Oregon 101
(Bygone Byways(TM) since 2001)

Oregon, synonymous with mountains, beaches and wineries, continues to captivate today.  One of the original US highways so designated in 1926, Highway 101 has helped bring together and bond the many small communities of coastal Oregon for over 75 years now.  Providing the infrastructure so desperately needed in this rugged part of the country, 101 has helped Oregon to establish its Pacific beaches as a world-class destination.  Indeed, a drive along Oregon Highway 101 has become a vacation in and of itself.  The state of Oregon and even the U.S. government agree:  Oregon's Highway 101 has been designated as both a state and national scenic byway.  Don't you dare miss it!

    So with this in mind, let's begin our trip into northern Oregon as we enter the state crossing the mighty Columbia...


 Tame now as compared to when Lewis and Clark first rode upon it, the Columbia still presents a formidable challenge to even modern Engineering101-OR-Astoria-Columbia River Bridge.jpg (97952 bytes) methods and materials.  Do you realize that it wasn't until 1966 that the huge, 4.2 mile long Megler-Astoria river bridge was built?  You can get an idea of the size/height of this bridge...check out the top of the semi-truck on the bridge in my photo.  Until this bridge wasUS101 Astoria Ferry Info.jpg (177125 bytes) built, the would-be traveler was more likely an unwilling sit-n-waiter...waiting for this little ferry pictured at the right to shuttle your vehicle on a choppy, 20-minute adventure across the river.  This excerpt is from a 50's era Oregon 101 travel brochure I've managed to come across.  Note the comments about Victoria, B.C. being noted as the northern terminus for U.S.101.  It makes me believe that perhaps the strip of highway between Olympia and Port Angeles should have been designated as '101E' or something else altogether.


South of Astoria, be on the lookout for the bustling little town of Cannon Beach.  Named for the cannon of a sunken ship that washed ashore near here, 101PC-OR-Cannon Beach-Hug Point-NoPM.jpg (122181 bytes)Cannon Beach today is a thriving artist colony and tourist destination.  If you've seen any Highway 101 postcards at all, I'm sure you're familiar with the images of Haystack Rock and Hug Point.  In fact, I've got two or three great 'now & then' comparisons I'd like to share 101-OR-Hug Point St. Park-Hug Point.jpg (102623 bytes)with you.  For example, please compare this old postcard of Hug Point with my current (06/02) photo of the same area.  This spot is now in Hug Point state park (north of the parking area) which is just a few miles south of Cannon Beach.  Upon closer examination, the old concrete from the original road is still quite evident on this well-worn outcropping.  I can't imagine what the original road builders had in mind...trying to build a road so close to the sea.
Authors addendum-04/05: From an e-mail, reader Paul Meienberg who lived in the area relates these interesting tidbits:
 "Having spent summers from the 1940s through the 1970s at our home at Arch Cape fronting the beach about 1/4 mile south of Hug Point, I can clear up your questioning why a rough road was constructed around the point. For years this was the only access to Arch Cape.  Cannot say exactly when the road came through from Cannon Beach, but in 1947 it was still unpaved.  Also the tunnel south of Arch Cape was only constructed about 1940, allegedly the last link of Highway 101.  The old "stagecoach" house from the early 1900s still stands in a developed area at the north end of Arch Cape.  It was truly an isolated town. When I was young we played dangerous games with the incoming tide running around Hug Point but learned to carefully navigate it with the Jeep." 
Thanks for sharing Paul!


Somewhat further south just past the small town of Arch Cape, be sure to stop at the coast overlook at Oswald West state park near MM (mile marker)101-OR-101 Lookout.jpg (103736 bytes) 41.  This photo can only begin to convey the beauty of this place.  A favorite spot for whale watching and just plain soaking up nature, take the time to examine not only nature's handiwork, but the work of those early road engineers that helped make this incredible road possible.  That's the 101 retaining wall on the left.  I've seen old photos of this spot.  You're enjoying the view just as your great grandparents did!


Central Oregon along 101 is a study in constant fascination...fascination with the myriad ocean beaches, and fascination with the Engineering accomplishments of the many incredible bridges along this stretch.  These bridges are not only incredible feats of technical prowess, but most were designed with a concept that unfortunately seems alien in today's functionally-oriented world: aesthetic beauty.  Also prevalent in this area, are a myriad of short, cut-off segments of old and sometimes pre-101 roadways to be explored.  One such lovely segment is the Otter Crest Loop just south of Depot Bay.   Closed to through traffic due to a recent landslide (see pic), Otter Crest Loop road is an exquisite example of the changes in highway evolution.  The Loop is a twisty, narrow road that skirts the cliffs of the Pacific, seemingly originally designed for pleasure.  Today's Highway 101 roughly parallels this older byway, but tends to plow its way through higher on the hillside...less scenic, but more functional (see pic-that's new 101 above the washout).  Unfortunately, most people today seem to prefer it that way.

