 1915, there was no way to reach them for another decade. By 1929, additional improvements qualified Bayocean Road as a "market road," which brought in state funds for maintenance. Eventually, the county took on the maintenance of the streets inside the Bayocean Park subdivision. Individual street names were then - at least officially - dropped, as they all became part of Bayocean Road.  

Addresses 5800 and higher (northward) along all north/south streets in Cape Meares, and those along Bayocean Road from the beach to Cape Meares Loop, are part of the original Bayocean Park subdivision. Most of the buildings there now were constructed after the town of Bayocean had disappeared. The first homes in the adjacent Oceanview subdivision were built in the 1920s. Some buildings were moved there from Bayocean before the sea destroyed made it an island  in1952.

The most prominent of the Bayocean immigrants was its schoolhouse, which now resides at 5690 4th Street NW, and serves as a community center. The schoolhouse and Pagoda houses were the earliest to be moved off Bayocean - in 1949. The Cape Meares Community Association later added to the building and maintains it. 

Barbara Bennett lived in Cape Meares then and most of the years until her death in 2019. She recalled attending Bayocean School in 7th grade and graduating from 8th grade there in 1945. Among her fourteen classmates were her brothers Jerry and Jim Schlegel, Perry Reeder, Ernest Knutson, and the Bennett siblings: Harold, Rosemarie, and James. Barbara later married James Bennett. He was interviewed by Rick Dancer for a video called "Oregon Ghost Towns: Bay Ocean, the saddest story of all" before passing away in 2014. 

Photo by author. 

Friday, March 6, 2015

When Trees Arrived on Bayocean

The dunes of the southern Oregon Coast are free of any vegetation, while Bayocean has some very large old spruce and pine on its northern, hilly, forested section. The salal, huckleberry, and other undergrowth would have followed the establishment of those trees because they require shade to survive. When might the trees have arrived?

Obviously, sand dunes must stabilize (stop growing and moving) to some degree before vegetation can take hold. So it would have to have been after Bayocean started shrinking, as discussed in Pre-historic Geomorphology of Bayocean Peninsula

Photos taken when the town was being built show trees and sales brochures featured them. In Coastal Sand Dunes of Oregon and Washington, William Cooper noted that when he visited Bayocean Park in 1928 it was "fairly well covered with brush and grass, and there were a few young pines and spruces upon it." 

190 rings on a 38" diameter log along Dike Road
On April 1, 1857, General Land Office surveyor Samuel Snowden noted a 16" pine in his field notes, while working on Bayocean. Various websites use 5 years per inch of diameter for pine and spruce, which matches the rings per inch I found on an old log next to the Dike Road on February 24, 2015. Based on this ratio, the pine that Snowden saw was about 80 years old. We can estimate that it sprouted in 1777 and that Bayocean has been vegetated for at least 238 years. But Paul Levesque thinks it more likely the tree photographed got there due to heavy flooding after 1934, due to the Tillamook Burns. Heavy rain landing on bare soil washed logs down into the rivers, that took them into the bay. Some likely ended up in the low spot across the Dike Road during a flood, and could not return when the water receded. 

At the other end of the spectrum, the natural ecological cycle has brought trees back to the southern dunes of Bayocean more recently. Photos taken by Bert and Margie Webber, and published in their  Bayocean: The Oregon Town that Fell Into the Sea , show dunes covered with grasses and Scotch broom, but no trees. If the photos were taken before the original 1989 edition, the shore pine and shrubs present today are less than 36 years old in 2015.  If the photos were taken just prior to the book's 1992 revisions, the trees are less than 23 years old. It's nice to see young 'uns when admiring the old-timers.

Hayes Oyster Company Helped Fix Bayocean's 1952 Breach

In a July 14, 2009 story, the Tillamook Headlight Herald interviewed Jesse Hayes, grandson of the man with the same name who began the first oyster farming operation in Tillamook Bay in 1928. It turns out that Hayes Oyster Company has played an important part in the history of Bayocean.

