Located on Oregon's central coastline on Yaquina Bay, the Port of Newport is the seat of Lincoln County and an important economic hub for the area. The Port of Newport is about 90 nautical miles (138 kilometers or 85 miles direct) north of the International Port of Coos Bay. The Port of Newport is almost 150 kilometers (92 miles) southwest of the Port of Portland. The 2010 US Census reported a population of almost ten thousand in the Port of Newport.
The Port of Newport supports the area's lumber industry and fish canneries. Major sectors of the local economy include bottling plants, food and fish processing, boat-building and repairing, sport and commercial fishing, lumber processing, and tourism.
In August 2011, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) dedicated a shop operations facility in the Port of Newport. The NOAA Marine Operations Center - Pacific is the homeport for four NOAA research vessels. The Operations Center also supports NOAA's Pacific fleet with logistical, administrative, engineering, and maintenance services. NOAA leases the facility from the Port of Newport. The operations center also supports nine vessels that home port in Hawaii and Alaska. The center and vessels are part of the NOAA Office of Marine and Aviation Operations based in Silver Spring, Maryland. The office includes officers of the NOAA Corps, one of the seven United States uniformed armed services.
Long before non-indigenous people arrived in the future Port of Newport area, it was inhabited by ancestors of the modern Siletz people who occupied the area until the mid-1800s. Lewis and Clark noted Siletz villages of several hundred residents in their expedition reports.
The Siletz are part of the Coast Salish culture that occupied the region around Puget Sound and the Strait of Georgia in what would become Washington State and British Columbia. Closely related to the Tillamook tribe on Oregon's northern coast, the Siletz were moved to the Coast Indian Reservation after the Rogue River Wars in 1855 and 1856. The reservation contained more than 20 tribes.
The Oregon Donation Land Act of 1850 opened about 2.5 million acres of reservation land to white settlers and created an environment in which many native people were attacked or killed. In 1851, the US Army attacked native villages along the Rogue River, and white settlers attempted to establish towns on the reservation. Treaties were signed that gave the Siletz title to their homelands, but the treaties were not approved by the US Senate. The Coast Reservation was established in 1855 by an Executive Order signed by President Franklin Pierce. The period of relocation of the people to the reservation was marked by disease, starvation, violence, and poverty for the Siletz people. The tribes that lived on the reservation became the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians. In 1865, the railroad bisected the reservation, and the southern part was eventually re-opened to settlement by European- Americans. In 1977, the Siltez Restoration Act restored some of the reservation lands, and today it covers almost 1500 hectares.
In 1862, the Yaquina Bay oyster beds were discovered by European settlers who shipped their find to San Francisco and other destination. The area of the Port of Newport was opened to settlement in 1864, and it was incorporated in 1882. Early entrepreneur Sam Case named the infant Port of Newport after Newport, Rhode Island, and built the first Port of Newport tourist resort.
The Bayfront was the Port of Newport's economic hub. The town grew as a commercial fishing port and the home for wood product industries. When refrigeration made storage of fish possible, the seafood industry in the Port of Newport grew rapidly. Addition of the Yaquina Head Lighthouse and jetties, combined with dredging of the bay, made the Port of Newport a competitive shipping port as well. The modern Bayfront is still home to one of Oregon's biggest commercial fishing fleets.
In the late 1800s, a wood plank road connected the Port of Newport Bayfront to Nye Beach. Nye Beach was the area's most popular coastal attraction. It was home to rooming houses, sea baths, resorts, taffy stores, and agate shops. Herbert Hoover's stepfather built a sanatorium there. Today, this area in the Port of Newport is popular with artists. Many galleries and the Newport Performing Arts and Visual Arts Center are located in the Nye Beach area of the Port of Newport.
In the 1920s and 1930s, the Roosevelt Military Highway (US Highway 101) was constructed. When the Yaquina Bay Bridge was finished, travel in the Port of Newport area became easier. Businesses relocated from Nye Beach to the Port of Newport Bayfront.
In the 1980s, local leaders developed a community revitalization plan designed to reduce dependence on fishing by making the Port of Newport a research and resort center. Specific actions included expanding the Oregon State University's Hatfield Marine Science Center and the Oregon Coast Aquarium. The marine science center in the Port of Newport now houses several federal agencies (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Environmental Protection Agency) and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
While the future of the Port of Newport's fisheries and seafood industry is uncertain, the tourism industry has continued to grow, creating tension around the goals for the Port of Newport and development of its harbor.
The Port of Newport hosts many festivals throughout the year that attract many visitors. Events like the Microbrew Festival, the Seafood and Wine Festival, the Tuna Canning Festival, Oregon Lighthouse Week, the Newport Clambake and Seafood BBQ, and Newport Loyalty Days draw many tourists each year.
A private company sunk two flat-bottom barges, the Pasley and Hannebique, at McLean Point in 1948 to create wharves for handling cargo in the Port of Newport. Private operators ran the terminal until the late 1970s. In 1982, the Port of Newport issued bonds to purchase the terminal. In 1987, the Port of Newport contracted Jones Oregon Stevedoring/Newport Terminal Company to manage the terminal facility, and the Port of Newport took over direct management in 1995. In the years before the 1990s, the Port of Newport Terminal was busy with shipments of lumber and logs. However, in the 1990s, log exports dwindled to nothing. The last log ship called at the Port of Newport Terminal in 1999.
While commercial shipping decreased in the Port of Newport, demand for facilities to support recreational boating increased. Demands for boat launch, moorage, and parking facilities on Yaquina Bay's north shore combined with congestion and conflicts between the commercial and recreational boating communities led to the development of a boat marina in the Port of Newport's South Beach.
In the late 1970s, a new 600-berth recreational boat basin with a four-lane boat launch ramp was approved. The first phase of the federally-authorized harbor infrastructure project included two breakwaters. The west breakwater was 548.6 meters (1800 feet) long, and the north breakwater was 213.4 meters (700 feet) long. The project also included an access channel of 620.3 meters (2035 feet) in length, 30.5 meters (100 feet) in width, and 3.0 meters (10 feet) in depth.
In the early 1980s, the second phase of the boat basin project included a stacked dry boat storage building with 150 berths. The facility also included a public fishing pier, a fuel dock, a launching hoist, fish cleaning facilities, a charter office building, a store, restrooms and showers, laundry, and ample parking. The phase two facility is now home to the Oregon Brewing Company/Rogue's Brewers on the Bay.
Unfortunately, the new marina failed to meet projected occupancy levels. In 1986, the Port of Newport assumed management of the operation and began an aggressive marketing program. In the 1987-88 fiscal year, the marina was barely profitable.
In 1991, the Oregon Brewing Company occupied the west end of the dry boat storage building (called the Exhibition Hall) for brewing and tasting rooms. They expanded to occupy the entire building for distribution and storage, and the company continues to expand its operations.
To make room for the brewing company, the Port of Newport's marina office moved in 1994 into the former charter office. With help from the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Newport Urban Renewal, and the Oregon State Marine Board, the Port of Newport opened its new public boat ramp and parking lot between Docks F and G. In 2006, construction began on the 92-space Destination RV Park, a new store, a registration and activity center, and an operations building for the Port of Newport.