Oysterville and Leadbetter Point State Park

Mileage today: 59 Total Mileage: 1,549

Today we explored the northern part of the Long Beach Peninsula, the finger of land sticking out into the pacific from the far south of Washington. https://www.google.com/maps/@46.4920645,-124.1507233,10.65z

It was a strange sort of day weatherwise, perhaps typical for this place: warm but with low cloud, a thin sun trying to break through, occasional very light drizzle. Anyway, we were out and about in shorts and sleeveless t shirts like everyone else and made the best of it.

It was about 21 miles north to the very tip of the peninsula to Leadbetter Point State Park, a lesser known state park adjacent to the Willapa Wildlife Refuge across the Willapia Strait which is much more extensive. We parked and walked down to the strait shoreline through the woods which were quite wet. The shoreline was dotted with reed beds, lots of samphire and marginal plants, downed trees and many birds. We hardly saw any people, a few…. Walking along the mud sand shore and looking out over the shallow water, we felt as though not much could have changed since Lewis and Clark walked these shores. It was quite unworldly. We walked about a mile and a half and turned back through the woods. The signage was quite poor and the track was small and hard to follow, non existant on wet sand. It was an atmospheric place though.

We then toured around a bit admiring the beach houses, many of which are clapperboard and have that “beach house” look you find in many places over here, no matter what the coast. The Willapa Strait is a big big producer of oysters and there are several farms along the Willapa side of the peninsula. We called in at Oysterville Sea farms hoping to have an oyster lunch. Unfortunately they were not shucking oysters this month. It was weird. You could buy a big bag and take them away to shuck yourself but they weren’t serving fresh oysters. Is it some flash of “no R in the month” so you might get a bad one and could sue them if they actually served it to you…. I don’t know. You could have bbq’d oysters out on their deck but I didn’t fancy them. Bob did have a bowl of their famous clam chowder which I tasted. I have to say I have never tasted better clam chowder and I’ve tasted a lot. There was no hint of “chicken soup” in this. Deeply creamy, a hint of wine or maybe vermouth, little cubes of veg and lots of clams and clam flavour. It was a meal in itself and well worth the $8 it cost. I decided to wait and try and find some raw seafood elsewhere.

They must harvest huge numbers of oysters here, there were giant mounds all along the shoreline.

We called in at the Oysterville Historic Area. The first white settlers here were Robert Hamilton Espy and Isaac Alonzo Clark in 1854. They had agreed to meet Chief Klickeas of the Chinook tribe who told them of tidelands covered in oysters. They found he had not exaggerated: there were reef upon reef of native oysters growing on the shallow bay bottom. The two men sold the oysters in San Francisco where they were extremely popular. Profits were good. In no time Oysterville became a boomtown. By 1855, its population and importance were such that it became the seat of Pacific County. It had many firsts: school; college; newspaper and finally in 1872, a church – First Methodist. Later on in the 1880s, the long awaited railroad ended at Nahcotta, 4 miles short of Oysterville. The native oysters became scarce and people moved out en masse. Oysterville gradually became a sleepy little village where time stood still.

In 1976 Oysterville was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. The protected district encompasses about 80 acres of the village and there are many historic homes there dating from the mid to late 1800s. They are all privately owned, many by the original families and they are all in super order and often surrounded by the most beautiful gardens. Really lovely, an absolute credit to the gardeners and the work they have put in. There is a special walking tour you can make around the village to view them, from the outside.

We parked up and visited the little church. It was built in 1892 at a cost of $1500 and was the gift of Robert Hamilton Espy who lived across the road. Up until then services had been held in private houses and baptisms conducted in the bay!!! Amusingly (to me!) the church contained a three foot deep zinc lined baptismal font under the dais. For the dedication service, the women and children of the congregation filled the font with water from a pump in the yard across the street. At the conclusion of the service it was discovered that no drain had been provided and the water had to be removed by bucket!!!! They went back to baptisms in the bay!!!!

No regular services have been held there since the mid 1930s but in 1980 it was rededicated as an ecumenical house of worship. Music vespers are conducted by ministers from various peninsula churches on a Sunday afternoon in the summer. Inside was a standard piano and a lovely old pump organ. The original pews are all in place.

We also visited the little school which was just round the corner. It was the third school on the site. The town outgrew the first, the second burnt down and this third little schoolhouse was in use till 1957 with 2 teachers.

A lovely little slice of life here. Well worth a visit.

We drove back to Ocean Park and Seaview, the more populated areas of the peninsula in search of a lunch restaurant. We found the Crabpot Seafood Market and Restaurant https://crab-pot-seafood-market.business.site/ which was bustling and went in there. The market side had massive tanks of live crabs. Blue crabs I would have said. Well…. they were blue…..

I had crab salad for lunch, which was predictably enormous, but very nice. Bob had a cod sandwich with chips. They even had malt vinegar on the table. The special of the day was a whole crab dinner for $32. I would have loved a whole crab but it was too much at that time of the day. Looked great though!

our apartment is the upstairs one.

Came back to the Captain’s Cottage and vegged out for the rest of the afternoon. Tomorrow we cross the Columbia River and enter Oregon at Astoria to continue our journey down the coast and visit some more maritime sites and more Lewis & Clark sites.