Erosion had been noticeable on the shores of Bayocean Spit since the latter half of the 1920s, and the ocean had breached the spit on multiple occasions since 1939; but nothing compared to the breach of November 13, 1952. This one spanned 3/4 of a mile and made the spit an island. It was the final blow to a town that had been in decline for years. And the sand scoured from the spit buried the oyster beds of Howard Harris and G.H. Folland (Tillamook Bay Oyster Company) and Earl Olsen, according to a story in the December 4, 1942, Headlight Herald.     

Eventually, the breach developed into two lobes of sand jutting into Tillamook Bay with a gap of 3000' between them. The southern lobe reached out from Cape Meares like the pincer of a huge crab, stopping just a few hundred feet short of connecting to Pitcher Point. The gap between the two lobes became the primary ocean inlet to Tillamook Bay, and the impact on oyster and dairy farmers was devastating. As people talked, the lobes reached further into the bay, getting closer to the oyster beds of Jesse Hayes. 

From  F40-243 at Tillamook County Surveyor Office
Photo by Buck Sherwood from Mike Watkins 
The Army Corps of Engineers finally agreed to close the gap and did so in 1956, by building a dike that started at Pitcher Point, crossed the lobes, and connected to the base of the northern hill section of Bayocean. A gate stands now at the north end, which had been the corner of 15th Avenue and Bay Street.

The Corps destroyed most of the remaining buildings of Bayocean and filled the area north of the north lobe, between the dike and what little beach remained, with sand. Over the years, a southern section of the spit was reestablished by ocean sand deposits, reconnecting it to the mainland, but the new shoreline had moved east (see Bayocean Then and Now). The land that juts out into Tillamook Bay from the modern parking lot is the tip of what had been the northern lobe. A much smaller portion of the tip of the south lobe still remains as well. The water inside the unclosed circle formed by the southern lobe eventually became Cape Meares Lake.

Jesse Hayes of Hayes Oyster Company
In the 2009 Headlight-Herald Interview, Jesse Hayes said that his grandfather contributed his buried oyster beds for construction of the dike; and that he traveled to Washington, D.C. to help Senator Wayne Morse lobby secure $11 million from Congress to pay for it. In 2011, OPB's Oregon Experience interviewed grandson Jesse in "The Oystermen". The program credits grandfather Jesse with securing an Oregon law that enabled oystermen to lease tidelands for their operations. Jesse must have been quite a lobbyist (the photo is from the Tillamook Headlight-Herald article). 

Stakes in Tillamook Bay, show the boundaries of modern oyster beds. You can visit them in person, and learn about the entire oyster industry, on guided tours facilitated by Tillamook Eco Adventures. Keep an eye out for occasional announcements in the Tillamook Headlight Herald and Tillamook County Pioneer. The tour I joined last Sunday was very interesting.

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 (confirmed and reestablished as needed)  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 set in concrete to replace a wood post Samuel Snowden and his crew had placed there on April 1, 1857, as part of the first General Land Office (GLO) survey of Tillamook County. It's the only one of their monuments remaining on. I know because I've thrashed around in the pucker brush looking for any sign of the others. 

This monument survived, while the others did not, because it served as the Initial Point for Bayocean Park, from which all streets and lots were measured. 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. Since this one is further from where the town center had been than other monuments, it must have been the only one Harkness Chapin could find when he surveyed the spit in the spring of 1907.

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 in his notes, but it could not have been as dense as today for them to cross it from south to north in one day. Snowden also mentioned a lone Indian hut on the shore of Crab Harbor. 

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 traveled 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.

February 26, 2022 update: JoAnne Woefle is now Parks Director. A porta-potty and garbage cans have been set up at the parking lot along with a $10 day-use fee station to help pay for their upkeep. 

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

Prehistoric Geomorphology of Bayocean Peninsula

While bushwhacking Bayocean's highlands looking for its highest point, I wondered how it had been formed. In researching that, I was surprised to discover that it had once been much larger and was in decline by the time the Potters discovered it in 1906. If they had known that, they might have had second thoughts on building a resort there. 

