Located on the Oregon Coast near Tillamook, Bayocean Peninsula features a beautiful loop ride that takes you beside Tillamook Bay to Kincheloe Point, then back along the beach. You can vary your ride by following one of several trails though the dunes. And this spit of land has a fascinating backstory: it was once a thriving tourist destination and one of the largest towns on the Oregon Coast!
Distance: 8.5 miles round trip around the peninsula
Elevation: Sea level
The trail to the beach departs from the north end of the parking area. The beach is 5 miles long (one way).
You can ride beside picturesque Tillamook Bay, or take one of the trails through the dunes.
It’s hard to imagine today, but in 1914 Bayocean was a thriving resort community with a population of 2,000 people. The town was founded by Thomas Benton Potter and Thomas Irving Potter, a son/father duo who visualized it as the “Atlantic City of the West.” They sold plots of land for homesites, built facilities, and promoted the town as a tourist destination. Bayocean boasted a heated indoor natatorium, a hotel, movie theatre, bowling alley, shooting range, tennis courts, and paved streets.
People flocked to Bayocean to enjoy the tourist attractions and take in the beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean and Tillamook Bay. They typically came on a 3-day cruise from Portland via the elder Potter’s steamship. However, entering the mouth of Tillamook Bay to reach Bayocean could be a harrowing experience, so the town petitioned the Army Corps of Engineers to build a jetty. The Corps determined that two jetties were needed, and the town would have to pay half. The jetties were estimated to cost $2.2 million – a whopping figure at the time.
The townspeople thought the expense was too great, and ultimately opted to build just one jetty. After it was built it became much easier to enter the bay. However, the jetty changed the pattern of the ocean waves, which soon began to erode the spit.
After only a few years, buildings began falling into the ocean, and a huge storm destroyed the natatorium in 1932. The erosion continued, and Bayocean became an island in 1952. The last remaining building was washed away in 1971.
During the 1970’s, the Army Corps of Engineers built the second jetty, and the stabilized waves soon began redepositing sand on the island. Bayocean became a spit once more, and today it’s a Tillamook County Park and a popular undeveloped recreation site.
Bayocean Peninsula offers day riding only. The nearest horse camping facilities are at Nehalem Bay State Park, 35 miles to the north.
Getting to Bayocean Peninsula
From Tillamook, head west on Third Street (Hwy. 131). Drive 1.8 miles, turn right on Bay Ocean Road (toward Cape Meares) and continue five miles. Turn right on the graveled dike road and drive 0.9 mile to the large gravel parking area at the end of the road.
You’ll find more information about Bayocean Peninsula and other day rides on the northern Oregon Coast in Riding Northwest Oregon Horse Trails, by Kim McCarrel, (Ponderosa Press, 2017), available at www.nwhorsetrails.com.