THE TINY TOWN: Neah Bay, Washington
THE TINY TOWN: Neah Bay, Washington
In my last article in the continuing series of Tiny Towns of Washington, I went to the farthest right hand corner of the state to find Anatone. This time around I wanted to go to the other side of the state. To the furthest tiny town I can find in the top left hand corner of Washington. That wasn’t too hard to find, for it is known as the very northwest tip of the continental United States. Neah Bay as the commit says is “really at the beginning of the road”.
The town of Neah Bay itself is only about 2.4 square miles with a population about 956. Which is down some since 2020 when it was recorded as 1,102 residents. And the residents of Neah Bay? 75% are Native Americans from the Makah Tribe. Known as the most peace tribe.
The name "Neah" refers to the Makah Chief Dee-ah, pronounced Neah in the Klallam language (which is fascinating itself, and deserves it’s own article) The town is named of body of water Neah Bay, which acquired its name in the early 19th century. The town was called by several different names since the 1700’s, but by 1847, the bay was first called Neah by Captain Henry Kellett during his “reorganization of the British Admiralty charts”. Although at the time, Kellett spelled it, "Neeah Bay”. Perhaps since the name refers to Chief Deeah, with a similar spelling.
As you can imagine, Neah Bay is a great area for fishing, specially for bottom fish like, ling cod, kelp greenling, and black rockfish. But Neah Bay is most known for its most awesome halibut! Ummmmmm. If you plan on visiting or lodging there (many like to head over to the Hobuck Beach on the other side of the peninsula at Makah Bay, but there are a few other resorts within town), you have to stop into Calvin’s Crab House on Bayview Avenue. But bring a jacket. It’s mostly outdoor seating, but worth it. Great fish and view.
Whaling was a Makah tradition from their beginnings. Legend has it that the Makah Tribe were growing hungry, when the Thunderbird came from the sky and brought a whale onshore. The Makah people then began whaling for survival. The tribe’s emblem has become the Thunderbird Whale. When whales starting to become instinct in 1926, the Makah voluntarily gave up whale hunting. Until 1999 when they were allowed to resume their tradition to hunt whale for food. But not without controversy.
Another place you’re gonna want to visit is the Makah Museum. I know it sounds like a cliche’ visiting a small town’s museum, but trust me, it’s a most do. Learning about the culture of the Native Americans who still occupy the land. The artifacts on the village unearthed in Ozette tell the history of the people who lived there long before Europeans. Plus so much more. And the museum is beautifully laid out.
Then just up the rocky coast is Cape Flattery, where many find it as the perfect hiking tail that looks out over to Tatoosh Island (named after Chief Tatooche), which is the largest of the tiny group of islands with a lighthouse. By the way, the only way to get on that lighthouse island is by permission of the Makah Tribe.
Now with many tiny towns, you probably wouldn’t find a celebrity that was born and raised there. But once in a blue moon you discover a notable person that is from the community. And Neah Bay has that one person who was a member of one of my favorite bands from the 70’s. His name is Peter DePoe. Better known as, Last Walking Bear. The drummer and one of the founding members for the band Redbone. Famously known for their number one song, Come And Get Your Love. Although Last Walking Bear left the band prior to that song being released in 1974.
This is a must visit tiny town. I’ve stated before as a big city boy from Los Angeles, that I’m fascinated by small towns. But I’m also intrigued by the history, the people, and the culture. Neah Bay is a highlight that, if you’re like me, will want to spend a whole weekend just to learn.