We would like to extend extra special gratitude to Tilda Chadwick Jones from the Tillamook Bay Flood Improvement District for providing the material you see on these pages. We would also like to thank Joe Warren and the Tillamook Headlight Herald for allowing us to display articles and photographs from the paper.
Living in the lower Tillamook Bay basin on the Oregon coast, tidal-influenced flooding is a natural part of life for residents of Tillamook County. Rain events raise the county's seven river systems, five of which converge in Tillamook Bay. Coastal storm surges and high tides can push in large amounts of seawater.
The City of Tillamook has dealt with floods since its founding in 1891. In the last several decades major flooding events in 1996 and 1999 led to the city of Tillamook’s flood mitigation action plan and the 2002 formation of the Tillamook Bay Flood Improvement District (TBFID).
Subsequently, projects to mitigate flooding and restore wetlands were planned and implemented, along with ongoing routine maintenance, on several rivers and sloughs.
2006 and 2007 again saw flooding events with water rising to unexpected levels. In 2007 Tillamook County was designated as an Oregon Solutions Project, leading to a two-year process meant to address flooding issues. While not as severe as the 2006/2007 events, floods in 2008, 2013, 2015 and 2017 tested mitigation strategies and caused damage to roads and businesses in the City of Tillamook, albeit at reduced costs since the county-wide $54M+ flood of 1996.
On this site, you will find information about the mitigation projects the people of Tillamook have implemented to reduce flooding, pictures documenting the 1999 Tillamook City flood, and a digital archive of flood-related articles which illustrate the ongoing conversation surrounding flooding in Tillamook.
Flooding in 2015 shut down the 101, filling the owner of a mechanic shop’s office, spilling into a Thai restaurant and ruining thousands of dollars’ worth of food. Workers rolled up their sleeves, noted the bright spots: “I look at it like we were fortunate,” Bill Mays, who works at Sa Bai Jai Thai, said: “we didn’t lose the bigger appliances.”
In 2007, bucking weather trends, a big flood occurred in the fall, when locals expect only “nuisance high waters.” Tillamook knows the Wilson River swells, that its tributaries rise. This is usually a spring event, the coastal range snowpack melting as Pineapple Express patterns carry in heavy rains. Yet the rains that fall came. Records were broken. A landslide closed Oregon Highway 6.
Despite losing everything (only salvaging two boxes from her trailer) Linda Mason looks at the beauty around her, reflects rather than dwells—"I'm happy out here," she says. "I can take my dogs to the little beach. I just don't take anything for granted. It has made a lot of us...we were neighbors, but now we are like close family."
"The bay came into existence about 8,000 years ago when the rising level of the sea at the end of the glacial Ice Age flooded the lower valleys of the Miami, Kilchis, Wilson, Trask, and Tillamook Rivers. Bayocean Spit formed along the western side of the bay, separating it from the ocean except for an inlet at the bay’s northwest corner."
- Komar and Styllas
Tillamook Bay's Five Rivers
17 miles long, the Tillamook River shares its final mile with the Trask River as it drains into the southeastern corner of Tillamook Bay. It drains a 61 sq mile basin in the foothills of the Northern Oregon Coast Range.
About 33 miles long, the Wilson River drains the Northern Oregon Coast Range. Oregon Route 6 runs parallel to the Wilson River on its route from the coast to the Portland Metro area.
The Trask River is 18 miles long from where its two main forks join, with a 30-mile north fork and a 10-mile southern fork. The river is known for its steelhead and Chinook salmon populations.
14 miles long, the Kilchis River drains a basin of about 65 square miles from its origins in the Tillamook State Forest to its mouth on the western side of Tillamook Bay.
The Miami River runs into the north end of Tillamook Bay near Garibaldi. It descends over 1,700 feet along its 13-mile course through the Tillamook State Forest and Northern Tillamook County.