April 5, 2010
D Shortest River in D World

Susan and I feel pretty fortunate to own a kite store directly across from the busiest state beach park in Oregon. And of course, the D River Wayside is also the site of two long running kite festivals and daily kite flying whenever the wind is blowing and the rain has stopped. You can't swim on the Northwest coast, so kite flying is a natural!

But it needs to be said that this special spot is also important for significant historical and geographical reasons. Immediately adjacent to the D River Wayside lies the D River -- officially recognized as the Shortest River in the World. And as is the case with many such noteworthy claims, this record is not entirely without controversy.

People have been posing for photos at the D River since the 1930's when what is now Highway 101 brought cars and tourists to the Central Oregon Coast.

The river, twenty feet wide and two feet deep, was measured from the edge of the lake, under the highway, past the parking area, and out to where the waves were crashing. The length was determined as 440 feet and a record was claimed. Signs were erected, and everyone was proud.

Sadly, no one thought at the time that the "river" might actually be longer at low tide, shorter at high tide, or that waves during winter storms might obliterate it entirely. I mean, how do you actually tell where a river starts and ends?

Famous Sign

Fast forward fifty years to 1987. That's when the fifth-grade class of Lincoln Elementary School in Great Falls, Montana, began to petition the Guinness Book adjudication office to consider their own Roe River for the record. The Roe apparently flows from Giant Springs to the Missouri River, coming in at an average of 201 feet. Television and newspaper reporters picked up on the children's crusade, which eventually made its way to the highest court of opinion in the land: The Tonight Show. The D-River was D-Feated.

Not surprisingly, Lincoln City decided this new claim was all wet. And who, you may ask, was the hapless soul empowered to do battle with the fifth graders of Montana? (Wait for it....) They called the new director of the Chamber of Commerce, David Gomberg.

Now some might say that arguing with a bunch of ten year olds, not to mention their mothers and fathers and Johnny Carson, is a thankless and dubious task. But even back then, I had some small flare for the dramatic. The Oregonian quoted the following:

"A group of school kids in Great Falls basically went out and got a drainage ditch surveyed for a school project",Gomberg said. "And they got the U.S. Survey of Geographical Names to go along with it. "

Roe Ditch


I immediately went out and hired an expert. An official length study was conducted in 1988 by civil engineer Gene T. Ginther, which found that the D River was actually 120 feet long, give or take 5 feet.

While this study may not have been completely impartial, having been paid for by the Devils Lake Water Improvement District and conducted by an engineer whose office was located on West Devils Lake Road, it was valid enough for the Guinness Book to re-open the case. Lincoln City claimed the river ended at the vegetation line -- which also marked standard high tide. Angry phone calls and letters from Montana started pouring in.

Eventually, I made Guinness an offer they couldn't resist. They listed two rivers as the longest in the world. Why not list two as the shortest?? Just like a rokkaku battle, we could all claim victory and move on.

And so it was that twenty years ago, in the summer of 1990, I held a press conference on the banks of the mighty D. I pulled off my shoes, rolled up my pants, and walked out into the river near the Hwy. 101 bridge, to tell the assembled members of the press (including three television crews from Portland), that I was standing in the World's Shortest River once again. The Guinness Book officials had decided to let the Roe and the D share the title. Fortunately, all the signs could remain.


Quoting from Oregon Coast Today, at the press conference in 1990,

"Gomberg recalled, the reporters were a little dubious. He remembers one of them pointed downstream, west of the wading chamber director, and asked, 'If you're standing at the end of the river, then what is all that wet stuff on the beach?"

"I said, 'That's the D River Estuary,' which is true, really, because you can't really call it a bay. Maybe it's the D River tidal plain."

To make a long story short, the signs are still there, we still claim the record, and Guinness has quit keeping track of the shortest river in the world. And we have a really cool kite shop across the street which you are welcome to come visit any time. Get a photo by the sign!

Occasionally the sand builds up on the beach and the D River takes a long winding turn before reaching the Pacific. Just remember that the river is back there under the bridge. That wet thing to the west is the Estuary....

Thursday I fly to France for Berck and the World Sport Kite Championship. So let's put something French on sale!

Order between now and April 20, and we'll take 20% off on orders of the single or double French Military Kite.

The Double Military or "Conyne" kite was invented by an American and used by the French Army over 100 years ago. Larger models flown in trains lifted observers. The design combines the best elements of a Diamond kite for stability and a Box kite for lift.

We've got the Double for $70 or the Single for $36.

Double French Military

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