Date of visit: Saturday, October 23, 2010
Population: 918 (2000 Census)
The quiet little town of Mapleton sits on the banks of the Siuslaw River about 15 miles inland from the coast. The general consensus is that the town is so named because of the abundance of bigleaf maples in the area. And there are indeed a lot of these lovely trees, which turn a lovely golden color in the fall. Unfortunately, many of the leaves had already fallen during my visit, but I still got a taste of the autumn show.
Oregonians remember the recent floods of 1996. There was a lot of rainfall and flooding 31 years earlier too. Mapleton was still recovering from flooding in December (which left up to three feet of water in some stores), when at 2 p.m. on Thursday, January 28, 1965, a wall of mud and debris flowed down off nearby Neely Mountain. It flowed across the railroad tracks and the highway and clogged up a 400 yard stretch of Main Street.
It was pretty slow-moving – one witness said it moved as fast as a man could walk – so injuries were light. In fact, only one injury was reported: that of the postmistress, who was swept out a side door of the post office (which ended up being destroyed by the landslide). At least 15 cars were “tossed aside” by the slide as it swept through town, according to an article in the Oregonian the next day. Two feet of mud stood in Merle Beck’s store. They eventually got the mess cleaned up, of course, and now 45 years later there is no evidence of the slide whatsoever.