Reedsport was established on the estuary of the Umpqua River on January 7, 1852. It was named for a local settler, Alfred W. Reed, who founded the city in 1912. The post office was established July 17, 1912.
The building of Southern Pacific Railroad lines extending south to Coos Bay led to the development of Reedsport. Before the post office was established in 1912, Reedsport was a camp for railroad construction workers.
Built on marshy ground, for much of its history Reedsport has struggled with frequent flooding; most of its early buildings were elevated three to eight feet above ground. Following a devastating flood in 1964, a dike was constructed to protect the lower town. During this flood, the waters reached the fish hatchery and overflowed the fish troughs allowing hundreds of thousands of small-mouth bass to be introduced into the Umpqua River.According to fishing reports small-mouth bass became the most abundant fish in the Umpqua River. Every few years, flooding will occur enough that city employees will close these dikes to prevent low-lying areas of the town from flooding.
In the last quarter of the 20th century, Reedsport struggled with the collapse of the Oregon timber industry. In the last two decades, Reedsport has seen an increase of tourism. Part of this is due to its close proximity to the fishing of the Umpqua River. Another part of the recent surge in tourism is due to the sand dunes that are near Reedsport.
Although the U.S. Forest Service maintains a local office in the town, Reedsport’s historic connection with the timber industry ended in 1999 with the closing of the International Paper plant in nearby Gardiner.
Recently, Reedsport has seen a rise in tourism due to recreation at the nearby Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area in Winchester Bay. A number of businesses catering to all-terrain vehicles have opened in Reedsport to serve the needs of this growing activity.