“Imagine waking to views of the very spot where Lewis and Clark first reached the Pacific Ocean in 1805 from safe inside this charming Craftsman cottage, set on its own in a secluded cove. China Beach Retreat is a very special place, lovingly transformed by David and Laurie into an intimate three-bedroom hideaway. Hardwood floors, low ceilings, stained and leaded glass, and eclectic collections of antique furniture characterize the cozy downstairs: sophisticated yet informal, elegant yet rustic.”
Karen Brown’s Guides ~ Charming Places to Stay: Pacific Northwest
History is as thick as sea mist, almost palpable as one stands on the lush western edge of the continent, here, at China Beach Retreat, just as the Corps of Discovery did on that blustery November day in 1805. “Ocian in view! O! the joy.” Captain William Clark proudly parlayed his now infamous words. The explorers, who included the Black slave York and a sixteen-year old Shoshoni woman named Sacagawea, countered with a rousing cheer.
Native Americans came first, camping closest to the source of the salmon runs. From this beach–like so many others that punctuate the estuary at the Columbia River mouth–they camped and thrived. Life was relatively easy in those years before the first Europeans, before the “Bostons” pressed their culture upon the western shores. The fish, clams and berries were in abundance. Campfires and cedar longhouses fit naturally into the temperate climate. The Chinook were the greatest traders along the width and breath of the Pacific Coast. The great salmon is named for them. So was the common trade language. Five miles across the wide river from Astoria, the charming small town of Chinook continues to honor their name. Time has altered that landscape into a shallow salt marsh, teeming with waterfowl.
The salmon is a powerful swimmer, intelligent and when harvested, sumptuous of taste. In the late summer and fall, the silver-backed fish is abundant. In view of the house at China Beach, charter boats still push toward the deep royal waters where the salmon wait.Robert Gray anchored his good ship, the Columbia Rediviva, just a mile from here. The year was 1792. Recorded history tells us that Gray was the first European to cross the ferocious Columbia River bar, but the first explorers to eye this part of the Pacific Coast may have been Chinese monks in 458. Journals of one monk, Hwui Shan, claimed that the group left China in a small boat and sailed the North American coast from the Aleutian Islands to Mexico.
Once outside the tenacious grasp of the Pacific Ocean, Gray and his crew marveled at the abundance. Word of the rich fishing and timber stands spread like wildfire. So did smallpox, nearly eradicating the Chinook tribe. The towns of Ilwaco, Oysterville and Chinook sprang up. The pioneers came in droves. A narrow-gauge railroad rolled through the new tourist town of Long Beach on its way to Ocean Park, further north up the picturesque sandy peninsula. Tourism had arrived. Today it flourishes like the milky ocean combers that roll endlessly over the limitless sands.
In set. Troll boats and gillnetters plied the swift waters. This necessitated more workers in the canneries. A barracks was erected for the numerous Chinese immigrants who arrived to work here. They grew their vegetables on a garden plot, just beside the present-day house. Ever since that time, the locals have referred to this spot as “China Beach.” After 1900, a Finn named Oja bought the property and built the first private home. He anchored his troll boat in the front yard. In front of the house the channel was thirty-six feet deep and swift. Time has altered that landscape into a shallow salt marsh, teeming with waterfowl.
The vista and the history of China Beach Retreat are yours to share. If you catch site of an eagle circling high above the estuary, you can imagine the vista that was hers for the taking in the last millennium. Here and now, marvel at the magical spot called China Beach Retreat. Today, it’s yours for the asking.