Welcome to Port Orford
Port Orford on the southern Oregon coast claims to be the oldest town in Oregon as well as the farthest west in the lower 48 states. Perched along the beautiful Pacific Ocean, Port Orford is ideally located to give visitors a wide variety of experiences. The forest comes almost into the town, two rivers empty into the bay, and wetlands attract migrating birds, Port Orford is surrounded with natural beauty. Far from any large population area, you will find it easy to relax and enjoy a respite from the frantic pace of modern life.
The town of just over 1,100 people has much to share with visitors. Battle Rock Park commemorates the 1851, battle between the Qua-to-mah Native Americans fought Capt. William Tichenor and his men. The park, which is located right in town, is a natural amphitheater. The magnificent Hughes House is a must see. This 3,000 square foot house was built by a farm family in 1898, for a mere $3,800. The house was built with constructed of old growth Port Orford Cedar. Although the house didn’t get electricity until 1942, it was constructed with indoor plumbing.
The two rivers that flow into the bay at Port Orford: the Elk River and the Sixes River, both have crystal clear water, and are surrounded by pristine forests. They are both good fishing rivers, although the Elk River is protected from about 8 miles above the bay to its origin. Visitors can kayak or jet boat in the nearby Rogue River.
Port Orford has historically had two main industries: fishing and lumber. The lumber industry in general is waning in Oregon and the Port Orford cedar is endangered. The port in Port Orford is unique. It is one of two “dolly docks” in the United States. Huge cranes are used to lift ships in and out of the port, since the harbor is too shallow for them to be moored safely.
Decades ago the Army Corps of Engineers built a jetty to protect the port from strong ocean waves. That in turn causes the channel to fill with sand. Until two years ago the Army Corps of Engineers dredged the channel every year. With the budget cuts in the Federal Government, they can no longer do that. What was once a 16 foot channel is down to barely a foot. Nearly 30 fishing boats call Port Orford home bringing almost $5 million into the community.
Unfortunately, the port is rapidly filling with sand. If there is no port, will Port Orford survive? It survived the loss of the timber industry, but what can replace the fishing industry? This beautiful, peaceful little town may disappear. The people of Port Orford are hardy souls, and are doing what they can to save their community and way of life. They are attacking the sand with wheel barrows and buckets. Hopefully, the oldest town in Oregon will survive a while longer to welcome more visitors to their unspoiled piece of the coast.
Article written by Mary Boyer
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