About Port Orford

Posted by Jim McGillis August 12, 2010


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Before the arrival of European settlers, the Port Orford area was originally inhabited by Tututni peoples. The Tututni languages were a part of the Pacific Coast Athabaskan language family.

The first European settlers, led by Captain William Tichenor, arrived in 1851. Tichenor, needing to return to north for supplies, left a group of nine men behind. However, members the local Qua-to-mah tribe reacted with hostility to the newcomers, whom they felt were encroaching on their territory. Taking up a position on a nearby seastack, now known as Battle Rock, they were attacked by a band of over 100 warriors. 23 natives were killed and two of Tichenor's men were wounded in the ensuing conflict. Soon afterwards, a truce was called between the two groups when the settlers told the natives that they would be leaving in 14 days. For the next two weeks, they did not see any members of the local tribes. However, after the 14th day, an even larger band of warriors than the first attacked. During the battle, the chief of the tribe was killed. Retreating with their dead chief, the tribe set up camp nearby. The settlers soon fled north under cover of darkness.

Port of Port Orford

Port Orford was formally founded in 1856. It would serve as a receiving port for mercantile and fishing. The port district was formally set up over 50 years later in 1911. It was during this time that Port Orford would become a shipping port for local Port Orford Cedar. The port was sold in 1935. However, in 1957, a little over a hundred years since the cities founding, the port was bought back. Eventually, Port Orford would see a decline in fishing and the shipping of timber would cease.

In October 1941 then-mayor Gilbert Gable, frustrated with the poor condition of the state roads around Port Orford, which hampered economic development, suggested that a number of counties along the Oregon and California state border should secede and create the State of Jefferson. This movement came to an end with US involvement in World War II.

The Port is an open water dock (no natural protection) and boasts the only drydock port on the west coast. The fishing boats are lifted in and out of the water by operated cranes, set on custom made dollies, and parked in rows on the dock. As a result it is known as a "dolly dock".


Port Orford is a small, port hamlet located 28 miles north of Gold Beach as well as 27 miles south of Bandon-by-the Sea, Oregon - home of the Bandon Dunes Golf Resort - on U.S. Route 101; tucked between the Pacific Ocean and the Siskiyou National Forest.

Elevated Quaternary marine terraces deposited during the last major interglacial period have given rise to topographic features surrounding the area. The Port Orford Heads State Park is located in Port Orford on a scenic headland where the historic Coast Guard lifeboat station operated between 1930-1970. The city is adjacent to Cape Blanco, a headland consisting of the Cape Blanco terrace dated at 80,000 years old; and considered by many to be the westernmost point in the lower 48 states (however this is disputed (see Cape Alava in Washington). It is also located just north of Humbug Mountain, which is considered the tallest mountain in the lower 48 to descend directly into an ocean.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 1.6 square miles (4.2 km²), of which, 1.6 square miles (4.1 km²) of it is land and 0.04 square miles (0.1 km²) of it (2.44%) is water. Garrison Lake, a 130 acre fresh water lake that is annually stocked with trout, is a natural lagoon that exists within city boundaries; along with a large amount of wetlands.


As of the census of 2000, there were 1,153 people, 571 households, and 311 families residing in the city. The population density was 719.1 people per square mile (278.2/km²). There were 662 housing units at an average density of 412.9/sq mi (159.7/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 95.40% White, 0.09% African American, 1.39% Native American, 0.26% Asian, 0.17% Pacific Islander, 0.87% from other races, and 1.82% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.60% of the population.

There were 571 households out of which 19.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 44.0% were married couples living together, 9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 45% were non-families. 39% of all households were made up of individuals and 18.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2 people and the average family size was 2.66.

In the city the population was spread out with 18.8% under the age of 18, 3.4% from 18 to 24, 19.7% from 25 to 44, 30.8% from 45 to 64, and 27.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 50 years. For every 100 females there were 92.2 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $23,289, and the median income for a family was $29,653. Males had a median income of $35,221 versus $15,179 for females. The per capita income for the city was $16,442. About 16.1% of families and 17.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 21.9% of those under age 18 and 9.2% of those age 65 or over.

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