Gold Beach is one part of the coast where the action is definitely away from the ocean. To lure people from Oregon’s superlative ocean shores, the Rogue estuary has been bestowed with many blessings. First, the gold-laden black sands were mined in the 1850s and 1860s. While this short-lived boom era gave Gold Beach its name, the arrival of Robert Hume, later known as the Salmon King of the Rogue, had greater historical significance.
By the turn of the 20th century, Hume’s canneries were shipping out some 16,000 cases of salmon per year and established the river’s image as a leading salmon and steelhead stream. This reputation was later enhanced by outdoorsman and novelist Zane Grey in his Rogue River Feud and other writings.
Over the years, Herbert Hoover, Winston Churchill, Ginger Rogers (who had a home on the Rogue), Clark Gable, Jack London, George H. W. Bush, and Jimmy Carter, among other notables, have come here to try their luck.
During the last several decades, white-water rafting and jet-boat tours focusing on the abundant wildlife, scenic beauty, and fascinating lore of the region have hooked other sectors of the traveling public.
Today, Gold Beach is a town of about 2,100 and is the Curry County seat. Gold Beach serves as the south coast tourism hub, but a pulp mill and commercial ocean fishing industry round out the local economy. The seasonal nature of many local businesses creates serious wintertime unemployment. This fact, combined with torrential rains, drastically reduces the population of Gold Beach from Thanksgiving until spring. Thereafter, the wildflowers and warm weather transform this town into a vacation mecca.
At the north end of town, just before the road gives way to Conde McCullough’s elegant Patterson Bridge, the harbor comes into view on the left, full of salmon trawlers, jet-boats, pelicans, and seals bobbing up and down. Across the bridge is Wedderburn, a baby sister to Gold Beach. Named for the Scottish birthplace of Robert Hume, its major claim to fame is as the home port of the Mailboat, which has been the mail carrier to upriver residents on the Rogue since 1895.
Getting to Gold Beach
by Judy Jewell and W. C. McRae from Moon Oregon, 8th Edition, © Elizabeth & Mark Morris and Avalon Travel