Tillamook County is known as the Land of Many Waters because of its abundance of rivers, estuaries and lakes. In the Rockaway Beach area, there are a number of small streams flowing across the sand to the ocean. Rivers in northern and central Tillamook County include the Nehalem, Miami, Kilchis, Wilson, Trask and Tillamook.
The closest river to Rockaway Beach to the north is the Nehalem River. It is approximately 119 miles long, draining out of the Northern Oregon Coast Range, originating on the eastern side of the mountains and flowing in a loop around the north near the mouth of the Columbia River. The Nehalem River watershed covers 855 square miles.
The Nehalem rises in the northeast corner of Tillamook County in the Tillamook State Forest. It initially flows northeast, across the northwest corner of Washington County and into western Columbia County, past Vernonia and Pittsburg. It then flows to the northwest and west into Clatsop County, then southwest into northern Tillamook County. It receives the Salmonberry River from the east in northern Tillamook County, and the North Fork Nehalem River, 25 miles from the north and about 2 miles northwest of Nehalem, just before entering Nehalem Bay. The bay is picturesque, relatively unspoiled, and is popular for boating, kayaking and fishing.
Rockaway Beach is blessed with a series of lakes that run north and south adjacent to U.S. Highway 101. These lakes are the remnants of what was the ancient channel of the Nehalem River, which at one time emptied into the Pacific Ocean at Garibaldi. When the river changed course and began emptying into Nehalem Bay, it left the lakes behind.
The lakes begin with Smith Lake, south of town, followed by Spring Lake, Lake Marie, Clear Lake, Lake Lytle and Crescent Lake. There also are several small lakes or ponds, the most noteworthy of which is Nedonna Lake, just north of town. The largest of the lakes, Lake Lytle, has a boat launch facility operated by Tillamook County. Other lakes are primarily surrounded by private property and have varying degrees of public access.
The largest lake in Rockaway Beach is Lake Lytle, which also offers a county boat launch.
Lake Lytle covers 65 acres and is on the east side of U.S. Highway 101. A public fishing dock is located directly off Highway 101 with ample parking on the wide highway shoulder. Several other bank access points are along the shoulder, too. The boat launch and fishing dock are off of 12th Street on the north end of the lake. The lake is stocked from mid-March through early May with legal rainbow and cutthroat trout. Large-mouth bass also are present.
Crescent Lake is just north of Lake Lytle and is considered part of the Lake Lytle fishery. The lake is separated from U.S. Highway 101 by private property. Northeast Lake Boulevard skirts the woods around the lake to the north and east.
Spring Lake is located at the south end of Rockaway Beach on the east side of U.S. Highway 101. The lake is 13 acres, but is mostly surrounded by private land. Public bank access is restricted to the highway shoulder. Parking along the highway is limited, with few wide spots, and extreme caution should be used. Because of safety concerns, this lake is not the most suitable for children to fish. Legal rainbow and cutthroat trout are stocked annually from mid-March through early May. Some large-mouth bass are present, but seldom caught by bank anglers.
Just south of Rockaway Beach is Smith Lake. It is a 35-acre lake located on the west side of U.S. Highway 101. Private land surrounds most of this lake. Camp Magruder borders the lake on the west. Bank access is limited from the highway side and requires a short trail walk over uneven terrain. Adequate parking is available on the highway shoulder. Children and older anglers would find easier and safer access at other lakes around the county. Stocking occurs during April with legal-size rainbow and cutthroat trout. There are no public docks or boat launches that access this lake. Small numbers of large-mouth bass are present, but few are caught by bank anglers.
Lake Marie is a small lake just east of U.S. Highway 101 between Minnehaha and Washington streets. It is the site of the Stanger Memorial VFW Park and a community garden.
This lake, located in the Nedonna Beach area, is stocked with rainbow trout by Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
It is a small body of water and ideal for children to fish because it is easily accessible and safe. There are no docks and a limited amount of shoreline, so it is easy for adults to keep an eye on their children while the kids get the feeling of fishing on their own. To get to the lake, take the Manhattan Beach turnoff on U.S. Highway 101 — Beach Street. The lake is near the junction of Nedonna Avenue and Beach Street. Turn north on Nedonna Avenue and the lake is a short block to the north.
Tillamook County operates the motorized boat launch facility on Lake Lytle in Rockaway Beach. There are vault restrooms, a gravel parking lot, and a concrete boat ramp. The ramp is located off U.S. Highway 101 on 12th Street North.
To the north, is the Nehalem Bay County Boat Launch. It is a motorized launch. There are flush restrooms, paved parking spaces, and a concrete boat ramp. It is located on U.S. Highway 101 between Nehalem and the junction of State Highway 53 in Nehalem.
The Roy Creek County Boat Launch, also near Nehalem, is a motorized launch. It has vault restrooms, gravel parking, and an unimproved boat ramp. It is located on Foss Road, .4 miles east of Miami Foley Road in Nehalem.
