Gold Beach is located 40 miles north of the California border. It’s different from other coastal towns for its blend of forest, river, and ocean located at just 60 feet above sea level.
The early story of Gold Beach is a weaving of Native American cultures and wars, Spanish explorers and European fur trappers, ranchers, gold miners, loggers, fishermen, mill workers and town folk: all building a special kind of life in an amazing place that has never lost its natural allure.
The history of the area that has most influenced the Gold Beach of today began in the mid-1800s. In 1853, a short time after gold was discovered in California, the shiny stuff was found in the beach sand near the mouth of the Rogue River. Gold Beach (originally named Ellensburg) was born. In 1858 the town became the county seat of the newly formed Curry County.
Prospectors poured into the area and set up their sluice boxes. Soon a number of small enterprises sprang up around them with people making a living on salmon, logging, tanning and simply keeping all those folks stocked with food and dry goods. Copper and other minerals were also mined. At one point there was even a jade mine. None of the mines ever amounted to much compared to the gold fields elsewhere, but there are still a few gold mining operations in the upriver area and gold can be panned on the beach. The prospectors are long gone, but many small outposts on the Rogue River still ply goods to a different kind of fortune hunter, the angler.
In the late nineteenth century, it wasn’t known that salmon would take a hook and line. For years salmon was heavily harvested with seine and gill nets. In 1876, Robert D. Hume established a canning operation and very quickly came to dominate the industry locally. In 1878 he built the first fish hatchery in the area at Hatchery Gulch just south of Indian Creek.
In 1896, a Mr. Frank was fishing for trout near the mouth of the Rogue River using a fly rod and small spinner. To his and everyone else’s surprise, he reeled in an 18-pound salmon, and Rogue River sportfishing was born!
Salmon has played an important role in contributing to the local economy ever since. As gold mining, fur trapping and the lumber industries declined in importance locally, each forced a large number of people to leave the area in search of work. After 1908, commercial fishing on the Rogue expanded rapidly and the salmon fishery was largely depleted in a very short time. In 1935, commercial fishing on the Rogue was ended by state legislation. Since then, sportfishing has taken off and a number of enthusiasts have formed organizations to protect and increase the salmon population not only in the Rogue but also in other coastal rivers up and down the state. Today the salmon, steelhead, trout and other sport fish draw enthusiasts from around the country to this small town.
A Golden Lifestyle
With Gold Beach’s relatively mild weather and a small year-round population, the flavor of the town and its economy revolves around the water. Gold Beach is indeed a center for fishing of all sorts, river exploration and camping along the rivers and streams.
Locals and visitors alike have come to appreciate Gold Beach as one of the choicest bases in the Pacific Northwest for launching into those someday activities: whitewater jet boating, kayaking, windsurfing, wilderness mountain hiking/biking or maybe just seeing an eagle, otter or bear that is not in a pen. Gold Beach also offers a lovely golf course, gift shops, fresh seafood and excellent dining.
Of course, many who come to Gold Beach prefer to do just relax by like walking along a sandy beach or sitting on a gusty bluff watching the clouds go by or gazing into a tide pool for what seems like hours until that starfish finally moves on.
Wilderness in Gold Beach and along the Southern Oregon Coast is fiercely protected. Hiking can be a walk, a stroll or a serious climb into the old growth forests or along the spectacular coast line.
Whether locals or tourists, there are not a lot of people in Gold Beach and that probably makes the biggest difference when compared with other destinations. Providing an aura of a forgotten pace and time, Gold Beach is a place where visitors stay for weekends or weeks at a time, relaxed and unhurried.
People who come to Gold Beach for one thing usually end up discovering a whole lot more. In short, there’s still plenty of gold in Gold Beach.