Exploration, Settlement, and Growth
In the 17th and 18th centuries, Spanish, British, and Russian vessels came to offshore waters here in search of a sea route connecting the Atlantic with the Pacific. Accounts differ, but the first sightings of the Oregon coast have been credited to either Juan Cabrillo (in 1543) or the English explorer Sir Francis Drake (in 1579). Other voyagers of note included Spain’s Vizcaíno and de Aguilar (in 1603) and Bruno de Heceta (in 1775), and Britain’s James Cook and John Meares during the late 1770s, as well as George Vancouver (in 1792). Robert Gray’s 1792 voyage 10 miles up the Columbia River estuary was the first American incursion into the area.
In 1996, a front-page story in the London Times proclaimed Sir Francis Drake the first European to set foot on the coast (previously Heceta was credited with the first landing) on the basis of an archaeological find in Little Whale Cove south of Depoe Bay. Timbers from a stockade left by Drake, who is known to have beached for repairs, were purportedly found, leading to this speculation.
Sea otter and beaver pelts added impetus to the search for a trade route connecting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. While the Northwest Passage turned out to be a myth, the fur trade became a basis of commerce and contention between European, Asian, and eventually American governments.
by Judy Jewell and W. C. McRae from Moon Oregon, 8th Edition, © Elizabeth & Mark Morris and Avalon Travel