Looking Back: Historic Travel to the Coast
By Veronica Russell
Published: 06/28/2011
Coastal travelers on an excursion to the coast in 1894.
Coastal travelers on an excursion to the coast in 1894.  Courtesy OSU Archives #P025:1561

Once upon a time, before rail and road networks were developed, travel to the Northwest coast was largely limited to waterways. Steamboats and similar watercraft in the late 19th century ran along area rivers and bays, ferrying coastal travelers to and from their coastal destinations. Big sternwheelers and propeller boats operated on the Columbia River, and several, much smaller boats, known as the "mosquito fleet," ferried passengers in smaller rivers and bays. These boat trips were often followed by long carriage or wagon rides to destinations and resort areas such as Seaside. By the 1890s, modern railroad lines connected Portland to the coast, making more frequent travel easier for families. Brochures from the railroad companies during that period boasted about the spectacular scenery along their lines, including such sights as Mount St. Helens, tunnels carved out of solid rock and the wide sandy beaches near Seaside. "Daddy Trains" shuttled working fathers back and forth between the coast and the valley, making it possible for families to spend their summers at the coast, escaping the heat of the Willamette Valley. This photo from June 1894 depicts coastal railroad travelers stopped in a woodland area on one such excursion to the coast.
Looking Back: Historic Travel to the Coast