How Arch Cape Looked in 1889: Coast Pilot


In 1889, George Davidson, assistant U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey in San Francisco, published Coast Pilot of California, Oregon and Washington, a coastal navigation publication. The USCGS — known today as the National Geodetic Survey — is a federal agency that defines and manages a national coordinate and mapping system in conjunction with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Arch Cape is described on page 444 of the publication:

From the extreme western point of Cape Falcon the high cliffs run sharply to the north-northeast for one mile, thence as low bluffs for one and three-eighths miles north by west three-quarters west to Arch Cape.

This cape hardly projects beyond the comparatively low shore on either side, and is important only for being the shore termination of the great cross ridge that comes two and a half miles from the eastward where it is twenty-seven hundred and seventy-five feet high. It is eleven hundred feet high at half a mile from the shore and at the cape it is four hundred feet above the sea.

This great ridge is visible at sixty miles from shore; it is the main spur coming from the mountains to the east and northeast where they are very much broken. Neahkahnie Mountain is the secondary spur to the southward and lies nearly parallel with this one.

A small of the southern side of the end of this ridge, at Arch Cape, is covered with fern and scattering firs. The cape is rocky and precipitous for about one-quarter of a mile of the face; towards Cape Falcon there are a few low, broken bluffs. Except on the end of the cape, and these low bluffs, the whole country is densely covered with forests, which come down to the water’s edge.

On the north side of the cape, the shore sinks suddenly to a short, low, sandy reach, just above high water. The low-water beach under the cliffs south and north of the cape is as much as two hundred and seventy five yards broad, but immediately off the extremity of the cape it is only ninety yards in width.

Directly under the cape, and almost touching it, is a rock fifty yards in extent and almost one hundred and twenty feet high. The cape takes its name from the small arch above mentioned.

Off the cape are some rocks, and one hidden danger. The outermost visible rock is one hundred yards in extent and one hundred and thirteen feet high. It lies eight-tenths of a mile west one-third north from the highest part of the cape. It has deep water all around it, and the three-fathom line lies half way between it and the point of the cape. Half a mile outside of it is the fifteen-fathom line parallel with the shore. It is called Arch Cape Rock.

At a distance of seven hundred and sixty yards southwest by south from Arch Cape Rock there is a rock awash in foul ground, sixty yards in extent. There is a depth of ten fathoms all around it, and it is on the line of the twelve-fathom curve parallel with the shore. From the highest part of the cape this rock bears west by south half south, distant one mile.

A sunken rock, visible at low water, has been found just inside of the line from the outer edge of Cape Falcon to Arch Cape Rock. It lies one mile south-southwest from the highest part of Arch Cape; and one mile southeast by south half south from Arch Cape Rock. This danger lies one-eighth of a mile outside the three-fathom line, and has five and a quarter fathoms inside of it. It lies on the general six-fathom line.

A notable rock under the bluff south of Arch Cape is just outside the low-water line and far inside the three-fathom line. It is one hundred and ten yards in extent, one hundred feet high, and has three rocks close under the inside of it. The nearest one is fifteen feet high and the one inside the low-water line is thirty-nine feet high. It lies half a mile south two-thirds east from the highest part of Arch Cape.