What’s Good in Grays Harbor: Johns River

Photo 2 - Johns RiverThere’s no apostrophe in “Johns River” or “Johns River Dike Trail.” That’s not a punctuation error, according to local resident John Meyer. “Cartography in those days didn’t have possessives,” explains Meyer, who is also a member of the Pacific County Historical Society.

While apostrophes may be missing from this quiet, secluded site, a rich and colorful history is not. According to the Department of Fish and Wildlife, which manages the area, Johns River Wildlife Area covers more than 6,700 acres, managed in 15 units located near the Pacific Coast on the Olympic Peninsula. The local portion is 12 miles southwest of Aberdeen off Highway 105.

Turn here!
Turn here!

Located just past the Ocean Spray cranberry plant, the storied site includes two access sites nestled between Markham and Ocosta. While the modern day Johns River area offers choice recreational and wildlife viewing opportunities in a scenic, serene setting, its back story includes pioneer history dating back to the 1880s, a cemetery and monument, the first white child born on the Harbor, and cattle.

According to Meyer, who lives on the river, “Johns River” was named after John Hole, “the first white man to live in the area.” Hole is said to have arrived in the area in 1850 or 1852. John Hole built a cabin on the river that now bears his name. He was later joined by pioneer Patterson Fletcher Luark, originally from Tennessee. On November 6, 1858, Luark’s wife, Mary, gave birth to the “first white child born on the Harbor.” The baby was named Robert Gray Luark.

Patterson Luark was among the first to run cattle in the area. If you look sharp, you can still see signs of that past.

“As you go into the area off Highway 105, on the right hand side, there’s a big ditch,” explains Meyer. “They put some jersey barriers along the ditch. That used to be a cattle path where cattle would go from one side of the road to another. It was required when they put in a plank road, back when Ocean Spray was just a pup. In order for the road to go through, they had to have an underpass so cattle could go from one side of the road to another without getting hit by a Model T or a buggy,” he laughs.

Another “first” for the area is its old cemetery. …

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