Oysterville on Willapa Bay

Travel back in time for absolute peace and quiet to the historic town of Oysterville. Located on the north end of the Long Beach Peninsula, Oysterville faces east on Willapa Bay, where generations of Chinook Indians once camped and gathered oysters. The first white settlers arrived in 1841 and the town was established in 1854, making Oysterville one of Washington’s oldest.   The bay was rich in tiny native oysters which were harvested and shipped to gold-rich San Francisco, where they ultimately sold for a dollar a piece.  When the oysters ran out so did the town, leaving only quiet streets and quaint houses, along with a store, school and church.

On our recent trip to Long Beach, we drove the 20 minutes north to see the tiny village just before sunset.

Oysterville was placed on the National Historic Register in 1976 but is still a community of privately owned homes. We walked the couple of blocks through town to Willapa Bay where the oysters had once grown so richly.

Willapa Bay is one of the most pristine estuaries in the United States and the second largest on the Pacific coast.  It’s also home to the Willapa National Wildlife Refuge,  established in 1937 to protect migrating birds and their habitat.  We visited the Leadbetter Point Unit of the Refuge on the tip of the Peninsula the next day.

We found what seemed to be a vast emptiness of tide flats and grasses on the bay side. Actually, the mudflats teem with worms, clams and crustaceans creating prime foraging for shorebirds.

We missed the best birdwatching opportunities which occur during the fall and spring migrations. And sections of the Refuge on the Pacific Ocean side were closed to the public to protect nesting snowy plovers.

So much more to see at the Willapa Wildlife Refuge!  Now that we’ve discovered it we’ll return again on our next trip to the Long Beach Peninsula.

~ Susanne

10 Comments on “Oysterville on Willapa Bay

  1. That’s a lovely place indeed, Susanne. But it does remind me how recent your history is, when an 1854 town is one of the ‘oldest’ places. 🙂
    Best wishes, Pete.

    • Thanks Pete. Our beautiful corner of the US was indeed only ‘settled’ less than 200 years ago. A very short history indeed! Of course natives enjoyed the land for generations leaving everything unspoiled. But that’s another story. 🙂

      • The oak tree in our back garden is around 280 years old, and our nearest church dates from round 800 A. D. Puts things into some historical perspective indeed. 🙂 🙂

      • Yes! That’s why I love to travel! I visited England before and loved the beautiful buildings and history!

    • Thank you! I hope you make it to Washington someday! I think you would enjoy our beautiful coast, rivers, mountains and national parks! 😉

  2. Can’t help feeling that the lack of oysters has been a good thing – preserving something of the wildness of the place. The picture of the estuary looks so peaceful.

    Like Pete, I find it hard to get my head round how recent your history is. ‘Daughters of the pioneers’. It seems strange to think of Europeans coming there to settle for the very first time. Just a few generations ago. Not surprising, really, that such recent history should be seen as so significant.

    • It was only in 1805 -1806 that Lewis and Clark were commissioned by Thomas Jefferson to make their cross country trip, when very little was known about the land west of the Mississippi River. Totally wild and unknown to any but a few fur traders and native Americans. L & C first saw the Pacific Ocean at Cape Disappointment at the bottom of the same Long Beach Peninsula in Washington. So much history in this area! Settlers eventually followed on the Oregon Trail a few decades later.

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