Thursday, May 8, 2014

"Thar She Blows!"

For the past twenty-four years, a spume of water has sprayed into the air every minute or so from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Kids shriek as they run through the spray. Lovers know it’s good luck to have the spout go off as they walk past. Drivers passing through Yachats turn for a second look as the spray hits their windshields. Was that…a whale??

Yes, it’s a whale! The Whale in the Park was the brainstorm of local metal sculptor Jim Adler. The rock wall of the little park suggested a fjord to his fertile imagination; a photo of a whale sounding, its powerful flukes arched against the sky, inspired a vision for a whale sculpture. At first, Adler thought installing a pump too “kitschy” to represent this dignified animal. But the spout is what we know of whales, the signal that alerts whale watchers that there is an animal of great power gliding below the surface. The pump became part of the project.

The whale caught the imagination of the entire community. A committee, including Tom Smith, Joanie Bicksler, Karen Schuster, Mary Welch, Judy Grist D’Ville, and Mary Shelley among others, sold sweatshirts with the iconic swoosh of the whale’s tail, and mailed out a whale poster to potential donors—theirs to keep whether they sent money or not. Most sent money. The Oregon Arts Commission approved a grant. The Yachats city council gave permission to install the whale in the park after Adler showed them a maquette of the sculpture, complete with a bulb to simulate the spout.  Councilman Burd Bicksler was paying careful attention when the spout went off…

The flukes were cut at Far West Steel in Eugene and shipped to Marks Brothers Rolling & Fabrication in Portland. A machine the size of a Greyhound bus bent the metal to Adler’s specifications. Then a jig was formed so the other side would come out the same. The folks at Marks Brothers were so excited by the project that they insisted on welding it themselves. Rod Smith offered to drive his truck to Portland to pick up the tail.

Back in Yachats, a group of volunteers waited at the park next to Lee Green’s logging truck and crane. Someone made a movie. Unfortunately, Smith had had a flat tire and didn’t arrive until the next day, so the film just shows everyone waiting for the whale. Finally, the massive sculpture was put in place and a cement base was poured to support it. Adler built and installed the pump. Central Lincoln PUD put in the electricity and the city supplied water. Forty yards of top soil and mushroom compost were delivered. Adler rented a truck from Rick Boston, drove to the Valley, and filled it up  with turf. Then, just when the exhausted volunteers were too tired to do one more thing, Vince Bittel showed up and laid out the turf.

Adler the Artist turned into Adler the Maintenance Man, turning the pump on in the summer and off in the fall, maintaining it and stringing rubber bands and gaskets together to keep it functioning. The city, which decided not to take ownership of the sculpture or provide maintenance, continued to provide water except in a few very dry summers.

The whale is a powerful symbol in our myths and stories. The Whale in Yachats celebrates that power, the power of creativity and imagination, and the power of a community of people working together.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Dining Al Fresco—From the Bay to Your Bucket

State Ranger Cameron Rauenhorst, known affectionately as Ranger Clameron, grins as he holds up a BIG shell. A seven-inch neck protrudes from the shell and Clameron tells us that fully extended the neck can be nearly three feet long. Known as a Gaper, Horse, Horseneck, Blue, or Empire clam, this bivalve is one of the many clams that you can harvest on Oregon beaches. Clameron dug up this particular Gaper at low tide in Alsea Bay.

“Look for the show,” he tells us. The show is the oval hole left in the sand by clams at low tide. In the case of the Gaper, it is nearly two inches in diameter. Though smaller clams are found closer to the surface, the Gaper requires a serious hole—two feet deep in some cases. “Grab a small child by the feet,” says our grinning guide, “and hold him over the hole to dig the last couple of inches by hand.”

In a net bag, Clameron displays the smaller hardshell clams he dug that morning. Butter clams, cockles, and littlenecks are also found in Alsea Bay. Someone asks where to dig. Turning toward the Alsea Bay Bridge, Clameron points to the Y-shaped cement supports, telling us that it is the largest Y-leg bridge in the country. In the arch between the third and fourth Y, he says, you’ll be able to dig your limit in about twenty minutes. (The limit is 20 clams per person per day, of which only 12 may be the big gapers or geoducks. See sidebar for daily limits for all shellfish.)

Moving over to the seawall, Clameron explains how to bait a crab trap—chicken, fish, turkey, mink, or ghost shrimp all work well—and tosses a crab ring over the edge. If you were on the docks or a boat, you would let the ring  soak for 15-20 minutes before hauling it back up. “Do it fast,” he warns, pulling the rope up hand over hand with a well-practiced motion. “If you dawdle, the crabs will crawl right out and escape.” Crab pots actually trap the crabs and can be left for up to three days.

