A Visit to North Cove

This bit of coast has the dubious recognition of losing the most landmass in our hemisphere than any other place.

North Cove

We recently planned a small family camping trip at Grayland State Park. When our kids were little we spend many a weekend in the area, enjoying the beach, wildlife, and surf.

Theresa and I arrived early and had a day to ourselves. I was wondering what would be a good activity to do when I remembered that years ago we had found been exploring some of the back roads in the area when we found half a house collapsed across a bluff into the surf zone. The rest of the house, refrigerator, toilet, and such, were scattered up and down the beach.

North Cove
North Cove loses more waterfront property due to erosion than any other place in this hemisphere. As much as 150' a year. This has been happening since the 1880s.
North Cove
Here's someone's freezer in the tidal zone after their house has been destroyed by tidal erosion.

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Our mission is a labor of love, but it does come with overhead. If you’d like to support our efforts we’d certainly appreciate it. Currently, we’re actively participating in the following field research:

  • COASST Beached Bird Surveys
  • Wild and Scenic River Project

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This bit of coast has the dubious recognition of losing the most landmass in our hemisphere than any other place.

Steve Weileman

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Looking down on our campground from atop Tower Rock. It's a straight 2000' straight drop from here. ...

Driving up to Mosquito Meadows I noticed a dark shadow and gap just off the forest road. This small but picturesque waterfall on Pinto Creek was the reward for pulling off to investigate.⁠ ...

Heading out to Gifford Pinchot National Forest to explore a few new areas. ...

After a week of sitting on the shoreline waiting for the weather on Augustine Island and her volcano, we finally had our chance to paddle over to the mainland. Fortune smiled at us that day! ...

A kayaker making his way across Coldwater Lake with the crater of Mt. St. Helens in the background. ...

On May 16, 1898, the North Head Lighthouse was put into service as the primary navigation aid at the mouth of the Columbia River and still stands as a sentinel overlooking this treacherous body of water, the confluence between the Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean. ...

This root was near our campsite. I was intrigued because it looks like an entire forest wrapped around it. ...

Mt. St. Helens seen from Windy Ridge. ...

Cispus River with Tower Rock in the background. Our camp was locate on the banks of the river. ...

River bank of the Cispus River inside the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. ...

Headed back to Mt. St. Helens for the weekend. Hoping to visit some of our favorite places as well as discover new ones. ...

Buck Creek is one of the many waterways that feed the Suiattle River. We spotted this view during our last Wild and Scenic Rivers fieldwork. ...

During our recent Wild and Scenic River Survey we had the opportunity to do a bit of exploring. Here's Buck Creek which drains into the Suiattle River. ...

Theresa taking a sample for the Wild and Scenic Rivers project with Adventure Scientist. We'll be heading out to the Suiattle River this weekend for another round of data. ...

Looking out over Crescent Bay from Tongue Point. We recently experienced the lowest tides in a decade here in Washington. ...

Saving a Legacy

The area once known as Cape Shoalwater on the Washington Coast, now properly known as North Cove, and nicknamed Washaway — is one of the fastest eroding places in our hemisphere. It loses an average of 150 feet a year. In a bad winter, it can be much more.

The phenomenon began in the late 1800s. North Cove was supposed to be a luxury destination for train travelers between Seattle and Portland. It was a town with brick buildings, a Coast Guard station, a clam cannery, and fine homes. The whole town fell into the ocean, one by one, and nothing could stop it.

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Theories vary as to why. The damming of the Columbia River at that time changed how sand moves around, or “sediment accretion” as the coastal geologists like to say, which is fancy talk for how all our sand is moving to Long Beach to the south of Washaway. There is also the possibility that the dredging of a ship channel by the Army Corps of Engineers, well into the 1970s, didn’t help matters. Or it could just be that this part of the state wants to stick out like a big nose. The ocean is a relentless plastic surgeon.

Homeowners, those that could afford it, have moved the homes to new lots. Most end up in the pacific. The historical cemetery was relocated across the highway. In 2018 a meeting between residents, and county/state officials was held to discuss what could be done to save the property.

Federal scientists and engineers have said that the cost of halting the erosion would be enormous — greater than the total value of the land and infrastructure in the area. And so Mother Nature continues to carve away at the shoreline.

During my trip down the beach, I found plenty of evidence of the loss incurred. Seems like there should be a message that all of us can learn from this but will we?

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