History of Westport, Grayland & Tokeland

Most people have never seen a stretch of beaches like ours, where the light gray sands are wide and flat and glistening from the breakwater of the Westport, Washington jetty 18 miles south to the breakwater of the native village of Tokeland, with the enclave of Grayland sitting dead center in the middle of it all.

On May 7, 1792, Captain Robert Gray sailed into a bay that later became Grays Harbor. Still later the town of Grayland was name after the esteemed captain and the word "Land" was added for poetic effect.

Village of Grayland

Some of the early area founders were Finnish farmers who soon realized they could grow world class cranberries here, eventually growing to more than 100 cranberry bogs. Many still run a block from and paralleling Highway 105 that runs north-south just in from the coast. There are neat, well-painted houses, each set trimly at the edge of its own rectangular garden.

Cranberries grow as tiny green and pink rosettes, packed tightly together. Four years are required for cranberry plants to mature and they must be trimmed and sprayed ten times each year. Eighty years ago a narrow-gauge track ran through the center of the fields, carrying equipment and fertilizer.

Harvesting the tiny fruits requires the use of a pronged scoop that strips the berries from the plant without injuring either. Farmers are able to tend and harvest their spread without the need to hire employees. Eventually, the Finns marketed their product through a co-operative and had no trouble disposing of their entire crop.

Village of Tokeland

Named after Chief Toke -- of the Shoalwater Bay Tribe -- Tokeland is centered between the mighty Pacific Ocean and pristine Willapa Harbor. The chief and his family spent summers where visitors still find it a relaxing destination year round.

Over the years crabbing, oyster harvesting and fishing became major activities, and in 1854, the Kindred Inn was built to house visitors who came for the rejuvenating air and water. Later re-named Tokeland Hotel, it was surrounded by seasonal second homes and became the formal headquarters of the Tribe. Their casino was built along with other attractions.

Similarly to North Cove and other towns on the north side of Willapa Bay, coastal erosion became a serious concern for Tokeland until the Port of Willapa Harbor added a new jetty, moorage, boat ramp, timber seawall and fish buying station.

Town of Westport

On a peninsula located on the south side of, and directly adjacent to the mouth of Grays Harbor, Native Americans used the area as a summer resort where they fished and hunted and thrived for millennia. The first white settlers arrived in the summer of 1857.

By 1914, fishing, shellfish harvesting, seafood processing and even tourism made Westport a busy village which was incorporated that year. But even before construction of the majestic Westport Lighthouse in 1898, the area was prominent for those returning from the sea and those hoping to avoid the surfline.

Today, Westport has a population that hovers around 2,000 people, who still rely on the same industries -- fishing and tourism -- which brought development to the area.

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