Another option is the “crabhawk,” which you hang from the end of a fishing pole. When the crab crawls onto the screen to get the bait, there is a tug, your signal to reel in the trap, which automatically closes as soon as you start pulling it in. (Designed by Steven DeMars—visit for more information.)

Oregon State Sport Fishing Regulations allow you to keep only male crabs—the females are laden with millions of eggs and harvesting them will jeopardize production of future crabs. Cameron demonstrates how to sex a crab: the female’s abdomen is wide, the male’s is narrow. If you need help, check it out in the pamphlet Crabbing in Oregon.

Crabs must be at least 5 ¾ inches measured in a straight line across the back immediately in front of the little bumps on the side of the crab. All females and undersized crabs must be returned to the water carefully and immediately.

Friday, June 21, 2013

The Long Tradition of the Yachats Music Festival

When Joanne Kittel and her husband Norman arrived in Yachats in 1988, the Yachats Music Festival had already been in existence for seven years. “We stumbled onto it,” says Joanne. If there had been any doubt in their minds about the wisdom of leaving Chicago and moving to this remote little village on the central Oregon coast, those doubts died when they entered the Yachats Community Presbyterian Church.

Norman had loved classical music since he was a child. On their first date, he took Joanne to a five-hour Wagner opera. Joanne learned to appreciate the music, but what really impressed her was the warmth and friendliness of the Four Seasons artists. Over the years, she and Norman formed strong ties to the performers and the board members and sponsors of Four Seasons Arts, the booking agency founded by Dr. W. Hazaiah Williams to promote music for audiences of all races and conditions and to provide venues for performances by artists of all races as well. “The opportunity to hear, to know, understand and appreciate good music,” said Dr. Williams, “will lead to far greater communication between races and people.”

And so it has, not just for the Kittels, but for many of the residents of Yachats who step up as sponsors and audience, and who volunteer, as Joanne and Norman did, to help with publicity, the artists’ reception, ushering,  and all the other tasks that support a three day music festival.

For the 20 to 30 artists who travel worldwide for their scheduled performances, the Yachats Music Festival is a treasured opportunity to play, relax, and learn together. The festival includes four workshops for the artists and festival patrons, another way to further Dr. Williams’ vision of lifelong learning through music.

Dr. Williams was the first African-American impresario to head a concert-giving organization in the United States. He believed that classical music is for everyone, and both his stage and his audience reflect the human family in all its diversity. Although Dr. Williams died in 1999, his legacy continues; the Yachats Music Festival is dedicated to his memory.

This year, the concerts take place July 12 through July 14. There is a concert each night, at 8 p.m., and an afternoon performance at 2 p.m. on Sunday. General admission to each concert is $19. Tickets are available online at or locally at the Adobe Resort (541 547-3141) or the Yachats Visitor Center (541 547-3530 or 800 929-0477).  Member and patron packages are available at $85 and $140; call 541 961-8374 for details. Additional information is available at Four Seasons Arts, 510 845-4444, or

Yachats Arts Guild Summer Show

The Yachats Art Guilds Summer Show opens on June 28 and runs through July 7, in rooms 7 and 8 at the Yachats Commons. The display includes oils and acrylics, wood carvings, watercolors, pen and ink, pencil, pyrography, and mixed media, as well as photographs inspired by the beauty of the “Gem of the Oregon Coast.”  All the art is for sale, as well as cards and prints.
The Yachats Art Guild has grown from the seven original founding members to 34 members dedicated to supporting and promoting Central Coast artists as well as the natural beauty of the area.  Works by members of the Yachats Arts Guild grace local galleries, restaurants, and hotels. The Guild maintains a permanent show at Ona Restaurant in downtown Yachats and at the Yachats Public Library. There is also a “Perpetual Art Walk” that pairs local artists with merchants in the area. Upcoming shows include the Yachats Arts Guild Fall Show, a show at the Siuslaw Library in Florence in September, and a show at Canyon Way in Newport in 2014.
The Yachats Arts Guild Summer Show, rooms 7 & 8, Yachats Commons (off Highway 101 next to the Bank) June 28-July 7 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. except on the last day when the show closes at 3 p.m. For more information, visit, or the Yachats Arts Guild Facebook page.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Keeping an Eye on the Whales

What’s as big as a big yellow school bus, weighs as much as 35 VW bugs, eats a ton of amphipods and mycid shrimp (each one no bigger than an M&M), and swims 12,000 miles a year between the Arctic feeding grounds and the good times in the Bay of Cortez?

Did you guess Gray Whale? You’re right!!

Having mated or given birth in the warm waters off the coast of Mexico, the big critters on now on their way north to the cold, food-rich waters off the coast of Alaska. People who have gone on whale expeditions to Mexico report that the whale mommies bring their calves (around 15 feet long) right up to the boats where they can be kissed and petted. You can even rub their gums, something that seems to give these big babies a lot of pleasure.

