Sunday, April 26, 2015

Cassin’s Auklets Wreck Hits Bayocean

This winter tens of thousands of dead Cassin's Auklets have appeared on beaches all along the Pacific Coast, 10 to 100 times normal rates, according to the University of Washington report "Cassin's Auklet North Pacific Winter Wreck 2014-2015". Volunteers with COASST and CoastWatch have been collecting and counting specimens, many of which were autopsied to determine cause of death. Audubon Magazine's "Lost at Sea: Starving Birds in a Warming World" agrees with UW and others that the dead birds are juveniles who starved for reasons associated with global warming.

Photo by D. Derickson of COASST

Unfortunately, Bayocean participated in this "wreck". In a CoastWatch report on December 26, 2014, Cape Meares resident Olli Olikainen counted 126 dead auklets along Mile 289, which is at the northern end of the ocean side of the spit, and 121 dead auklets along Mile 286.  The Cape Meares Community Association web site lists others who helped out: Keith and Anita Johanson, BJ Byron, Kevin and Kathy Burke, Carolyn Olikainen, Wendy Kunkel, Dave Audet, John Harland, Ciel Downing, Rod Pelson, and Pete Steen. Thanks to all of you for doing this unpleasant but important work.

The good new is that Olli saw no dead birds on March 30, 2015 , just a few remaining bones and feathers. Hopefully all  seen on Bayocean in the future will be flying by like little tennis balls against the backdrop of a coastal sunset.

Photo by Jamie Chavez via Flickr Creative Commons
Photo by Julio Mulero via Flickr Creative Commons


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Bayocean Shoreline Changes Over Time

In Oregon Coastal Atlas I mentioned a web viewer set up by Tanya Haddad to view changes in Bayocean's shorelines from 1939 to 1964, using aerial photographs from the Army Corps of Engineers. The four diagrams below show the changes in a different way. Figures 19 and 20 are the last two pages of the Final Impact Statement for the Extension of Tillamook South Jetty, again provided by the Corps.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Trail Signs

If you've hiked the signed trails on Bayocean you'll have noticed that the ones on the bay side are just off Dike Road, while the ones on the ocean side are not visible from the beach. Rather, they are posted where trees begin. I wondered if that was because they were installed before the south jetty was built and thus could be used to see how much sand accretion could be attributed to them. Since the Tillamook County Parks Department is in charge of trail maintenance, I called Director Del Schleichert to find out.

Del informed me that the signs were placed there in the early 2000s, just before he was hired. He said they were made of a weather-resistant, composite material by workers employed at a state correctional institution, with the date stamped on the back. I confirmed this during a hike on April 8, 2015. They were all stamped either June 2002 or  November 2001.

Signs are not placed on the foredunes because the sand is constantly shifting. Thus, any signs installed, or trails built, would require constant maintenance. Tillamook County just doesn't have the budget for that. Bayocean hiking enthusiasts have resolved the problem on their own by placing and maintaining tripods and posts with colored strings to let folks know where they need to leave the beach. Once on the foredune, you can see the trails sign or footprints leading to them.  On behalf of those of us who benefit from those tripods, I'd like to thank those who set them up.

As to accretion of sand attributable to the south jetty, that can be seen in aerial photographs and sketches drawn by the Corps of Engineers. Time-lapse photo overlays at Google Earth show very little change since 1994.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Zoning Change For Bayocean Moves Forward

Map by John Harland
On April 9, 2015, the Tillamook County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to direct the Tillamook County Planning  Department to initiate steps to change the zoning of Bayocean Spit from Recreation Management (RM) to Recreation Normal (RN). If finalized, this change, which was requested by the Cape Meares Community Association (CMCA), would preclude commercial development like the recent  Bay Ocean LLC proposal to build an eco-park, which was rejected by Tillamook County Planning Commission.

John Harland was the primary spokesperson for the CMCA. He argued that any commercial development on Bayocean would be inappropriate for reasons detailed at the CMCA web site. Vic Affolter, Deborah Neal, Chris Spence, and Charles J. Ansorge also spoke in favor of the zone change. See the  notes taken by Ansorge, CMCA President.

