Just off the Hidden Coast Scenic Byway before you enter into Ocean Shores, you'll find Oyehut. In Chinook it translates to road, trail, way or path. Tribes fished sturgeon in the Oyehut channel.
The Minard ranch, now the city of Ocean Shores on the peninsula with the only high land, this was the transportation link as the white settlers ventured into the area. Oyehut was the small community developed near the boat pier which moved to the coastal side of the peninsula.
In the 1930s, a group of Finns found their way to Oyehut. They became clam diggers and were "exiles" from the rest of the society. Mistrusting of others, they kept to themselves, pretending not to understand English.
"They are strange men, hard drinkers, with their own code of honor. You're their friend or their enemy. They have no feelings in between that for anyone. They are also the most satisfactory workers I've ever employed. Their word is the only contract you need with them; they would rather die than not carry out a bargain," Ralph Minard quoted in "Lady on the Beach" by Nora Berg.
Oyehut Wildlife Refuge is 683 acres of unique salt water intrusion with sand dunes on three sides, the North Jetty of Grays Harbor opposite. Known as a gathering place of waterfowl and coastal migrating species, this area attracts beach visitors providing qualities science, education and the public may find in limited locations in Washington state.
The habitat is a rare type preserving natural state to wildlife requiring salt water wetlands. Vegetative cover progresses from the beach dune grasses to evergreen 1,000 yards from the beach. Accretion continues with silt and sand deposits combined with driftwood deposits and dune grass growth. This area of wetlands creates a natural waterfowl haven.
Summer finds this wildlife refuge as a home to migrating birds:
- Lesser and Greater Yellowlegs
- Red-necked Phalaropes
In the grassy area, you may spot Pacific and American Golden-Plovers and the more rare Sharp-tailed Sandpiper and Ruff.
In 1991, Oyehut became home to a new school. Ocean Shores Junior High and High School is found outside the "gates" of Ocean Shores.
After voters approved an $6.85 million bond in 1988 to finance this 66,000 square foot building. This replaced the North Beach High School in Moclips.
Built to accommodate 350-400 students, the secondary school serves all junior high and high school age children from the entire North Beach.
One controversy continues to surface. It's the spelling. Oyehut uses this spelling for it's community. In his book, "Chinook, a History and Dictionary," Edward H. Thomas was sometimes written as Wayhut. Oyhut is the spelling used on Washington State Highway maps.
Oyhut Bay is a new development. This is located on the south end, closer to the jetty in Ocean Shores.
Oyehut and it's companion, Illahee, finds homes to locals and vacation rentals. It provides easy access and proximity to the beach and entrance into the city of Ocean Shores.
For traveling Hidden Coast Scenic Byway and when you drive to Ocean Shores, take a look at the wildlife area near the high school and consider the history of this spot which holds a special place in North Beach history.