History of Ocean Shores & North Beaches
Before the internet, before the printed word, the last glacial retreat 12,000 years ago found the rainforest meeting the sea where we find what is now the Hidden Coast Scenic Byway. An abundance of salmon ran the rain-fed rivers and streams while razor clams grew in the intertidal sands. Migrating shorebirds covered the mudflats and grey whales traveled the coastal waters.
Steep hills rising from the shore, thick vegetation, and torrential winter rains abound on this rugged land, Chehalis, Chinook, Quinault tribal people (now Quinault Indian Nation) and later settlers found sustenance and trade through this rich repository of resources. They lived between the forests and the sea.
Coastal storms have put their mark on this Hidden Coast. The great tsunami of 1700 was a response to a major earthquake off the Pacific Ocean floor. It battered the Washington state coast along to the west as far as Japan. This brought the evolution of the Ghost Forest which to this day you'll find standing dead trees along the Copalis River, inland from Copalis Beach.
On May 7, 1792 Captain Robert Gray sailed into the bay (what you view as you leave Hoquiam) and named the area Bullfinch Harbor. Later, Captain George Vancouver renamed the area after Captain Gray, now called Grays Harbor.
Just off the Hidden Coast Scenic Byway is Ocean Shores. The first settler on the Point was Matthew McGee, who settled in the early 1860s. He sold the southern portion of the peninsula to A.O. Damon in 1878 for a trading supply center whose dock extended into the Oyehut channel.
A.O. Damon took over the entire peninsula from McGee with the land passed along to his grandson, Ralph Minard. Minard used the area as a cattle ranch from 1929 until he sold to the Ocean Shores Development Corporation in 1960 for $1,000,000.
Hidden Coast Scenic Byway primary industry focused on logging and lumber mills. Cedar, Douglas fir, hemlock and spruce encompassed in this temperate rainforest region, reaching 10-15' in diameter and standing 300' tall. With the first mill in 1882 processing lumber for export, in the 1880s and 1890s, Grays Harbor emerged as one of the more important lumber-shipping ports on the west coast.
Railroad connections accelerated logging and the mill economy in Grays Harbor. Between 1883 and 1888 the Port Blakely Mill Company completed a logging railroad that reached all the way to Grays Harbor. In 1898 the Northern Pacific Railroad reached Aberdeen and Hoquiam, finally making an efficient overland connection between Grays Harbor and the rest of the nation. It connected with Moclips and the magnificent Moclips Beach Hotel in 1905.
With a Merchants picnic drawing 4,000 in 1914, Moclips remained a tourist destination. In addition, Copalis Beach, Pacific Beach and other North Beach Communities, originally isolated communities developed with connections first by rail and then by road.
Originally, supplies for Copalis Beach were shipped to Oyehut, then hauled overland along the beach. With connection to the rail, opportunity mushroomed for tourism, mills, and clamming. All along the North Beach the razor clam industry was enormously important to early development. Commercial diggers regularly hauled hundreds of tons of clams annually from the beaches for processing and export.
Pacific Beach changed dramatically during World War II when the Pacific Beach Hotel became home to Navy and the coastal defense system. Today this is the Pacific Beach Resort & Conference Center.
In the early to mid 1900s, women made a major impact on this portion of the North Beach. Ocean City was home to Dorothy Anderson (her cabin now stands in Seabrook), Nora Berg, author of "Lady on the Beach" and Nina Rutherford who opened a grocery store and gas station, plus the postmaster.
Washington State Parks including Damon Point in Ocean Shores, Ocean City, Griffiths-Priday in Copalis, and Pacific Beach, offer services and public access to the beach along SR 109. Grays Harbor National Wildlife Refuge offers public viewing of shorebirds as you depart Hoquiam on SR 109..
Within an hour's drive as you leave Moclips and Taholah, you'll be in the Olympic National Park and Lake Quinault onto the Pacific Coast Scenic Byway. Travel south and within an hour's drive you'll reach the Cranberry Coast Scenic Byway experiencing the cranberry coast, lighthouses and more Washington state coastline.
For more history, check in at: Polson Museum in Hoquiam, Museum of the North Beach and Moclips and the Quinault Cultural Center and Museum in Taholah. For environmental information, visit the Coastal Interpretive Center in Ocean Shores.
From the historic village of Taholan to the "idea town" of Seabrook, you'll find something to intrigue and delight on this stretch of SR 109 in the North Beach on the Washington state coast. Experience the history and beauty along the Hidden Coast Scenic Byway.
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