In his classic travel tale Blue Highways, William Least Heat-Moon characterized Depoe Bay thusly: “Depoe Bay used to be a picturesque fishing village; now it was just picturesque. The fish houses, but for one seasonal company, were gone, the fleet gone, and in their stead had come sport fishing boats and souvenir ashtray and T-shirt shops.”
To be fair, tourists have come here since the establishment of the town. In fact, for all intents and purposes, the town didn’t really exist until the completion of the Roosevelt Highway (U.S. 101) in 1927, which opened the area up to car travelers. Prior to that time, the area had been occupied mainly by a few members of the Siletz people. One of the them who worked at the U.S. Army depot called himself Charlie Depot. The town was named after him, eventually taking on the current spelling.
Regardless of what you think of the short commercial strip along the highway, the scenic appeal of Depoe’s location is impossible to ignore. The rocky outer bay, flanked by headlands to the north and south, is pierced by a narrow channel through the basalt cliffs leading to the inner harbor. It’s home to an active sportfishing fleet as well as the whale-watching charters that have earned Depoe Bay its distinction as the whale-watching capital of Oregon.
by Judy Jewell and W. C. McRae from Moon Oregon, 8th Edition, © Elizabeth & Mark Morris and Avalon Travel