And the Long Beach Peninsula
Etched by the waterways that lead to the Pacific Ocean, Pacific County embraces a feeling of serenity and untouched natural beauty. The thickly forested Willapa Hills run through the county north to south. The Columbia River sets its south boundary and the shores of Willapa Bay and the Pacific Ocean define its reach west. The area is rich in recreational opportunities from kayaking to kite flying, clamming to treasure hunting, fishing to beach combing. Turn of the century towns tout a one hundred-year old history of welcoming visitors, seeking the solace, relaxation and rejuvenation of a seaside retreat.
Pacific County encompasses the southwestern most corner of Washington State. The 43-square mile Long Beach Peninsula stretches 28 miles north and is approximately 1.5 miles wide. The Peninsula is 108 miles from Portland and 146 miles from Seattle. The closest major airport is Portland International (120 miles away). The Long Beach Peninsula includes the cities of Long Beach and Ilwaco, as well as the towns of Seaview, Nahcotta, Oysterville, Chinook, and Ocean Park. N. Pacific County includes the towns of Raymond, South Bend, Tokeland and Menlo.
When Meriwether Lewis and William Clark charted the Lower Columbia River in November 1805, the region was home to the Chinook Indians. Growth stemming from its origins as a transportation hub brought settlers seeking their fortune in oysters. Their arrival, in the 1850s, and subsequent success spurred development in the area. A military installment, Fort Canby, began in 1852 after the confederate ship Alabama was spotted along the Pacific Coast. Cape Disappointment Lighthouse was built in 1856 and a second lighthouse added in 1898. By the turn of the century, the coastal areas had become a popular seaside retreat for Portland society.
BEACH AND BOARDWALK
The Long Beach Peninsula boasts one of the longest beaches in the world – a 28-mile stretch of public beach – and a half-mile long oceanfront boardwalk.
An eight mile long paved trail that stretches from Ilwaco, across the Cape Disappointment headlands, through Beard’s Hollow and over grassy dunes along the Pacific Ocean to north Long Beach. Open to non-motorized traffic, the trail features interpretive markers depicting Lewis and Clark events of historic significance.
TWO LANDMARK LIGHTHOUSES
Cape Disappointment, in operation since 1856, is situated on a steep cliff where the Columbia River flows into the Pacific Ocean. Since ships traveling from the north needed further assistance crossing the “Graveyard of the Pacific,” the U.S. government constructed North Head Lighthouse in 1898.
LEWIS & CLARK INTERPRETIVE CENTER
At the Interpretive Center, the Lewis and Clark expedition comes alive with original journal entries, photo murals, artwork, exhibits, and displays. Open daily from 10AM to 4PM, admission is free.
CAPE DISAPPOINTMENT STATE PARK
Having guarded the mouth of the Columbia for 95 years, Cape Disappointment became a state park in 1957. It is home to the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center and the landmark Cape Disappointment Lighthouse. A 4.3-mile trail meanders through old-growth forest and log-piled coastline to the lighthouse. The trail closely follows the path of William Clark in 1805.
OYSTERVILLE HISTORIC DISTRICT
Century-old homes, many constructed from Northern California redwood, line the streets of this impeccably preserved community on the bay side of the Peninsula. The entire community was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976. A 1905 schoolhouse is used as a community center. The Baptist church, dating from 1892, is open to the public.
CRANBERRY MUSEUM & DEMONSTRATION FARM
A converted workshop and research station, the museum displays implements used by cranberry farmers and historic research records; it also provides access to the adjacent bog with blossoms at their peak in May and harvest in October. It is open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, May through December 15, from 10AM to 3PM. Admission is free.
COLUMBIA PACIFIC HERITAGE MUSEUM
History of the area, tribal background, life in the early days; a research library; and a logging, fishing and estuary exhibit are featured at the museum. The museum is open daily during the summer from 9AM to 5PM and from noon to 4PM on Sunday. For more information, call (360) 642-3446.
WILLAPA BAY INTERPRETIVE CENTER
A replica of an oyster station house, the center offers a quick education on oysters and the oyster industry. Overlooking Willapa Bay in Nahcotta, the center is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Memorial Day through the Labor Day weekend and, by request, for large groups.
