Western Trips

Western Trips

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Haystack Rock

Western Trips took a fun visit to the beautiful northern coast of Oregon. One of the most scenic areas on the Oregon coast and one with some of the best beaches in Oregon is located driving south from Astoria. This is an article about the magnificent Haystack Rock formation as well as the popular Pacific coast cities of Seaside and Cannon Beach. If you're planning an Oregon vacation in the future, this stretch of Oregon coast is an area you will want to consider adding to your western trip planner.

haystack rock oregon
Haystack Rock on the north Oregon Coast
Scenic Haystack Rock

Haystack Rock , just north of Cannon Beach Oregon, is the third largest seastack in the world. At a height of 235 feet rising out of the Pacific Ocean just off the coast, Haystack Rock is quite a sight and a great place for photo taking. According to the USGS seastacks are blocks of erosion resistant rock isolated from the land by sea. Sea stacks begin as part of a headland or sea cliff. Relentless pounding by waves erodes the softer, weaker parts of a rock first, leaving harder, more resistant rock behind. 

Haystack Rock's Marine Garden

Haystack Rock is part of the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge and as such is off limits to climbers. Two good reasons for the restriction is that birds are nesting on the rock and climbers would only destroy the nesting. The second reason is that climbers would be stranded on the rock during high tide.

What you will find very interesting is the area within about a 300 yard radius from the rock's base. This area is termed a " marine garden" area. This specific area is open to people who wish to explore but there are rules against collecting anything from the area and/or disturbing marine organisms.
Haystack Rock is protected under the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a seabird nesting colony and under the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. The city of Cannon Beach asks visitors to enjoy watching the wildlife in it's natural state and leave things undisturbed for others to discover and enjoy.

cannon beach oregon
Cannon Beach Oregon
It is estimated that as many as 200,000 people visit Haystack Rock annually. The most popular times to visit is during the summer when the tide pools are filled with nesting seabirds.

Cannon Beach and Seaside

There's a story of how Cannon Beach received it's name. With a name like that you just know there has to be a story behind it. 

In 1846, the USS Shark broke apart on the Columbia River Bar, one of most treacherous areas in the world. This is in the Pacific Ocean at the mouth of the Columbia. This is just north of Cannon Beach. After the USS Shark broke apart a small section of it's deck along with a small cannon eventually drifted southward and washed onto the beach just south of present day Cannon Beach. The area is called Arch Cape. Cannon Beach adopted it's name in 1922. Today, replicas of the cannon and decking are showcased at the point. The actual decking and cannon can be viewed at the Cannon Beach Historical Society Museum. 

seaside oregon boardwalk
Seaside Oregon Boardwalk
One of the biggest summer events in Cannon Beach is the annual Sandcastle Day. Cannon Beach Sandcastle Day has been known to draw about 30,000 people into the town which normally has about 1,000 residents. Teams totaling about 1,000 competitors compete in sand sculpturing in what has become Oregon's oldest and most prestigious competition of it's kind. The event usually occurs with the lowest tide Saturday in June.

Just north of Cannon Beach is Ecola State Park. Hikers will like the fact that from the cliff are trails leading down to the beach. Here you will also get a great few of haystack Rock to the south and the peaks of the Coast Range. In Chinook jargon, the name Ecola means "whale". It was a name used by explorer William Clark referring to a creek in the area. The journals of Lewis and Clark refer to a large 105 foot long whale found beached in this area.

Cannon Beach turned into a bohemian community during the twentieth century. Just to the north of cannon Beach is a town called Seaside. While Cannon Beach remained laid back, Seaside became a big coastal tourist mecca. Seaside is Oregon's oldest family beach resort.  

cannon beach oregon galleries
Gallery in Cannon Beach Oregon
This was all started when the stagecoach and railroad brought people to the area. Eventually Seaside grew to the point where it was filled with seaside hotels and vacation homes and vacation home rentals that the overflow has now spread down to Cannon Beach. Seaside today is well known for it's paved boardwalk which is the only one on the Pacific coast north of Santa Cruz California. The two mile boardwalk was constructed in 1921 replacing an old wooden boardwalk built in 1908. On the Seaside Boardwalk is a bronze statue of Lewis and Clark looking seaward commemorating the end of the trail. The Seaside Beach is long and flat and is sheltered by a headland. 

You'll be interested in two additional Western Trips photo articles that make excellent additions to your north Oregon coast vacation or weekend trip. They are a Visit to Downtown Astoria Oregon and the world famous Columbia River Maritime Museum in Astoria and the history of navigating the Columbia Bar.

The two publications below have excellent information for planning your Oregon Coast Road Trip.


In addition to Haystack Rock, the Cannon Beach Historical Museum, Seaside's beach and  the Seaside Boardwalk and the shops and restaurants in both cities, you'll want to stop by the Butterfield Cottage in Seaside. The Butterfield Cottage is Oregon's only beach side museum and dates back to around 1912. Exhibits include artifacts dating back to 700 B.C. and history of the Seaside area over the past 2,000 years.

butterfield cottage in seaside oregon
Butterfield Cottage museum in Seaside
Location of Haystack Rock, Cannon Beach and Seaside

Cannon Beach is located about 25 miles south of Astoria Oregon off of US Hwy 101. Haystack Rock is located just about a half mile north of Cannon Beach. Seaside is located about nine miles north of Cannon Beach.
This is a great drive to take along the coast south of Astoria after visiting the sites there and at Fort Stevens State Park just west of Astoria.

A good weekend trip while in the Portland area is to head northwest on Hwy 47/26 which will take you to the coast in the Cannon Beach / Seaside. After visiting the sites in that area,including Haystack Rock, you would want to drive north on US Hwy 101 towards Astoria. This will take you to the historic sites of Fort Stevens and Fort Clatsop, downtown Astoria and the Columbia River Maritime Museum. Heading back to Portland you might opt to take Hwy 30 west which will eventually connect you with Interstate 5 via Longview Washington. Take Interstate 5 south back to Portland.  It's not the shortest distance back to Portland but Hwy 30 going west from Portland follows the south side of the Columbia River and it's quite scenic.

(Photos from author's private collection)


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