Since its beginning, Arch Cape has been isolated by the natural barriers of the Tillamook Headland, Hug Point, the Arch Cape headland, and Neahkahnie Mountain. Early settlers would use the beach as a highway, and in the 1910’s the roadbed around Hug Point was blasted out, which made the commute between Cannon Beach and Arch Cape easier. At that time, there was still no road to travel to and from Arch Cape, and it wasn’t until 1916 that a surfaced road led into Seaside from Astoria and in 1919, legislation passed approval of the construction of a coast highway from Astoria to California. The highway known as Highway 101 was completed in 1936 shortly before tunnel construction began.
In a 1978 oral history conversation with Ed Carlson, he mentioned the difficulty of getting to and from Arch Cape and Cannon Beach saying that, “before the tunnel was built, when our kids were small, we used to go around to 26 and, I think, 30, and go around Mohler to Wheeler and drive way up on Neahkahnie Mountain, and that was as far as you could go. We had to drive 40 miles to get up there and were only 15 miles from Cannon Beach!”
It was then on February 6, 1936, a contract by the Oregon Coast Highway Department had authorized construction of .62 miles of highway roadbed that included 1,227.1 feet of tunnel, 26 feet wide and 23 feet high at Arch Cape. Part of the contract included construction of a pile trestle bridge with a concrete deck that would be 166 feet in length. A tunnel was then blasted through the ridge of Arch Cape and high steel bridges were erected to span Arch Cape Creek, Short Sand Creek, and Necarney Creek.
The Highway Department set the completion date for December 31, 1936, but because of the heavy rains, mud, inexperienced supervision, improper equipment, and delay in getting the timber that was used for the lining delivered to the job site, they had extended the completion date to February 5, 1938. However, it wasn’t until March of 1940 that all of the work was completed, which included replacing some of the treated timber, and installing the curbs, gutters, concrete sills, and pavement.
After 1940, Arch Cape and Cannon Beach had become more accessible and was no longer isolated. The growth of Arch Cape began with much excitement following the war years. Although Arch Cape remains a relatively undisturbed and peaceful community, there is never a dull moment.