Skinny Dipping in Oysterville?

Apr 19, 2017 | 2 comments

Oysterville Kids High and Dry c. 1946

My skinny dipping days were over by the time I moved to Oysterville full-time in 1978.  Or so I thought.  Mostly.  Besides, even when I was a summer kid here and every day was sunny and warm, I don’t remember swimming in the altogether.  We swam in the bay in our “bay-suitys” as one of my friends called them, and we even wore “bathing shoes” to keep from getting cut on oyster shells barnacles.

I don’t know about skinny dipping in my mother’s day.  There was a time that I would have considered that idea totally shocking but that was before she told me about going “nicked and wicked” in the dunes.  No tan lines for her, no siree!

‘Swimming’ in the Bay c. 1951 — Tucker Wachsmuth Photo

As far as swimming in Oysterville was concerned, though, first choice in those ‘olden days’ of my childhood was the bay.  I think some kids went to Skating Lake, too, but that seemed like a long way away – especially to our moms who could keep an eagle eye on us if we were just out in front of the Heckes house where the shallow water was best for wading and lolling, but not really swimming.  By the time I was a teenager, Ted Holway had dredged out a real-for-sure swimming hole right at the end of our lane – still that warm bay water, but deep enough to really swim.

Nowadays, there is “the canal” and I hear tell that skinny dipping is de rigueur among swimmers of all ages.  (Just sayin’…)   Its location north of town makes it less accessible to tourists or other non-locals – a well-kept ‘secret’ you might say – though every once in a while some unlikely duck-hunter or other intrepid explorer comes upon it and asks what it is.  “The remnants” of a development called Terra Mar is the answer.

Clark Wachsmuth at The Canal c. 1980s

Here’s the skinny (ahem) according to a 1989 article by Sou’wester Editor Larry Weathers:    TERRA MAR: Abandoned real estate sales scheme north of Oysterville on Willapa Bay. Terra Mar “land by the sea” was planned as an ocean / bay recreation and retirement community in 1968. The development was to include 1,400 acres of ocean front beach homes, interior lakeside lots, bayside marina, condominiums, riding stables, airport, shopping center, clubs, and a boat canal system linking all areas “in a world where land and water are the basis of all wealth”. Terra Mar, a division of Sherwood Pacific, Inc., a Spokane company, surveyed and filed several plats at the county courthouse in September 1968 and paid for an expensive advertisement campaign which attracted several thousand investors. But Terra Mar “land by the sea” was actually “land under the bay.” Attempts to dike tidal wetlands along the bay, and dig canals in the peaty soil, were a bust. The dike could not hold back floodwater in 1974 and the normal high water table ended water pipe and canal construction. Terra Mar lot owners attempted to recover their investments, but the developers announced bankruptcy and cleared out. Nature has reclaimed the marsh and tidal wetlands but traces of the disintegrating dike and canal system still blight the landscape.

Oysterville Shoreline from Above — Bob Duke Photo

 It’s interesting how things change over time.  I’m not sure that ‘blight’ would be my word of choice these days regarding erstwhile Terra Mar.  Mother Nature has a way of reclaiming and softening and probably, like my own sainted mother, would have no difficulty in accepting this ‘swimming hole’ north of Oysterville.


  1. Bill

    What was once skinny dippin’ is now chunky dunkin’

    • sydney

      Love it! (I wish I could just say “Speak for yourself” but…sadly no more.)


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