The Longest Beach In The World
Beach Facts About Long Beach, Washington
Also known as the “World’s Longest Drivable Beach,” at one time Long Beach’s sand was packed densely enough to support the weight of vehicles. This attracted tourists from all over the world to come and drive the length of the beach, or at least part of it. While part of the beach was stable enough to drive on, other parts were too risky to take a vehicle out on.
Now, sections of the beach are protected for the sake of clam beds and Long Beach hedges. Every April, people come to learn about the history of Razor Clamming at the Long Beach Razor Clam Festival. This event has been revived from a 10 year run in the 1940’s.
Along with the World Kite Museum, the Long Beach Peninsula is home to the Washington State International Kite Festival. Held on the third weekend of August since 1996, events for this epic festival include kite fighting and indoor kite flying competitions and performances.
Long Beach Peninsula was formed some 10,000 years ago by the Columbia River. Before coastal resorts and the time when Long Beach became an escape spot for wealthy Portlanders, the peninsula was used as a highway for the Chinook peoples of the Columbia River and Willapa Bay. The hard sands made for the perfect 28 mile foot path for Chinook to act as intermediaries for trade between northern tribes and those living further inland on the Columbia.
European fur traders came for to trade for the wild cranberries that grew in abundance there. Native peoples would dry and store them for the winter. They would also set up temporary camps in the area to fish for salmon. Along with berries and salmon, the plethora of natural resources included camas bulbs, clams, and oysters.
A captain from the Corps of Discovery, William Clark (1770-1838), noted in his journal about his journey to the peninsula. In 1805, he carved his name and the date into a tree that has since been removed. The tree marked the end of what is more famously known as the Lewis & Clark expedition. It is believed that the tree was located between Chautauqua Lodge and The Breakers Condominiums.
Few white people came to the area until farmers claimed homesteads in the 1860s. The Chinook ceded their lands in a treaty with Superintendent of Indian Affairs, Anson Dart (1797-1879) at Tansy Point in 1851. Sadly, Congress never ratified the treaty and the Chinook were left without a reservation. Tribal members relocated to the Quinault Reservation and the Shoalwater Bay Tribes Reservation. Some Chinook peoples decided to stay on their home lands and have since petitioned the government for recognition. Recognition was received in 2000 only to have it rescinded a short time later.
In 1870, a stagecoach service was set up to bring people to the beach that was in a different location than it is now. The beach used to be a quarter of a mile closer to the future township site of Long Beach because the Columbia River caused a build up of sand on the peninsula, making it much wider than it is today. By 1872, hotels were being set up in present day Seaview and in 1875 a steamship started bringing people across the river from Astoria. In 1880 the Long Beach Peninsula was Henry Tinker began platting the land to be developed as a tourist destination.
The Northern Pacific Railway came to the area in 1892 which threatened the Ilwaco Navigation Company’s domination of the area’s tourism industry and freight leaving from Willapa Bay. To remedy this threat, Ilwaco Navigation Company brought a rail line from it’s dock at Ilwaco to the landing at Nahcotta. A train stopped at the Tinker Hotel, with planks laid at the front door of the hotel. Nicknames for the railway included the Clamshell Railroad and the Irregular Rambling and Never-Get-There Railroad because the train was well-known to stop for the tiniest distraction. In August of 1988, the town’s name was changed to Long Beach and land values skyrocketed from about $9 per acre to $200 per acre.
Tourism continued to flourish in Long Beach as the automobile was introduced to America. In the early 1900s, the resort town offered the Canaria Bathhouse and the Crystal Waters Natatorium with indoor seawater swimming pools. Clams have always been a main attraction of the peninsula, and visitors used to sample the world’s largest clam fritter made in the world’s largest frying pan. The 14.6 foot long pan now hangs in the middle of a Long Beach park.
Concerned with the dramatic decline in salmon and clam populations, a Seashore Conservation Area was established in 1968. After legal battles regarding land titles, land deeds located about 100 feet east of the beach’s vegetation line was set aside for no further development. Public access was allowed as long as it was for recreational use like swimming, boating, and clamming. Research has also been done for a Dunes Management Plan to deal with the ever moving landscape of the sandy peninsula.
The Long Beach Peninsula Visitors Bureau has also implemented a Beach-Friendly Fourth to raise awareness about how to minimize the impact of Independence Day celebrations on the beach, a Seashore Conservation Area managed by Washington State Parks. The initiative urges people to use common sense and to be respectful to others and the environment by paying attention to posted regulations, which include no overnight camping on the beach.