Being a native Oregonian, this may be a bit biased, but I believe the majesty of the 363 all-public miles of Oregon Coast is truly a wonder of the world! A tour along the iconic Highway 101 offers 79 different State Parks, 11 lighthouses, 11 historical bridges, spectacular views with frequent whale sightings, and some of the finest businesses and attractions of the state. From the Tillamook Creamery to the West Coast Game Park Safari, there is something for every adventurer to enjoy. One town out of the 21 on this coastline hosts a beloved tradition: the Finders Keepers float drops in Lincoln City. For decades local artists have been crafting unique glass-blown artworks that are placed among the sand in random locations above the city’s tideline. Beachgoers from all over are invited to get sandy toes while chancing to find a special treasure, so read on for a bit of history and just how you can get your hands on one of these stunning spheres for your own family!

Honoring Our History

It is no secret that Oregon coastal towns thrive off their active harbors and fishing boats. While technology and practices may have grown and changed over time, their daily, hazardous work on the waves is a heavy source of economic support. Far across the Pacific Ocean, the fishing boats off the shores of Japan have been doing the same! In the early 1900s, fishermen in the Eastern world started replacing the junky bits of cork or wood used to keep their large fishing nets aloft with something much more reliable and beautiful: small glass floats, typically crafted in varying shades of green or blue. Occasionally, rough seas or deteriorating nets meant that those orbs of glass detached and drifted away. On the currents of luck, and after about 7-10 years, the Pacific delivers these durable, buoyant treasures to our sandy shores, thrilling beachcombers and tourists alike! 

These days you can visit the North Lincoln County Historical Museum for a closer, personal look at how our coastal history was impacted by these “tools” that took the form of miniature works of art. As for the Finders Keepers float drop tradition, this idea was sparked in 1997 by a local Lincoln City artist who envisioned it as the perfect way to break into the new millennium. From 1999-2000, the city structured its very first orb drops utilizing local volunteer Float Fairies who placed the treasures within the city’s 7 miles of beaches at different times throughout the day. It was such a raging success that it is now a tradition over twenty years strong! Year after year, the stories of lucky beachgoers accumulate and spread, bringing in more interested searchers. I have explored those shores multiple times yearly, always hoping for a colorful glint among the dunes and stiff grasses. While I may not have chanced upon one yet, many of my own friends, family, and acquaintances have! 

Getting Involved 

Explore Lincoln City is kind enough to release a yearly float drop schedule (see 2023’s Drop Calendar here) which highlights prime opportunities to search the beaches for treasures. Looking at these dates might help your family narrow down the best time to plan a beach vacation, like over Halloween weekend when they’ll be dropping 50 glow-in-the-dark floats! The volunteers that leave the floats for us all to find are provided with strict, responsible instructions. The treasures are never entirely hidden–they must remain visible! Floats are never to be placed below the tideline and at risk of washing away, but this is no reason to only search along the base of the cliffs! I speak from personal experience that orbs have been found in the wide open sand between the waves and the hills. As mentioned before, float fairies drop treasures throughout the day (and only during daylight hours), so it would not be silly to consider searching the same portion of sand in the morning and the evening. Should you be lucky enough to find one of these special glass floats, be aware that they are all signed by the artist and numbered on the bottom. Register your find by entering the number here so you can be sent your official Certificate of Authenticity and Artist Bio! Lincoln City requests that float finds be limited to one per person annually. Follow up on any additional questions you may have about this intriguing tradition, and even look for your family’s next rental by visiting Explore Lincoln City’s website. Happy searching!  

Having Fun While Staying Safe

Please note that the dates listed for special-themed float drops are subject to change based on unsafe weather conditions. While the Oregon Coast is beautiful, it is also dangerous. The past few years have evidenced a rise in the frequency and ferocity of King Tides. Harsh winds mixed with a strong gravitational pull when the Moon is in close orbit create hostile conditions, bringing towering walls of waves crashing into the headlands and bays. They may be impressive to watch, but they are fatal to those who wander too close. Should you happen to be visiting the coast during King Tides and storm watching is an interest, please witness their power from the safety of your hotel, rental, or beachfront restaurant. Humongous pieces of driftwood are easily tossed about in these waves like matchsticks, destined to crush whatever they land on. 

Even when King Tides are not in effect, the ocean still creates “sneaker waves” that are capable of dragging a full-grown adult far out to sea in mere moments. Dipping your toes in the ocean may seem docile enough, but always remember never to turn your back on the ocean and never swim alone. There are too many news articles about those who have underestimated the immense power of the ocean. It is also wise to mention that there is danger on the opposite side of the beach–those delightfully textured and weathered cliffs are not to be climbed on! They are highly unstable, prone to landslides, and they do not want any more summer lovers’ names carved into them. Honor the glory of the Oregon Coast by participating safely and respectfully!

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