According to multiple sources, including a story in the Tillamook County Pioneer, approximately 50 people attended the special workshop, with most of them in favor of the change. An article in the Tillamook Headlight Herald covered the one exception at great length. Chris Stellflug said that his family's desire to build a cabin on the shoreline of Cape Meares Lake had been stymied by zone changes since buying the property in the 1960s. They also may want to build a commercial fish farm in Cape Meares Lake, most of which covers land owned by them. As long as the proposed zone change has no effect on them, Stellflug said they would  not object to it. Commissioners Tim Josi and Mark Labart both made statements supporting that outcome.

This decision to proceed by the Board of County Commissioners is just the first step. After the Planning Department drafts a proposal, their Planning Commission will hold public hearings and make a recommendation to the Board of County Commissioners. Josi expected that process to take about four months.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Kincheloe Point

Kincheloe Point, the northeast section of Bayocean Peninsula, was named for Julius Kincheloe, who drowned while soundings the bar at the mouth of Tillamook Bay for the U.S. Coast Survey on May 20, 1867. 

Sketches of the Pacific Coast had been drawn by the earliest of mariners, but they were so imprecise as to make port entries hazardous. Once California, Oregon, and Washington had been brought into the United States, the Superintendent of the U.S. Coast Survey sent "assistants" to draw accurate charts and make shipping safer along the West Coast. When the first assistants arrived in San Francisco in 1849, they surveyed the most critical ports - like San Francisco, Astoria, and Seattle - first.  As years went by they hired "sub-assistants" to fill in the gaps.

In an autobiography, Assistant Superintendent James Lawson , Kincheloe's supervisor, said that he and his wife arrived in Tillamook in June of 1866. He hired locals Charles West, Samuel Lanagan, Henry Ballou, Beveriah Steelcup, and Elias Steelcup to assist him and started establishing precise geographic coordinates. Later, they took soundings to map out Tillamook Bay's hydrography.

In the Obituary and Section XI of his 1867 report, Superintendent Benjamin Peirce said that after eleven months Kincheloe's work was mostly complete; he was just waiting for calm seas to get a couple final soundings to create a "concluding line across the bar." Opportunity came May 20, when "the channel was perfectly smooth...not a ruffle on its surface" according to a story in Oregon City's Weekly Enterprise . Kincheloe and his five men had finished, and were heading back when a breaker swamped the boat. Before they could recover (due to the anchor falling out) another one capsized it, and others washed them overboard. The only man to hang on and survive was James Steel.  

On May 8, 1902 T.B. Handley was prompted by the drowning of the Steelcup brothers' nephew Fred to write about the Kincheloe event in the Tillamook Herald. Steel was saved by a boy named Duvall Clark (Pierce called him George Clark, Jr.). His family was living at what's now Barview, so he could see what was happening. He headed out in a small canoe "despite the entreaties and commands of his frightened mother." In the meantime, Daniel Bayley (at whose home the Kincheloe's were staying; his land claim was to become Garibaldi) hired four Indians from a nearby village, who relieved Duvall from pulling Steele behind him (to avoid swamping the little canoe) against a heavy outgoing current.

Superintendent Peirce said that, "On July 1st the bodies of Sub-Assistant Kincheloe and Elias N. Steelcup, one of the crew, were found at a point on the coast about fourteen miles distant from Tillamook Bar." Bodies of the others were never recovered. The Herald reported that Ballou was survived by a wife and child, implying the rest were bachelors.

At Neah Bay, James Lawson heard the news from a passing ship and went to Olympia where he received orders (as expected) via telegraph to proceed to Tillamook. When he arrived he found Mrs. (Jennie) Kincheloe " in great distress." No wonder: she'd watched the entire event from shore, wrote a final report for her husband, and then (according to Handley) "went to bed and was prematurely [sic]delivered of a stilborn [sic] child."
While waiting for Captain Flavel to send a schooner to retrieve them, Mrs. (Cecilia) Bayley nursed Mrs. Kincheloe to the point she could travel to Astoria, where Mrs. Flavel took over. Lawson then accompanied her on a passenger steamer to San Francisco, from where she sailed back home in Maine.

