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Geology and Earth Resources Division Bulletin No. 72

Washington Coastal Geology between the Hoh and Quillayute Rivers



It was not until the latter part of the last century when homesteaders first came to the Hoh River area that it received permanent white settlers. Among them was a Captain J. W. F. Hank who settled in the flat area along the north side of the river very near its mouth. Although this apparently served as his residence until shortly after the turn of the century, he is best known by the settlers for the services he rendered in his 30-foot, two-masted sailing ship, the "Surfduck." He brought settlers as well as much needed supplies not only to the Hoh but to many other nearby rivers between Cape Flattery and the Columbia River (Hult, 1971). His homestead was abandoned about 1903 shortly after he disappeared at sea.

In more recent years the area of Captain Hank's homestead was the site of much geologically related activity. Two periods of petroleum exploration took place in the vicinity of the Jefferson Oil Seep, just north of the mouth of the Hoh River, initially in 1913-14 and again in the 1930's. During the latter period, the area of Captain Hank's homestead became the center of operations known as "Oil City" (fig. 21). Real estate interests became active and much of the flat land and surrounding area was platted into lots, many of which were sold in anticipation of a major oil discovery. The name Oil City may still be seen on road signs and maps of the area. Evidence of this past is marked on the grassy, alder-covered flat by piles of rotting boards from a collapsed building and the rusted remains of a vintage automobile.

Eleven wells were drilled between 1931 and 1937 in the Jefferson Oil Seep area, about 2 miles northwest of the Oil City land development (fig. 18) (Washington Division of Geology and sawed-plank road that can still be traced in part through unlogged areas (fig. 19). Most of the Earth Resources unpublished files). This distance, through the woods, was traversed over a wells of the area, some of which reached depths of several thousand feet, actually did encounter excellent "shows" of oil. As much as 100 barrels a day were claimed at first to be flowing from some of these wells but such quantities soon decreased (Northwest Oil and Gas, 1936). Today, in several casings among tumbled-down wooden derricks and surrounding buildings, small quantities of high gravity (thin) oil continues to accumulate and natural gas still bubbles to the surface (fig. 22).

Although the Jefferson Oil Seep is now a part of the National Park coastal strip where drilling can no longer be conducted, areas outside the park along the lower Hoh River valley continue to interest oil-men. In more recent times a number of wells have been drilled, but none have encountered commercial quantities of petroleum (fig. 17).

DRILLING EQUIPMENT in operation along the Hoh River in 1964. No significant petroleum was encountered (fig. 17).

DRILLING OPERATIONS of the 1930's near Jefferson Cove where eleven oil test wells were drilled and substantial oil shows were reported (Photo courtesy of Jones Photo Shop, Aberdeen, Washington) (fig. 18)

THE PLANK ROAD that served as access from the Hoh River to the Jefferson Oil Seep area as it looked in the 1930's. Barely recognizable segments of this road can still be traced (Photo courtesy of Jones Photo Shop, Aberdeen, Washington) (fig. 19).

LANDSLIDE DEBRIS near the mouth of the Hoh River. Landslides are common where crustal forces have formed a rock melange (fig. 20).

OIL CITY in the 1930's near the mouth of the Hoh River, served as the headquarters for drilling operations at the Jefferson Oil Seep area 2 miles to the north (Photo courtesy of Jones Photo Shop, Aberdeen, Washington) (fig. 21)

OIL WELL REMAINS from drilling operations of the 1930's near Hoh Head. Gas still bubbles from, and oil accumulates in, this casing (fig. 22).

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Last Updated: 28-Mar-2006