is located on the Pacific Ocean
coast in Curry County
at 42.1° North, 124.3° West. The population of the Brookings area is about 13,500.
Brookings is located at the mouth of the Chetco River in southwestern Oregon. It was originally explored in the late 16th Century by European explorers, but was not colonized. The land was the home of the Cheti, which were a native hunter-gatherer society.
All this would change in 1853, when white settlers came up the river and set up a small town. They renamed the native population the Chetco, as well as the river that they lived along. Three years after setting up shop, the settlers forced the Chetco Tribe off their land and onto the Siletz Indian Reservation near Newport.
The town of Chetco set up a modest logging industry, taking advantage of the abundance of forested land in the area. The main camp for this operation was on the south bank of the river, near Harbor, Oregon. In 1907, Robert Brookings (of Brookings Institution fame) spent 5 million dollars to set up a logging operation on the north bank of the Chetco. In 1914, Brookings hired Bernard Maybeck, who designed Golden Gate Park, to design a town on the north bank for his employees to life in. This plan would eventually develop into the town of Brookings.
After World War I, the company started running into problems. There was little infrastructure connecting Brookings with any other towns in the area, let alone the rest of the country. The isolation meant paying workers more to come and work at the mill. In 1921, Robert Brookings sold his stake in the company to the Stout Lumber Company. Eventually, even the new ownership fell into disarray, and the mill was shut down in the summer of 1925. The day the mill closed, the population of Brookings dropped from 1500 to 200.
A minor gold rush occurred shortly after. A local found about $18,000 worth in the Chetco River. While no other large finds of gold have ever been found, there were reports of big finds well after.
World War II brought Brookings an unfortunate claim to fame. In September of 1942, a Japanese plane, launched from on offshore submarine, dropped a bomb just north of Brookings harbor. Nobuo Fujita, who piloted the plane, was told that causing a forest fire would require resources from the government, which would pull it away from the war effort. However, the fires were put out quickly, and Nobuo Fujita instead became the only person to attack the continental United States during World War II. He has visited Brookings several times since his bombing run. In 1962, he gave the town his 400 year old samurai sword. On the 50th anniversary in 1992, he planted a redwood on the exact spot where the bomb was dropped, just north of the Chetco bridge.
Much of the wooded area around Brookings is now part of an extensive park system. The Siskiyou National Forest, which surrounds the Brookings area, is home to 350 foot tall redwood trees. Loeb State Park is eight miles north east of town, and provides access to the Chetco River, as well as sites for campers. Coastline parks include Harris Beach State Park, Sporthaven Beach, and Clifford Kamph Memorial Park. There is also Azalea Park, which is home to the Azalea Festival held Memorial Day weekend, and the Southern Oregon Kite Festival, which is held in late July.
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