William Skinner Cooper is the source of this information. On pages 84 of his 1958 Coastal Sand Dunes of Oregon and Washington, he said the sandspit had been a "parabola complex (Pl. 2, Locality 7) is represented by a single short massive ridge just north of the bay outlet and adjacent to the pre-jetty shoreline. The ridge rises 75 m [246'] above sea level." Cooper sketched dotted lines on a 1939 Army Corps of Engineers topographic map inserted between pages 78 and 79 that show the dune passing over Barview and ending in the foothills behind it. He noted the obvious: the bay entrance would have been at the south end then. 

In an email exchange on February 17, 2015, Jonathan Allan (see Changes In Bayocean Beaches Studied By DOGAMI)  saw evidence of a prehistoric south inlet in Bayocean Road being "backed by marine cliffs, which were likely cut by the ocean." In 1955, Port of Tillamook Bay commissioner Margaret Coates told Howard Morgan (Richard Neuberger papers, UO Special Collections Ax078) that Tillamook Indians had a tradition of the bay's entrance having once been at the spit's south end. However, I have found no tribal histories, ethnological recordings of Tillamook legends and mythology, or any reference to such a tradition. 

Allan said I had found nothing other than Cooper's analysis because no extensive study of the spit's creation had ever been carried out. But he offered some general background and comments on the subject. At the peak of the last ice age, roughly 18,000 years ago, the sea level was "as much as 400 ft" lower than it is now. In effect, the current edge of 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. 

When 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. The Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area is part of a much larger littoral cell, fed by sands from a much larger river - the Umpqua. Those, of course, are not sandspits. Despite its shrinkage,  Bayocean remains the largest sandspit on the Oregon Coast, and one of the largest in the world.

Lloyd Ruff, a civilian geologist who wrote Preliminary Notes on the Geology of Bayocean Peninsula for the Corps of Engineers during its first study of erosion in 1939, said the five rivers that now drain into Tillamook Bay would have once merged into a single river before entering the ocean at the edge of the continental shelf. When the spit was at its largest extent and the ocean at its maximum submergence, the bay reached farther up each river than today. Allan agreed, 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. Explanations on pages 3-4. 

Where bay and ocean met, the movement of water of course slowed, and sediment from both dropped out of suspension to form a bar, much like at the mouth of the Columbia River. Allan said that, typically, discrete barrier islands emerge first and that later join to become a consolidated sand spit. He agreed with Ruff's conclusion that boulders falling from Cape Meares, pushed north by powerful winter storms, gave Tillamook Spit its original 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 noted, "during the past 8,000 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. 

This page was updated on February 19, 2022. Other posts about Bayocean's geology can be found on the Index page. 

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.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Bayocean's Highest Point

In Bayocean: The Oregon Town that Fell Into the Sea, Bert and Margie Webber wrote that the Bayocean Hotel was built at 140' above sea level, the highest point on the spit. However, an ad placed in the Oregonian on October 4, 1909, by thPotter-Chapin Realty Company, bragged of it standing at just 100'. A 1939 map drawn by the US Army Corps of (USACE) Engineers showed a 100' topographic line surrounding the hotel ruins. The Webbers must have seen brochures and other ads bragging that the hotel would be built on Bayocean's highest point and assumed that the USACE was referring to that spot when it said Bayocean's highest point was 140' in a 1940 study. Both were incorrect. 

In 1957, the USACE produced a more comprehensive map with the highest point shown at 154'. Studies on Bayocean, including some written by USACE, continued to use the 140' high point long after that report came out, likely because it was not widely distributed. I found this report at the National Archives in Seattle a few years after I hiked to the highest point myself, which was more fun.

Soon after Bayocean's history caught my interest, I began wondering what the elevation of the highest point was today, assuming it was lower than the hotel elevation. So I roamed Bayocean on Google Earth with my cursor noting the elevations shown in the margin. I found one at 126 feet and headed out there on December 16, 1914, with my friend Eleanor to find it. Later, looking at Google Earth again, I found several spots higher than 140' and tagged the highest one at 153' (the aerial view of it below is looking northwest towards Tillamook Bay). This made me realize that it's likely no one has ever been to Bayocean's highest point due to its remote location being a spot where nothing was ever built. With coordinates in hand (45.538290 -123.945063), Eleanor and I set again January 19, 2015. 