NORTH PACIFIC COUNTY ATTRACTIONS
Pacific County Courthouse, South Bend, an elegant 1920 courthouse open to self-guided tours; Pacific County Historical Society Museum, South Bend, Native Americans, fishing, and logging and how they shaped the history of Pacific County; Northwest Carriage Museum, Raymond, a new museum showcasing 15 horse-drawn carriages and sleighs from the 1800s; Wildlife-Heritage Sculpture Corridor, Raymond, unique steel sculptures along Hwy. 101 and SR 6 designed by local artists in 1993 to reflect local heritage; Willapa Seaport Museum, showcasing a myriad of marine artifacts, information, insight and humor; Public Market on the Willapa, Raymond, locally produced art, food, and crafts; and the Raymond Theatre, Raymond, 1926 working theater listed on the National Historic Register.
PARKS & WILDERNESS AREAS
The area is marked by a low concentration of development and includes many parks and refuges including several in northern Pacific County. It is home to Willapa Bay — one of the most pristine estuaries in the contiguous 48 states – offering a variety of fishing and low-impact water-sport activities. One can also enjoy canoeing, kayaking, boating, crabbing, hunting, clam digging, horseback riding, biking, hiking and golf.
The Willapa National Wildlife Refuge encompasses 9.5 square miles including Long Island. Excellent bird watching, beach walks, and hiking can be found at the 947-acre Leadbetter Point State Park.
LEWIS AND CLARK
The Corps of Discovery reached their goal of navigating across the continent to the Pacific Ocean in Pacific County. The history is evidenced by the formation of a new national park the Lewis and Clark National and State Historical Park, at interpretive centers, events, in parks and with interpretive markers along the 8-mile coastal Discovery Trail.
Cape Disappointment’s Waikiki Beach provides an excellent place to watch winter storms blow in from the Pacific Ocean. They are at their peak during the highest tides of the winter months.
CHARTER BOAT FISHING
Several charter-boats operate out of the Ilwaco Marina. The area boasts the highest catch per unit of effort on any locale along the West Coast.
Find antiques and collectibles, fine art and photography, locally crafted goods, toys, fudge and salt-water taffy, kites, and nautical gear in shops in the pedestrian core of Long Beach and elsewhere on the Peninsula. On Friday’s in the summer Long Beach hosts the Columbia-Pacific Farmers’ Market and on Saturdays the Ilwaco Marina hosts an open market with food, crafts, and more. Willapa Bay is home to some of the finest seafood in the Northwest, including Willapa Bay oysters. Numerous markets sell fresh, smoked and canned seafood.
Pacific County is renowned for its seafood offerings including succulent Willapa Bay oysters, which are grown and harvested here. Local restaurants specialize in oysters and other seafood. Bay Center, a picturesque fishing village, is a major oyster center and a “must stop” for oyster lovers.
The Long Beach Peninsula is well known for its concentration of award-winning eateries from fine dining to oyster bars. In fact, many visitors from around the region visit the Peninsula for its legendary restaurants. Gourmet fare often features Northwest Regional Cuisine, notable for its use of seasonal, locally gathered ingredients – an abundance of fresh fish and seafood, game, wild berries, wild mushrooms, cranberries, and more.
The Long Beach Peninsula has more than one thousand guestrooms ranging from antique-appointed historic inns to romantic bed and breakfast establishments. Seaside cottages, family-style condominiums, motels, public camping at Cape Disappointment State Park, the Lightkeeper’s House, and RV sites are among the many other options. Call 1-800-451-2542 or access www.funbeach.com.
North Pacific County has unique bed and breakfasts motels and hotels, including the Historic Tokeland Hotel overlooking Willapa Bay and the Pacific Ocean.
Pacific County offers numerous events throughout the year. A complete listing can be found on www.funbeach.com.
FAVORITES INCLUDE SANDSATIONS, DOGGIE OLYMPIC GAMES, BLUES & SEAFOOD, JAZZ & OYSTERS, WATER MUSIC FESTIVAL, WILD MUSHROOM CELEBRATION, ‘OCIAN IN VIEW’, OYSTER STAMPEDE, AND THE EVER-POPULAR WASHINGTON STATE INTERNATIONAL KITE FESTIVAL (WWW.KITEFESTIVAL.COM).