South Jetty Nehalem Bay
Access via Beach Drive, off Beach Street from Highway 101 at the Manhattan Beach turn
Jutting out into the Pacific, the nearly 100-year-old jetty is a dramatic spot from which to view the wild surf and churning power of the waves as they crash into the rocks bringing with them driftwood and unexpected treasures. You will come away with a healthy respect for the ocean.
Barview Jetty Park
Visit an ancient sand dune in Barview on Tillamook Bay. A bit farther north of Nehalem State Park and less than a quarter-mile from the water, the walk is short, and there are several trails that lead to the beach, to the Cape Falcon overlook, or to the Oregon Coast Trail. The closest campground to Rockaway Beach is Barview Jetty, south of Rockaway Beach on the north shore of Tillamook Bay. Facilities include day use, 69 RV sites, 224 tent sites, handicap sites, hiker/biker sites, hot showers and easy beach access. The facility also has Wi-Fi. Campground check-in is at 3:30 p.m., checkout is by 1:30 p.m.
Oswald West State Park
Surrounded by the mountains, the beach at Oswald West takes you away from the trials of everyday life. Step out of your vehicle and into a place teeming with natural beauty that truly inspires. With parking areas near the beach, the rigors of everyday life are stripped away by the time your feet hit the sand. All of the trails wind through a mature forest to the beach nestled in a secluded cove. It is an area popular with surfboarders and boogie boarders looking for the perfect wave. Camping is no longer allowed in this park. Be sure to pick up a map on the way into the park.
Nehalem Bay State Park
North of Rockaway Beach on Nehalem Bay near the town of Manzanita is Nehalem Bay State Park. Imagine spending your afternoon on a kayak trip around Nehalem Bay, then taking a short walk over the dunes to the beach. There you can sit on a blanket and watch the sun as it sets over the ocean in the shadow of Neah-Kah-Nie Mountain. For a breathtaking view of the bay, fitness and wildlife enthusiasts will enjoy the 1.75-mile bike trail that circles the park’s airplane landing strip. Along this route and in the campground itself, you’re likely to see deer grazing, a herd of elk, or a coyote crossing the road. The park is graced with a variety of birds, and there is a horse camp with 17 sites that have corrals.
Seaview City Park
Young or old can enjoy four city blocks of fun. The park is equipped with picnic tables, barbecue grills, a pavilion for family reunions, organizational gatherings, and other events, a playground and restrooms. Seaview City Park adjoins a wetland area to the north, which is a great place for nature hikes and bird watching.
In addition, the park is the site of the city’s annual Labor Day Weekend Carnival in the Park — an old-fashioned event with games for the kids, a dunk tank, food booths, and entertainment. It’s all free.
Two blocks east of Highway 101 and one block north of North 3rd Avenue. Access is from North Coral Street on the west and North Falcon Street on the east.
Ed Hart Park
The park is where the former home of city pioneer Edith Hart once stood. Hart helped establish the first post office in the area. As the Rockaway Beach area began to develop, she wanted to ensure that a portion of the natural environment could be enjoyed by future generations and that there would be public access to the beach. So in the 1960s, Hart and her son began efforts to deed their property to the county for use as a park.
After the deaths of Edith Hart in 1966 and her son, Ed, in 1997, friends and supporters completed the Harts’ dream using funds Ed had earmarked. The gardens were lovingly restored, picnic tables and a fountain were put in place and a wide, paved path was laid down as a beach access, edged by the very rocks that had once served as the foundation of the Hart house. The park was dedicated in 1999 and is maintained by the county. Today it is a calming retreat with lawns, mature trees and flowering plants.
19820 Breaker Ave., north of West Washington Street
Stanger Memorial VFW Park
The Stanger Memorial VFW Park, located on Lake Marie, offers both a family park and a community garden. Situated at the south end of Rockaway Beach, the park straddles the boundary with Twin Rocks. To reach the park from the Coast Highway, go east on Washington Street to Front Street and turn right.
At the south end of Front Street, you will be greeted by a flagpole and a bronze plaque dedicating the park and community garden to Steve Stanger, a longtime member of the VFW’s Oregon Sunset Post 7558.
The VFW acquired the land during the post-war period and in 1997 deeded the property to the city of Rockaway Beach. A portion of the old VFW site was reserved for a community garden. The remainder became a family park. In 2006, Jim Carlson, commander of Kilchis Sunset VFW Post 2848, installed a flagpole and a locally quarried boulder bearing a bronze plaque dedicating the combined park to the memory of Stanger.
The park and community garden were formally dedicated in June 2006. Post 2848 is now home to the former members of Oregon Sunset Post 7558. Today there is a waiting list for garden plots. Several plots are dedicated to feeding the needy, and the garden serves as a model for other community gardens in the area.
Tillamook County Parks
Tillamook County Parks Department operates six county campgrounds totaling 506, plus campsites from Barview to Pacific City along with a system of 21 boat launches and 10 day-use areas throughout Tillamook County. These facilities offer diverse camping experiences and services from primitive camping to full hook-ups. The county also maintains the Twin Rocks Turnaround.