On a map, the shortest route to the high spot is a direct line west from Dike Road. We discovered that this would require hip boots we didn't have in order to get across a marsh, followed by a tough push up a steep incline through the nearly impenetrable brush. So we returned to the road and hiked south, then followed an established trail across the "sand gap" shown on maps, and headed uphill from a spot directly south of the high spot. We needed all of our tools (map, compass, GPS app) because the trees and other foliage was so thick in places we couldn't see far in any direction. At one point I entered info on my GPS app incorrectly, which forced us to backtrack. We tried using deer trails but they just led to dead ends where they bed down at night. Often we had to crawl under the brush to make headway. Luckily, when we got close the exact spot it was made obvious by a tall tree centered in a little knoll that stood above the surrounding turf. My GPS app registered 152'. We decided to try a shorter route back, hoping to avoid such extreme bushwhacking, by heading southeast on a ridgeline back to Dike Road. 

Eleanor at Bayocean's high spot
We figured going down a steep slope with no marsh at the bottom would be a snap. It wasn't. The brush was thicker there than anywhere else. Allowing our bodies to fall forward and down into the brush, picking ourselves back up and doing it again, was the most effective approach. I was impressed by Eleanor's sense of humor, fortitude, and willingness to put up with such a lousy trip leader.

Later, when I told Jonathan Allan, a coastal geomorphologist with the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries what I'd learned, he said this highest point was shown on their LIDAR map at about 153'. Sea level rise over the last 60 years would have been enough to lower the elevation from above to below 153.5'. Rounding up and down does the rest in explaining how 154' in 1959 shrank to 153' today. 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Bayocean Eco-park Rejected By Tillamook County Planning Commission

A January 12, 2015 the Tillamook Headlight-Herald reported that at a public hearing on January 8th the Tillamook County Planning Commission denied the conditional use permit  requested by Dale Bernards (Bay Ocean LLC) to build an eco-resort on the 53 acres that he owns on Bayocean .The Tillamook County Planning Commission web page has an audio recording of the hearing and minutes of their November 13 meeting pertaining to the subject.

The Tillamook County Pioneer ran a story May 3, 2014 titled "Owner of proposed Bayocean eco-resort invites county to purchase land", which suggests Bernard's underlying purpose. It includes useful history on land ownership and usage on Bayocean. They later reported that Bernard had not filed an appeal of the decision by the January 22nd deadline, and that he was cryptic about future plans.

A 23-page Bayocean Park report submitted to Tillamook County on August 27th was produced by Stephens Planning and Design, and the students of a University of Oregon "Green Cities" course, instructed by Ric Stephens.  The report was comprehensive and and well produced, containing information of value to Bayocean aficionados far beyond the eco-resort plans: current and historic maps, a history of Bayocean, details regarding fauna and flora, photos, graphics, and references to sources of more information. Especially helpful in my own search to understand how the past and present of Bayocean comes together is a plat of the original town site laid over a modern bird's eye view of the spit. Unfortunately the URL is no longer valid. 

Residents of Cape Meares, the village at the south end of Bayocean, formed the Save Our Spit Committee after learning of the proposed eco-resort. They sponsored the survey referenced earlier and submitted 156 pages as "Exhibit C: Written Testimony Part 2 " to the Planning Commission. It includes a scrapbook of photos called "This is Bayocean Spit", reports on geology, wildlife, potential eco-resort impacts, early Native American use of Bayocean, and much more.
The Oregon Coast Alliance has a web page dedicated to campaign against Bernard's Bayocean development . Their testimony was "Exhibit C: Written Testimony Part 1" . At 224 pages it also contains a mass of information.

Controversial as it may be, the proposed Bayocean Park has produced a collection of information that should be of interest to anyone interested in Bayocean's history and geography.