The following pics are also from Otter Crest Loop Road.  By the way, the night before we stayed in Depot Bay at the Troller's Inn (circa 1937!).  Newly renovated and under new management, it's a great, cute place to relax...especially unit #5 in the back!  Back to the road...Pic #1 is of the 1927 Rocky Creek (Ben Jones Bridge)...recently refurbished.  Great job ODOT!  Just a little bit further south, you have to stop due to a concrete barrier, and then walk a couple hundred of yards into the woods on the old road.  Don't be shy, it's a great study in history.  Pic #2 is of my extremely patient, better half, Leslie examining some cool ferns while I ooh & aahh over the old road.  The pic above of the washout was taken looking south from the same point.   Addendum 03/08:  Thanks to info from fellow roadie Mark freeman, mark indicates that the Otter crest Loop south of the Ben Jones bridge has recently been re-paved and is available for one-way traffic southbound to the Cape Foulweather overlook.  Great job ODOT and thanks Mark, for sharing!


Although 'born' in 1926, 101 didn't become a 'true' U.S. highway until 1936 when the last of the famous 'McCullough' bridges were built.  Finally,101PC-OR-Newport-Yaquina Bay Bridge-RP-NoPM.jpg (132646 bytes) many of the small, coastal villages were connected by a true north-south highway.  Most of these marvelous structures are thankfully still with us.  One such fine example is the graceful structure spanning Yaquina Bay in Newport.  This bridge appears unchanged and is 101PC-OR-Newport-Yaquina Bay Bridge-NoPM.jpg (129980 bytes)still as fine as it was 66 years ago.  Please take a little time trip as you examine a couple of postcards of mine...one from the black and white era, another a decade later in the Linen era101-OR-Newport-Yaquina Bay Bridge.jpg (91819 bytes) (no PM on either, so I don't know their dates of issue).  The photo is mine, taken in the summer of 2001.

Further down the coast, be sure to spend some time exploring the awesome Oregon Dunes National Recreation 101-OR-Florence-Siuslaw River Bridge.jpg (224147 bytes)area.  Miles of dunes to enjoy, and many an outlet where you can rent quads, dirt bikes etc.  What a blast!  Anchoring the south end of this area, is the bustling town of Florence.  Plenty of 101-OR-Florence-Siuslaw River Bridge Pylon Detail.jpg (147897 bytes)places to stay, an old historic shopping area down by the river, and of course, another trademark McCullough bridge!  The Siuslaw river bridge was completed in 1936, and is another awesome combination of engineering and aesthetic skill.  The bridge photo was taken just south of the bridge.  Also be sure to check out the great art-deco detailing of the very southeastern-most pylon support as shown in my second pic. 

And of course, you'll need energy before you begin all this exploration.  Hurry and don't miss the AWESOME101-OR-Florence-In & Out Burger since 1940s.jpg (182502 bytes) burgers at the In & Out (no connection to the chain) burger joint a couple of blocks north of the bridge.  This establishment has been serving up some great grub since the 1940's.  Unfortunately as is so common these days, the owner/manager/cook is ready to hang up the apron and slow down a little, so the place is up for sale.  Support them while you can.

Coos Bay is the economic anchor of the southern Oregon coast.  Long a busy port for the export of wood/wood 101-OR-Coos Bay-Stockpot Signage.jpg (125050 bytes)pulp and other lumber products, Coos Bay has experienced the same sort of economic depression as have so many other one commodity towns.  The area is still interesting to the 101 roadie though, as several examples from the hey-days of roadie architecture live on.  Take for example Molly here.  I'd wager a guess that this establishment was not originally the Stockpot...! (Author's addendum...the following information courtesy Rick Pennington...Thanks Rick!   "Originally this was an A&W Drive In.  The next incarnation came as "The Hop" and that is when this new vintage-style sign was put up.  The Hop closed down and then was re-opened as "The Stockpot".  The local car club still likes to go down there and show off their cars.") 

And of course, Coos 101-OR-Coos Bay-Coos Bay Bridge.jpg (259067 bytes)Bay is home to yet another of the wonderful McCullough bridges.  Truly a work of art, spend some time to explore the pilings and stairwells on either end of this bridge.  You almost get the sense of being in a cathedral!  


Just south of Coos Bay, Highway 101 continues straight south along the coast.  It always wasn't so.  What are now known as Oregon Highways 42 and 42S were part of 101 until being bypassed in the early 60's.  This area101-OR-Hwy 42-House of Confusion!.jpg (221694 bytes) consists almost entirely of rural farms and marshy slews, but there were a couple of old roadside attractions left over from better times.  Check out my pic of the 'House of Confusion'!  I wonder how many kids forced their grumbling fathers to pull over for such whimsy!


 As we approach California, we still have to cross one last, magnificent bridge-the Rogue River bridge at Gold101-OR-Gold Beach-Rogue River Bridge.jpg (250112 bytes) Beach.  Showing definite signs of aging, it was great to see that the ODOT was working to restore the bridge rather than replacing it.  Please check out this photo from the late spring of '02.  Note the cranes and scaffolding.  From here, California is but a short jaunt away!

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