The first Coast Survey chart of Tillamook Bay was published in 1869  along with the superintendent's 1867 report.  It was credited to Kincheloe but left the spit unnamed. When Superintendent F.M. Thorne updated the chart in 1887, he named the spit Kincheloe Point. This honor had been preceded by a Coast Survey ship being christened the Kincheloe in 1876. As discussed in Stand Under Bayocean Hotel, a survey control station was named after Kincheloe in 1926. All the men who drowned that day are listed at the Coast Survey's In the Line of Duty web page.

The Corps of Engineers and the Coast Survey both referred to the entire spit as Kincheloe Point until long after Bayocean was built. It wasn't until Bayocean was washed to sea that the name Kincheloe Point was relegated to just the northeast corner of the spit. Before the levies were built, the narrow spot between Kincheloe Point and Green Hill was the mouth of Tillamook Bay. Reports of the drowning said the bar was about 1 1/4 miles out from there, which would be near the end of the current jetties.

The Tillamook Bar continues to be "one of the most treacherous bars on the Oregon coast" according to the Coast Guard Tillamook Bay website.  A 2010 story in the Oregonian titled  "Tillamook Bay bar grows more deadly, claiming 17 lives in seven years" explains why. The drowning of Sub-Assistant Kincheloe and his crew was an unfortunate harbinger of things to come.

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

Bayocean Park, Oceanview, and Cape Meares

The modern community of Cape Meares did not exist when Bayocean Park was platted in 1907. Nor did Bayocean Road and  4th Street, its main arteries (highlighted in yellow in the plat map below). All of the resort facilities were on the spit, a couple of miles north of the corner at  Mears [sic] Street and 1st Avenue. The latter would become Bayocean Road. The first summer cottages were also on the spit, taking advantage of the views of bay and ocean for which the resort was named.  The southern strip of Bayocean Park, on the hillside north of Cape Meares was part of the subdivision in order to enable automobile access to the resort. Because of erosion, Mears and 2nd Street are now part of the sea and shoreline depending on the tide, so Bayocean Road ends at 3rd Street. The damage inflicted by erosion can be seen at Bayocean Lots In Pacific Ocean.  
Miles of concrete roads were laid middle of Bayocean Park by 1915, but there was no way to reach them driving a car for more than a decade. And it wasn't until 1929 that the road from Tillamook to Bayocean was improved sufficiently to qualify as a "market road," which brought state funding for maintenance. Eventually, Tillamook County took over maintenance of the streets inside the Bayocean Park subdivision as well as the road from Tillamook to it's boundary. 1st Avenue, Mears Street, and Bay Street then became part of Bayocean Road.  
House addresses 5800 and higher (northward) along all north/south streets in Cape Meares are part of the Bayocean Park subdivision. Houses addressed less than 5800 are in Oceanview, the subdivision at Bayocean Park's southern boundary, platted in 1909. A resort town with a similar name, Oceanside, located on the south side of Cape Meares, appeared much later. 

During the 1930s - after Bayocean Road was finished - Tillamook commuters started building homes in Oceanview and the mainland section of Bayocean Park. Lots were cheaper there than in the city, and erosion made Bayocean unattractive. The construction of Naval Air Station Tillamook brought even more commuters. Eventually, residents of the two mainland subdivisions started referring to their community as "Cape Meares."  

A few buildings were moved from Bayocean to Cape Meares before the spit became an island in November 1952The most famous of them was its schoolhouse, which now resides at 5690 4th Street NW, and serves as a community center (the Pagoda houses, nearly as famous, were the first to be moved off Bayocean). The Cape Meares Community Association later added to the building and maintains it. 

Barbara Bennett lived in Cape Meares during her childhood and most of her adult years until she died 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 the breakwater was built on top of the buried oyster beds with his grandfather's blessing and that he helped secure its funding from Congress. In 2011, OPB's Oregon Experience interviewed  Jesse in "The Oystermen". The program credits his grandfather 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. 

For stories about the buildings shown, and the precise locations for some of them, look for them on the Index page. 

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.