The whales don’t eat in Baja (too many other fun things to do like mating and giving birth) so the migration north is the time to get serious about putting on the pounds. They’re also not in such a big hurry (did we mention mating and giving birth after a 12-month pregnancy?) so the Oregon coast offers a great opportunity to get a look at a whale or two. They will be swimming north between 3 and 5 miles offshore, although they come in closer if there are good food sources for example near the headlands. Be on the look-out for spouts, rolling backs, and occasionally a nose (spyhops) or a tail (fluking). Although Grays are not known for breaching—that dramatic moment when ¾ of a whale comes up out of the water—they do occasionally, particularly upon arriving at their feeding grounds.

The migration north lasts from March to June along the Oregon coast, as 18,000 Very Large Animals move past, immature animals, adult males, and females without calves first, then the mothers and calves a little later. There are also resident Grays which decide, for whatever reason, to hang around. There is almost no time of the year when there isn’t a whale out there, but the concentration of the spring migration makes it more likely that you will see one—or more than one!

Trained experts are available at the official Whale Watching Spoken Here sites between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m., March 23-30, 2013. More information is available at the Oregon State Parks & Recreation whale watch website,, or by calling The Whale Watching Center in Depoe Bay, 541 765 3304. Local visitor centers along the coast will also have information. Check out the Yachats Visitor Center, 541 547 3530 or 800 929 0477.

If you want to look for whales in a serious way, be sure to dress for weather that can range from cold, windy and wet to glorious sunshine. Layering is the way to do it, and don’t forget your sun screen. Bring binoculars and patience. Forget your cell phone and your daily obligations and get into a different rhythm. And remember: even if you don’t see a whale, you’ll be looking out at the great Pacific Ocean, a spectacular, inspiring vista in its own right.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Go Team...GoYachats!

Why would anyone come to Yachats on Super Bowl Sunday? Oh, let me count the reasons!
First, we don’t have a major league football team (yet), so you can cheer for either the Ravens or the 49ers, as loud as you want, and no one will feel bad that it wasn’t the Yachats Whales down there at the scrimmage line.

Second, perhaps you’ve had it with your home turning into a Man Cave every Sunday. You’re tired of the malls and just need a break. Sometimes this applies to the ladies only, but we aren’t making any assumptions. Everyone is welcome in Yachats! You could escape to this lovely coastal village. The weather is supposed to be really nice (as in SUNNY). You can breathe fresh air, feel that salt spray on your face, explore the many unique shops (from rocks to exotic spices, books to handmade bowls—and more more more), or just sit and read a book in peace and quiet.

But third—we can provide that man cave right here in Yachats! There are television screens at the Adobe, the Drift Inn, and in the lounge at Ona. There’s also a new place in town: Outta Gas Pizza, located in the old Boston Chevron station at the north end of town, remodeled and full of pool tables, shuffleboard, and oh yes, beer. They don’t just have a screen. They have a SCREEN. Wall to wall and floor to ceiling. Ever fantasize about being right there on the line with those 300 pound fullbacks? Here’s your chance, without fear of broken bones. The pizza’s pretty darn good too.

So what are you waiting for? Sunday is right around the corner. Make your plans now and have a Super Sunday in Yachats.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Yachats 804 Trail - Coastal Connections

Walking the historic Yachats 804 Trail connects hikers to local coastal history. The trail probably first served as a footpath for tribal people, later becoming part of County Road 804, which included the 7-mile stretch of beach between Yachats and Waldport at low tide. County Road 804 served as the settler's route of travel between the farmland of the upper Yachats River valley and Waldport's Alsea Bay until the 1930s and the completion of Highway 101. The highway replaced the oceanside portion of County Road 804, and it reverted to its ancient use as a footpath. 

During the 1970s, local citizens began a campaign to preserve the 804 as a public trail. Years of legal battles ended with a ruling by the Oregon Supreme Court to keep the public right-of-way and in the mid-eighties, the ¾ mile section from Smelt Sands State Park north to the beach became part of Oregon State Parks.

Successful mediation with local home owners in the late 1990s allowed for the completion of the 804 Trail South. The 804 Trail South is about a mile in length, stretching from the south edge of Smelt Sands Recreation Site, across the lawn behind the Adobe Resort, and through oceanside neighborhoods to the north side of the Yachats River, Yachats State Recreation Area, and downtown Yachats. 

The city’s commitment to trails for safe pedestrian use has resulted in a network of trails through Yachats. The trails connect to the Amanda Trail south of town, and up to Cape Perpetua and beyond. Volunteers and city workers, in partnership with State Parks and the US Forest Service, maintain the trails, build new trails, and develop maps and signage. 
(This article is a modification of the Yachats Chamber of Commerce history of the 804. More information is available online.)

Photo Credit: Heather Taylor