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The Town Swallowed By The Sea

Category: Landmark Place

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Approximate GPS Coordinates to the Bayocean town site: 45.528059, -123.9519792

Some ideas look great on paper and it’s only later when people realize that nature doesn’t always play by our set of rules. So was the case of Bayocean, a luxury resort community which has been erased from the map. That’s because this entire community, which consisted of a large hotel, expensive private homes and a natatorium, lies in pieces on the bottom of the ocean or hidden under dense vegetation and approximately 10 feet (3 meters) of sand.

Located on a spit near the entrance of the Tillamook Bay, Bayocean was intended to be a place for the privileged to live and play. The town’s developers were impressed by the amazing beaches and ocean views but clearly didn’t understand the natural forces that create (and destroy) spits. Or maybe they just didn’t care?

Whatever the case, less than two decades after Bayocean was established, parts of it were already falling to the sea. That’s because spits are very fragile landforms, created through a process called sediment transport. Even if they appear large and permanent, spits are composed mostly of sand and gravel that are constantly reshaped by the ocean, wind and rain. Ironically, the residents of Bayocean may have hastened the town’s end by building a single jetty at the mouth of the bay. This structure was meant to keep large waves away from the town, but just succeeded in funneling strong ocean currents right to the town’s beaches, undercutting and eventually destroying them.

By the 1930s, most of the town’s residents were leaving and the final building washed into the Pacific in 1971. Today, the Bayocean town site is all but gone from the landscape although sharp-eyed visitors can still see the piling for the old pier on the spit’s east side. Recently, students, teachers and historians have been working to map and educate the public about the “town swallowed by the sea” and are in the process of cutting trails and erecting educational kiosks. For more about these efforts, see Field Experiences: Uncovering Bayocean.

Photo credit: Tillamook County Pioneer Museum

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What Is A Landmark Place?

A landmark can be one of two things. It’s either a natural feature of the landscape around us that’s easily recognizable from a distance, such as a mountain, a hilltop or a river. Or it’s a place where something remarkable happened which was important to the people living in the area. This could include a naturally-existing area, but it might also be a human construction like a building, a bridge or a railroad.

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