About Nehalem

Downtown Nehalem, Oregon (1914)

The City of Nehalem was the first center of culture, commerce and politics in the lower Nehalem River Valley.  When the City was chartered in 1899 by an Act of the State Legislature, it already had a post office, church, general store, school, saw mill and tavern.  During the first ten years of the 20th Century it added a bank, high school, telephone exchange, fish cannery and hotel.  The new railroad across the river brought tourists and supplies from Portland and took local produce to distant markets.  Boosters had asked the Army Corps of Engineers for jetties at the end of the Nehalem Bay since 1876.  In 1909, local leaders formed the Port of Nehalem, then persuaded federal officials to pay half the cost of the construction of the two jetties.

In addition to its prime location along waterways serving rich farmlands, Nehalem is protected from winter storms by the hills surrounding it.  The ideal location, coupled with the rapid development of nearby areas, the economy flourished.  In the 1920s, the community built a new elementary and high school designed by Portland architect A.E. Doyle.  They convinced county officials to build a bridge and causeway across the Nehalem River to provide road access to the railroad.  A movie theater, dance hall and restaurant attracted the area's loggers, dairymen, fishermen and families from all of the surrounding hills and valleys.

For many years, State highway officials viewed the coast highway through Nehalem as a temporary route.  Long-range plans for Highway 101 involved bypassing the City completely with a new route south along the Nehalem spit (now Nehalem Bay State Park).  Wide resistence to that plan by the citizens of both Nehalem and Wheeler in the early 1970s caused the State to abandon that plan, thus certifying the current route of the Highway through Nehalem.

In the 1990s, leadership from the City helped create a new Recreational District based in the old elementary school that had closed in 1986.  Keeping Highway 101 as the City's "main street" and maintaining the community activities and services offered in the old elementary school preserved the City's place as the center of north Tillamook County.

Nehalem Ferry (1914)