Clifton, Clatsop County, Oregon

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Clifton is an unincorporated community in Clatsop County, Oregon, United States.[1] It is located north of U.S. Route 30, about nine miles northwest of Westport on the south bank of the Columbia River.[2] It is on Clifton Channel across from Tenasillahe Island.[2]


Henry Harrison Hunt, an Oregon Trail pioneer of 1843, established a sawmill in the Clifton area in 1845.[3][4] By 1851 Hunt had moved on.[4] Later the site was an outpost for gillnetters.[5] In 1873 brothers James W. and Vincent Cook, pioneers of the Pacific Northwest salmon packing industry, established the second salmon cannery in Clatsop County there.[6][7][8] It is likely that settler Stephen G. Spear named his farm Clifton after the cliffs above the river before the land was owned by the Cook brothers.[6] Clifton post office was established in 1874, with Vincent Cook as the first postmaster.[6] The Astoria and South Coast Railway (later sold to the Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railway) was built through the area in 1898.[5][9]

The cannery employed Chinese workers, who canned the fish caught by Greek, Yugoslav, and Italian fishermen.[5] When the cannery closed in 1906, the Chinese left the town, leaving behind their bunkhouses (which no longer exist).[5] The other immigrants settled in different parts of town.[5] In its heyday, Clifton had two saloons, one with a combination skating rink and dance hall upstairs, two stores, a church, and a one-room schoolhouse.[5] The railroad tracks served as the main street.[5] In 1915 Clifton had a population of 200.[10] The dance hall burned down in 1921.[5] Clifton was not connected to U.S. 30 by road until 1937.[5] Instead, to leave town people either boated across the Columbia to Cathlamet, Washington, or took the train to Astoria or Portland.[5] In the early 20th century, there were five logging camps within three miles of Clifton and when the camps closed the loggers would move into town.[5] By 1930 all logging activity in the area had ceased.[5] Today Clifton is on the edge of the Clatsop State Forest.[2] Electricity did not reach Clifton until 1958.[5]


Author Ralph Friedman considers Clifton a "picturesque ghost town".[5] The town went into decline as the salmon runs were depleted.[5] One store closed in 1950, the other closed in 1960 and was turned into an office for the caretaker of the town, which was then owned by Bumble Bee.[5] As people moved out, the houses were dismantled for their lumber.[5] Other buildings, such as the first store and the church, fell to splinters, while some structures fell into the river.[5] The post office closed in 1966.[6] As of 1990, very few structures were left in Clifton.[5] The rail line that passes through the area is now operated by the Portland and Western Railroad (PNWR), who acquired it from the BNSF Railway.[2][9] Clifton is still a PNWR station.[11] There was renewed interest in the area in the early 2000s because of the proposed Bradwood Landing project.


  1. ^ "Clifton". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey. November 28, 1980. Retrieved October 27, 2015.
  2. ^ a b c d Oregon Atlas & Gazetteer (7th ed.). Yarmouth, Maine: DeLorme. 2008. p. 18. ISBN 0-89933-347-8.
  3. ^ Flora, Stephenie. "Emigrants to Oregon in 1843". Retrieved March 19, 2012.
  4. ^ a b Friedman, Ralph (2002) [1993]. "Some Who Didn't Stay". The Other Side of Oregon (2nd ed.). Caldwell, Idaho: The Caxton Printers, Ltd. p. 79. ISBN 0-87004-352-8.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s Friedman, Ralph (1990). In Search of Western Oregon (2nd ed.). Caldwell, Idaho: The Caxton Printers, Ltd. pp. 123–124. ISBN 0-87004-332-3.
  6. ^ a b c d McArthur, Lewis A.; McArthur, Lewis L. (2003) [1928]. Oregon Geographic Names (7th ed.). Portland, Oregon: Oregon Historical Society Press. p. 210. ISBN 978-0875952772.
  7. ^ "James W. Cook House". Archived from the original on March 30, 2014. Retrieved March 29, 2014.
  8. ^ "Clatsop County Historical Society: Chronology of Clatsop County History". Retrieved March 19, 2012.
  9. ^ a b "Lewis & Clark Explorer & the P&W Astoria Line". Abandoned Railroads of the Pacific Northwest. Retrieved March 19, 2012.
  10. ^ Friedman, Ralph (1978). "Ghost Towns of the Lower Columbia". Tracking Down Oregon. Caldwell, Idaho: The Caxton Printers, Ltd. pp. 30–34. ISBN 0-87004-257-2.
  11. ^ "Freight Tariff PNWR 9500" (PDF). Portland & Western Railroad, Inc. Retrieved March 19, 2012.

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Coordinates: 46°12′39″N 123°27′44″W / 46.210944°N 123.462353°W / 46.210944; -123.462353