A bit of bayocean


One of the most fascinating towns on the North Coast doesn’t even exist any more. It’s Bayocean, otherwise known as the Atlantic City of the West Coast, built on a 4-mile spit on Tillamook Bay.

By 1914, 600 lots had been sold, and the Salt Water Artificial Surf Natatorium (pictured) opened, featuring a heated pool, wave machine, balconies for spectators, bands to serenade the swimmers and a movie theater. Streets, businesses and houses popped up quickly. The natatorium is pictured, courtesy of PDXHistory.com (http://tinyurl.com/histpix).

The residents demanded that a jetty be installed on Tillamook Bay, and even though the Army Corps of Engineers recommended two be built, but the townspeople were only willing to pay for one. The jetty changed the currents, and Bayocean soon started eroding away.

In 1939, the natatorium vanished. Bayocean was bulldozed in 1956, and in 1960, the last remaining house fell into the ocean. When you see the Bayocean sign now on Oregon Highway 131, all you’ll see beyond it is a barren spit extending out into the bay. (Ironically, a second jetty was completed in 1979, and the north shore of Bayocean has been rebuilding ever since.)

A recent post on Jerry Sutherland’s Bayocean blog, “Crabapple Park” (http://tinyurl.com/bayocrab) notes that former Bayocean resident Perry Reeder (he lived there as a child in the 1940s) and his family have been excavating out on the spit, and have unearthed a small section of the resort’s original sidewalk.

It must have been no easy feat, since the spit has moved considerably east since Bayocean’s heyday. For example, the natatorium and pavilion, which were right on the beach, would now be 600 feet out at sea. As it turns out, Perry used some crabapple trees he remembered — which had somehow survived Bayocean’s demise — as a landmark to guide him where to dig.

There are detailed directions on how to get to the spot on the blog, but the writer adds this caveat: “If you find the hole, be very careful as you approach it. The barrier is flimsy and sand is — of course — unstable. Certainly, do not go down into it.”

­— Elleda Wilson

Elleda Wilson is an editorial assistant for The Astorian and author of the award-winning In One Ear community column. Contact her at 971-704-1718 or ewilson@dailyastorian.com.