Florence Oregon Vacation Guide

About Florence

Seeing the Pacific Ocean is often a lifelong dream come true for many visitors to the Oregon Coast and it never fails to disappoint. The wild and sweeping surf of the Pacific is a daily feast to the senses with a symphony of crashing waves, sweet salt air, and sand between your toes. The Florence Outdoors offers the very best of the Oregon Coast, from the towering Oregon Dunes to the tide pools of Devil’s Elbow to the forested cliffs and spouting horns of Cape Perpetua. Wind through a fairytale tree tunnel on The Hobbit Trail, gallop along the beach at sunset, cruise down a 40 foot sand dune, or try your hand at sandboarding. Whether on foot, bicycle, horseback or ATV, there are designated areas to maximize your Oregon Coast experience.

But that isn't where the scenic beauty of the area stops. Florence is surrounded by the beautiful evergreens of the Siuslaw National Forest, 17 sparkling lakes including Woahink and Cleawox at Honeyman State Park and Siltcoos and Tahkenitch in the Siltcoos National Recreation Area, 40 miles of towering dunes, and the meandering Siuslaw River. Enjoy camping and water sports at area lakes as well as a number of  warm swimming holes including Rain Rock on Hwy 36 and Austa Landing on Hwy 126. Two golf courses, 3 hole golf course, miniature golf, sandboard park, and bowling alley round out the recreational offerings

But Florence isn't just for those who like to play outdoors. Florence also offers numerous activities including boutique shopping in Old Town, antiquing at the Rhody Junction, gaming at Three Rivers Casino, and great dining at a number of restaurants from traditional chowder house to smoky bbq to Thai. Several times a year Florence hosts community festivals, including the Rhododendron Festival, the 3rd oldest flower festival on the west coast.

For tranquility, relaxation and fun, your Florence Oregon vacation is sure to be unforgettable.

History

S The Siuslaw River area was originally inhabited by the Siuslaw Indians, related to the Coos, Alsea and Yaquina Indians of the Oregon Coast. They were very peaceful people and lived primarily in the area between what is now Sea Lion Caves and the fork of the Siuslaw River.  They were referred to as the She-A-Stuck-Kle in Lewis & Clark's journal, and numbered at approximately 900, according to the Chinook Indians who traded with Lewis & Clark at the mouth of the Columbia. Other variations of the name have included Saiustkla, Sayuskla, Sayousla and others.

Europeans first arrivied in this region when Spanish galleons sailed off the coast, charting the territory.  In 1543, the first attempted exploration of the Pacific Coast by a Spaniard was undertaken by Bartolome Ferrelo. He was blown northward by a strong wind, at what he estimated as 44 degees north latitude, (the location of Florence). He and his crew were saved by a strong nothern wind that blew them back out to sea.  In 1579,Sir Frances Drake battled and looted Spanish ships for the British monarchy, establishing the basis for their later claim to the Oregon Territory.

It would be another 200 years, before the Europeans would take renewed interest in the Pacific Coast. The Spanish sea captain, Bruno de Heceta, sailed the Pacific Coast and was the first to discover the entrance to the Columbia River in 1775, althouh he did not explore it.  The Columbia was missed by English seaman, Captain James Cook, as he explored the Oregon coastline in 1779. This journey gave names to many present landmarks including Cape Perpetua which was sighted on March 7, the Holy Day of Ste Perpetua. The exploration of the Columbia would not be undertaken until 1792 when Robert Gray sailed his ship, the Columbia Revivida,  up the river. The voyage, financed by Boston merchants, laid the US claim to the Oregon Territory.

After the Lewis & Clark expedition, interest in the northwest grew. The Treaty of 1818 set the boundary between the United States and British North America along the 49th parallel of north latitude andfrom Minnesota to the "Stony Mountains", (Rocky Mountains) The land to the west became the Oregon Country. British occupants were primarily Hudson Bay Co fur traders, while Americans were a varied group of farmers, trappers and fishermen.

A. R. McLeod, a Hudson's Bay Co. trapper, was probably the first white man to explore the Siuslaw River. In 1826 he traveled the river to trade, got 15 beaver pelts before he returned to Fort Vancouver.  Jean Baptiste Gagnier was a captain of the Hudson Bay Company’s trading post near Elkton and was married to a Lower Umpqua woman. They eventually moved to the Siuslaw area and lived among the local Indians where he was considered a chief and interpretor in treaty negotiations. On Nov 9, 1855,  the Coast Reservation was created by Executive Order after the negotiated treaty was lost in Congress. The treaty had provided protections for the Alsea, Siuslaw, Umpqua and Coos Indians and created a reservation that covered about the same area as the current Siuslaw National Forest, from just south of Florence north to Tillamook and inland approximately 40 miles. 

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 Shortly after President Pierce's Executive Order, on December 1, 1855, the Donation Land Claim Act expired and the government offered land to settlers at $1.25 per acre. A few settlers had claimed land in the area, the first being David Morse, often proclaimed as the "Father Of Florence".  Finally, in 1876, A. J. Moody established the first store and George Duncan, the first cannery, near the mouth of the river. The first saw mill was established in 1878 by Dr. , William Saubert, at the town of Acme, (which is now Cushman).

The naming of the town, as told by Emma Saubert in 1950, goes back to its earliest days when the town consisted of little more than Moody's store, the Safley Boarding House and Mrs. Joe Morris' hotel, The Florence Hotel. After a French sailing vessel sunk went aground near at the mouth of the Siuslaw River, the ship's nameboard washed ashore. It was brought to Moody's Store by a local Indian, as shipwreck timbers were often used for building. Eventually it ended up at the Safley Hotel & Boarding House. By 1880 it was known as the Florence Hotel and was designated the voting precinct for the 1880 election. Later, when the town needed to choose a name due to the establishment of the post office, Florence was the likely fit.  The town had a population of 200 with two stores, a hotel and a salmon cannery, and according to one old-timer, "a lot of Indian shacks" in what was called "Indian Town".

FBy the turn of the century, Florence had incorporated as a city and was platted along Bay, First and Second which intersected with Laurel, Kingwood, Juniper and Ivy. David Morse, platted the Morse Addiction with over 3,000 lots between 4th and 37th Streets.  Heceta Head Lighthouse was shining brightly. There were two doctors. A school had been built; along with sevveral several canneries, sawmills and dry goods stores, one advertising "pure wines and liquors for medicinal purposes". The weekly newspaper, The Florence West, served 1,000 citizens and plans to electrify the city were underway.

The Siuslaw was a bustling waterfront as it was the main source of transportation between Florence, "Acme", Mapleton and on up the North Fork. The Whisman Bros. stage traveled along the route of Hwy 36, from Elmira to Indian Creek, and the hotel at Head-of-Tide, today's Mapleton. Continued travel to Florence was by boat, perhaps by boarding a steamer or hiring an Indian for $1 a trip.

The opening of the Siuslaw Bridge in 1936 set the stage for increased business activity along Hwy 101 as it became a main thoroughfare for trade along the coast.  WWII brought even bigger changes to Florence, with sawmills throughout Oregon being called to provide timber for the war effort. Many businesses that are with us today came about during that era, including Johnston Motors, The Sportsman, Honeyman Lodge, Twin Lakes Store and more.  Hwy 36 was still the main route of overland travel, although it was called Hwy 28 at the time. It would not be until 1957 that the newly named Eugene-Mapleton Hwy would be completed, which became Hwy 126 in 1965.

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